Escape meeting hell

Sometimes, meetings can, well, suck.

Don't worry. It's not any one person's fault. It's everyone's. If you're the manager, team lead, team member, committee representative, special guest, secretary, whatever, you have a responsibility to help make the meetings better -- and you can.

Typically, a given group's most powerful central resource is the wisdom of its members. Time constraints and other barriers can make extracting this wisdom challenging. Surely many a meeting chair has felt like a new parent guiding a young child. They know they have some kind of power, but never truly feel in charge.

Suggestions to help kill the status quo at your meetings:

  • Don't shy away from conflict, encourage and facilitate it. If you all agree with everything all the time, what value are you adding? Usually meeting chairs see their role as mitigating conflict.  Try the opposite and see what happens. The meetings will be more interesting and it will lead to less group think (and hence better decision-making) every time. 
  • Formality can be a good tool to ensure meetings stay structured. Too much of it can lead to collective mental narcolepsy. Using the same structure for every meeting grinds the brain and stifles innovation.  We're not talking about changing the locale periodically. (But if you do, please don't just go to another meeting room.) We're talking about changing how the meeting is structured based on content. Budget discussions should not look or feel the same as your visioning session. Shake things up.
  • Change the tone.  Ban "we can't do this because" thinking and demand a "how can we make this work" approach.
  • If all else fails, have your meeting standing up. (That's what Rummy would do...and you have to admit, he did good until Bush II.)

It's a privilege to be a part of a staff team, committee, board, or any such posse.  You're doing important work. If your meetings don't reflect this, be the one to say so.