I want to break free...

of waste of time meetings and the feedback vaccuum that surrounds them

Every business leader would agree with this statement:  

The use of feedback is vital in progressing and growing my people and my business.  

There’s nothing controversial about that – what should be controversial is the lack of meaningful feedback that actually goes on in the day to day running of a business – if it’s so important then why isn’t feedback happening all the time?  

Part of the problem is the word ‘feedback’ itself – unfortunately when many business people hear the words ‘I’ve got some feedback for you’ they hear it as:  

‘You’ve done something awful, wrong and evil. Prepare to be made to feel really bad about yourself. You are a horrible person’ or worse….  

This happens for good reason as often in business it’s not fact-based feedback that’s being given (that will allow the recipient to understand what they’ve done really well or areas they could focus on to be even more effective in their role) – more likely it’s an opinion-based critique of something that has irked the giver. It may even be a conversation the giver wants to have so that they themselves feel better - rather than to provide well intentioned feedback and options for the receiver. And the event itself probably happened about 2 years ago. No wonder some people avoid feedback like the plague (both giving and receiving).  

If feedback isn’t happening on a daily basis around the ‘big’ stuff then how on earth do we expect to be going on around the ‘business hygiene’ stuff? In particular I want to focus on the lack of feedback and support people give and receive to or from their peers around the effectiveness of internal (eternal?!) meetings.  

If feedback isn’t happening on a daily basis around the ‘big’ stuff then how on earth do we expect to be going on around the ‘business hygiene’ stuff? Given that we now spend more time than ever in meetings it should be everyone’s priority to make them more effective. The majority of people think meetings are the biggest drain on time and productivity at work (look at any survey around meetings you like!) They continue to be a graveyard of business relationships - water cooler moments don’t invent themselves! So why aren’t more businesses getting smart about creating a culture of great meetings?  

All I hear is Radio Ga Ga  

Nobody ‘owns’ what good looks like when it comes to running effective information sharing or collaboration sessions in a business – in fact, meetings are like a pack of stray dogs roaming around the office, no one wants to own them or give them any love – every now and again they get fed a few scraps but that’s about it.  

We are however Olympic gold medalists when it comes to moaning about how much time we spend in badly run meetings and what a waste of time they are. It’s a shame all this negative energy isn’t channeled into fixing the problem – but again what do individuals have to gain by sticking their hand up and volunteer to do this. Nothing. And Nothing will come of nothing.  

If you want to do Something, here’s some suggestions you could consider:  

1. You’re my best friend  

The answer is pretty simple – it needs to be a team effort and the drive and direction needs to come from the top (as always the case with any kind of cultural change). Imagine if a company set out to be acknowledged as a place where brilliant meetings happen all the time and it became a recognisable trait of that business. It would help with productivity, well-being and probably act as a talent magnet too.  

It would help with productivity, well-being and probably act as a talent magnet too. If the entire board were known for constantly improving all the meetings they ran or attended the behavioural impact on the rest of the business wouldn’t be far behind in picking up the baton. Add a healthy dose of constant review and feedback (what was good about that interaction? What could we do even better next time?) and you could see changes happen pretty quickly.  

2. It’s a kind of magic  

Where to start though? You can’t just say “let’s have great meetings from now on” and hope it happens – it’s the right attitude but you need to follow up with a plan of action. Why not begin with a meeting about meetings – invite a cross section of people from the business and do a quick diagnostic on how effective or ineffective meetings are in the business. They’ll be some bright spots where teams have already undertaken to improve their own meeting culture and you can easily apply these principles to other parts of the business. You’ll also hear the pain and you can then come up with solutions to resolve it.  

If you really want to see a difference and create a meeting culture that other businesses aspire too, invest in training people in every team what it means to facilitate brilliant engagements. You don’t need to send them on endless workshops to learn the standard “4 Ways to Run More Effective Meetings in your Business” – you can read multiple books/articles on this and just start applying these hygiene principles. Better to give people coaching around the softer skills of group facilitation and let them find their own style for making the magic happen.  

3. The show must go on  

The sooner people realise that the answers they are looking for are not to be found looking at a computer screen or phone whilst the meeting rumbles on around them the better. Meetings are a human contact sport and anyone in a meeting, regardless of the role they have in it, who isn’t given the other people and the subject matter at hand 100% of their attention should be removed.  

Meetings are a human contact sport: this is true whether it’s a face to face engagement or a virtual one. In fact it’s even more important remote meetings, where for some reason people don’t think this is the case at all (just observe the behaviour in the next remote meeting you are part of to see what I mean!)  

4. Under Pressure  

The world is moving faster than ever, creating uncertainty and opportunity in equal measure. You can’t control the world but you can control how you deal with it as a business – and that all starts with creating the best human internal interaction and collaboration you possibly can.  

After the next meeting you run ask the attendees give some feedback about it afterwards. What was good, what could be better, get them to rate their own performance as a participant or a contributor. Make this a normal thing to do, start talking about how your business can use meetings as a breeding ground for brilliance rather than a time consuming evil necessity.  

  Another One Bites the Dust  

Since you started reading this article millions of people have been affected by a being in a badly run or shoddily organised meeting – just because their businesses are sitting by and watching this happen doesn’t mean you have to. Go and buy some food for those stray dogs, give them homes throughout the organisation, take them for walks, give them baths, play with them and turn them into show dogs you can be proud of!