How to Put an End to Poorly Run Meetings
by Janet Kendall White
I was speaking with a colleague the other day and the subject of meetings came up. Why is it that years after facilitator training came on the scene, books on how to run effective meetings, workbooks, and numerous blogs and articles have been written, there are still poorly run meetings in pretty much every arena?
A couple of decades ago another consultant and I were asked to do facilitator training. At the time there were no books on the shelf, and there were no certified “master facilitators”, but our client thought that’s exactly what we were: master facilitators. And they wanted meetings in their organization to be more effective.
We looked at each other with that squinty-eyed bewilderment and discussed the fact that we weren’t sure exactly what we did to make meetings so effective. It was natural for us. Then we realized that the combination of our management and leadership experience, our training at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, and our desire to develop people all played a part in why we made running meetings look so easy and why we were so effective. It wasn’t rocket science – or was it?
Two decades later, after teaching hundreds of people facilitation training, it reminds me of the old sand dollar poem, “to that one I made a difference”. Individually, many people have told me that our training was a turning point in their career, that it was the most impactful training in their career, and other such wonderful testimonies. I love those accolades for our training. There are many good books and trainers out there, yet have we moved the dial on meetings in general?
Ask yourself this:
- Have you been invited to a meeting recently without knowing why you were going and what was expected of you?
- Have you gotten to a meeting that didn’t have an agenda?
- Have you attended one where you determined that multi-tasking was OK because you really didn’t need to give others in the room your full attention?
- Have you looked around and seen that those pretending to take notes really were answering emails or worse yet surfing the web?
- Have you been in a meeting where you just couldn’t wait to get out of the room because the conversation had gone nowhere or was it a repeat of the last such conversation?
- Have you known that the person running the meeting was missing input from half the people because they didn’t give space for others to think before responding or didn’t give them information in advance?
This could go on a long time…we all know the answers to those questions and have many more examples of poorly run meetings.
If you have been taught facilitation and answer the above questions in the affirmative, what is your role and responsibility? Are you a victim of your circumstances? I don’t think so, even though I too fall prey to that mindset. As a participant, I can help. I can choose not to check out, multi-task, or display other dysfunctional behavior. Bringing people together in person or via technology is costly even when done well. When it’s done poorly it is a downright waste of money with other negative impacts. It decreases engagement, trust, performance, productivity, and results.
Together we can move the dial. If you don’t know how to run effective, productive, engaging meetings, then get help. If you do, not only should you run your own meetings that way, but you should help others do the same.
See this blog to better understand how to capitalize on understanding personalities when running meetings: