I am the kind of person that gets inspiration from all over the place. I get flashes of ideas and I seem to get them from everywhere; eating food, walking to the corner shop, talking to people, listening to music. I’d like to say that ideas come to me on my morning jog, but they don’t. I don’t embrace the world of jogging. I do love swimming but I rather like the meditative counting of lengths and the slight brain switch off that it provides. It wouldn’t be the ideal time for ideas to arrive anyway, not without some kind of waterproof notebook. Anyway, I digress……
My latest inspiration has come from watching TV. Which is interesting since I do so little of it (watch TV I mean). Have you ever seen W1A? I have to say, it’s brilliant. But it’s also painful to watch. It’s painful because it takes the extremes of reality, situations that we are all familiar with and pokes fun of them. In case you haven’t seen this slice of (fictional) satirical hilarity, it’s set in the offices of the management team in the BBC. Very funny.
And the meetings they have are what I want to have a little chat about………
Let just say they are enough to make you want to go and shout, very loudly. And jump up and down. At least watching them on TV makes me want to do this. If I had to go to meetings that were really that bad, I think I might just not go.
Of course, thankfully I have never been to a meeting quite like the ones that make such great comedy. But I’ll bet there are a few that aren’t a million miles away. And why are they so bad? Well let’s see:
The people in the meeting aren’t listening to each other.
Rather than ask when they don’t understand something, they just nod and say yes and carry on. They don’t want to look like they don’t know something.
They use a LOT of jargon that everyone pretends to understand, but really no one does.
They are all defending their own space/department/point of view rather than working together.
They are scared to say the wrong thing so either say so much that people switch off and won’t notice, or use far to many “empty” words that don’t really mean anything.
There are often no resolutions, follow ups or action plans.
The chair is desperately keen to avoid conflict but in doing so does not want to make any decisions. Of course resulting in decisions being made by the person who shouts the loudest.
They frequently go round in circles without resolution, so they just seem to go on and on and on……..
Some people will always side with their allies, even if they know they are talking rubbish.
And there are those that are trying to prove something to each other/look good/clever and put far too much energy into this.
So obviously this is a TV comedy. It’s not real. It is a parody.
But how many of these characteristics do you recognise, to a greater or lesser degree in meetings that you have been to?
I’m guessing quiet a few.
These meeting traits are very common, maybe not all at once in the same place, but poorly run meetings and group gatherings are in part what makes people groan when they hear there’s “another meeting”. And it’s not that the people in the meetings aren’t perfectly capable, resourceful, knowledgeable and experienced. They have the skills and they know their jobs. But assuming the right people are in the meeting in the first place, it’s the structure and process of the meeting that lets them down. The way it is managed is the problem. Meetings like this are not set up to encourage participation, sharing of appropriate information, active listening or quality feedback. They are not well thought through, or well facilitated or chaired. And these kinds are meetings can in the long term be more destructive than productive.
So how can we change them so that we turn a wasteful, non-productive meeting into something of value?
What would you do to make meetings like this actually work?
As usual I have a few thoughts up my sleeve, but you’ll have to wait a bit for the next episode of the blog. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts, or share your negative (or perhaps even comedic) experiences of a bad meeting.