I recently sat through a meeting that put me in a trance. The objective was unclear, it was poorly facilitated, and packed with too much information. As I looked around the room, I observed that everyone looked exhausted, unmotivated, and disengaged. The meeting leader had not conveyed a cohesive story and had failed to deliver on the objective of the meeting. Poorly led meetings occur at epidemic levels, which is why 90% of people daydream during these sessions Most attendees are not present, are working on other projects, or not engaging in the discussion at hand. When attention starts to drift, the meeting has already failed.

Meetings are among the most universally accepted time wasters in the modern workplace. Almost everyone can recall a time when they walked out of a meeting and thought “please just shoot me an email next time.” According to a survey of almost 200 senior executives conducted by Steven Rogelberg of the University of North Carolina, 71% of meetings are “unproductive and ineffective,” while a similar number felt meetings kept them from doing necessary work Most people say they normally do other work during meetings and of those who aren’t, many are checked out and unfocused on the topic at hand.

The first and most easily avoidable mistake is the badly timed meeting. There’s a time and a place for meetings, yet sometimes leaders disregard teammates’ needs and schedule gatherings focusing on their own convenience. When a teammate has a mountain of individual work, they’ll be mentally checked out before the meeting even begins. Remember, a meeting is a transaction of another’s time and energy. Do you assess the needs and interests of your coworkers, or are you stealing their most valuable moments?

Meetings are ill prepared, scheduled far too often, and many times result in mundane, time-wasting conversation instead of creativity and collaboration. Consider this, set aside time for the most important topics to be discussed and if the information can be conveyed without any input from the team, then reconsider the necessity of the meeting. The most productive meetings focus on discussion, debate, and critique, not information dumps.

Often, the biggest personalities monopolize conversations, hijacking broader discussions and rambling to disguise the fact that they are unprepared. Roger Schwarz, an organizational psychologist and author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams reminds us: “You’re there to be a steward of all the ideas in the room.”You want “participants to see the team meeting as a puzzle – their role is to get the pieces out on the table and figure out how they fit together,” says Schwarz. These types of conversations harness the wisdom of the room, focusing on value-communication and strategy-prioritization.


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