Six Bad Meeting Habits and How to Change Them

Through LinkedIn I am subscribed to a bunch of forums and other groups, one of which is the Best Practice Transfer Group. Normally a digest pops up in my inbox, I have a quick scan and if nothing really really grabs me it goes straight in the bin…this morning, as the work intranet is a little slow, I took a bit more time and those that this item for Connor Jordan’s Competitive Solutions was pretty apt and relates to something that bugs us all…meetings…there are some good idea here that might, just might, make life a little easier whether its for the PTA, darts club or megacorp conspiring the take over the world (don’t both – I have the insider running on world takeovers and Doc Karma is going to do it Tuesday the week after next)…

1) Poor Attendance / Late Arrivals – Nothing screams “waste of time” more than the actions of your supposed participants.  When people habitually arrive late (or not at all) then you should take this as a sign that your meeting isn’t of much value to those who should be attending.  A person’s actions (not their excuses) show their priorities.  If you often have empty seats, this indicates misalignment of priorities between you and your co-workers.   Talk with the prospective participants about the importance (or lack thereof) to determine if the meeting is even necessary.

Another way of looking at this is that if people are avoiding your meeting or playing down its importance or relevance, then you are possibly on to something…nothing shirks meetings more than the status quo’s urge for survival.

2) Straying from the Point – It’s easy to get into a lengthy discussion about a topic that somehow just “pops up” during the meeting.  If that topic is unrelated to the meeting’s purpose, then table it and have that topic discussed outside the meeting.  Two tools can help you keep your meetings on track.  First, never ever hold a meeting without a predefined agenda outlining the expected outcomes.  Second, use a parking lot list.  Any off-topic discussion can be halted, placed on the parking lot list and then dealt with once the scheduled meeting concludes.

An agenda is a must as is a clearly stated expectation that everyone will come to the meeting not just having read the agenda (and not just in the lift on the way up) but also having actually prepared for the items listed on it – silly, I know! The parking lot list is a good idea and you might want to take it another step further and see what items regularly get parked 0 are they ongoing red herrings or actually things you might want to be having a look at? We shouldn’t forget though that we need to be flexible in such things and occasionally, that off-topic issue will actually be a key issue that you need to bring to the fore and address.

3) Allowing Annoying Distractions – Candy, chewing gum, snacks and drinks are bad enough.  You should also eliminate productivity-busting interruptions.  Make, and enforce, rules about using laptops, cell phones, and blackberries.  If the temptation is too great for some participants, then place a 5-gallon bucket in the corner of the room.  Toss all such annoyances in it and close the lid.  Assign a technology gatekeeper to handle and screen any interruptions.  If there’s a real emergency, then the technology gatekeeper can attend the call and involve the appropriate person, instead of interrupting the entire team.

Anyone who really really needs to be contactable should be on to it enough to always have a back up contact plan…it’s interesting watching the dynamics hosting meetings in locations where cells etc are not allowed at all, especially over a period of time, when you see the dawning realisation that the sky actually won’t fall in if someone is offline for a while. Normally those that stress the most are simply micromanagers that never learned to trust and delegate.

4) Back-to-Back-to-Back Meetings – Ever get caught on a Meetings Treadmill?  Get off it!  Don’t accept or participate in multiple, back-to-back meetings.  You have to give yourself break in between meetings and schedule time for yourself to get your own work accomplished.

Yeah….maybe…equally, a day dedicated to (well-structured and -conducted) meetings is a great way of getting a bunch of work down (one assumes that you’re not going to meeting that aren’t actually anything to do with your job?) by allowing one ‘disrupted’ day as an enabler for more days of ‘undisrupted’ application.

5) Conversation Domination – Everyone has a different style when it comes to conversation and interaction in a group setting.  Most teams have at least one person who gets on a roll and takes over the conversation.  Be sure to include every participant in each agenda item discussion.  Make an effort to keep the meeting flowing, but allow your soft-spoken coworkers an opportunity to contribute as well.

Legal in most countries, dart guns are useful meeting tools….

6) Status Quo – So, your weekly meeting is terrible. However, you’ve begrudgingly resigned yourself into believing that “that’s the way it is.”  Nonsense!  Invite an Outside Facilitator to audit and adjust how you hold your meetings.  There’s no excuse for accepting failure in your meetings.  It’s too costly and time consuming not to take action and make some changes.

…and ask yourself if you are a meeting inflictor – do you call meetings because it makes you feel good about yourself or to drag everyone else’s productivity down to your level while looking like an achiever yourself…yes, everybody else probably does hate you but mindless meetings aren’t going to help that…

…and two more from me…

7) Take minutes. Useful minutes that will mean something to someone else when  you get moved on, minutes that actually record not just the fact of decisions and actions but the ‘why’ of them as well. If you don’t make any effort to enshrine the ‘why’ you can not cry or bleat when nothing ever seems to change and you feel like Bill Murray’s shorts in Groundhog Day….

8) Think outside the square. Consider whether an anomaly in the space-time continuum is affecting the conduct of your meetings…let me now handover to Dean from TWShiloh to discuss this point further in (drum roll) Homeland Disfunction – The true and astounding adventures of Peter Wesley part 2…enjoy…I did!

Edit: I think I am already committed 25 July (there are those that think I should be committed on a more permanent basis) but the webinar on scorecards might be interesting…I’m not a big scorecard fan as they alwasy seem to devolve into some arcane spreadsheet hell but am always interested in other people’s takes on how they might be done better…

6 thoughts on “Six Bad Meeting Habits and How to Change Them

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed my blog post and decided to add a couple of your own “bad habits.” In the future, I would appreciate a heads up when you’d like to reprint my material. Also, give the writer (me) the credit and link back to the original post. And, each blog post I publish features an upcoming free webinar, so I would like to have a link to those webinars included if you choose to reprint my stuff. Thanks, Connor Jordan


  2. Thanks for making the adjustments. I’ll gladly exchange ideas with you and even link back to any of your articles that relate to any topics that I post. I typically write about leadership, accountability, using scorecards, team dynamics, etc…
    Thanks, Connor.


    • Hi John, happy and flattered that you might wish to post the above so long as Connor gets the main accreditation as I have just leveraged off his original work, Simon


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