Love them or hate them we all have go to meetings. Everyday. At work. At home. At the Dentist. Pretty much everywhere we go. And with all the hours we spend in meetings we should be productivity all-stars by now. Right? Wrong…

According to FreshTracks here are “Ten Reasons Why Meetings Fail”

  1. No agenda = no purpose
  2. No advance communication = surprising behaviours/responses
  3. Not encouraging participation = no interaction
  4. No time management = cost to organisation – time is money
  5. Allowing conflict to get out of control = chaos
  6. Not reaching consensus = waste of time and company resources
  7. Allowing sub meetings = no focus or direction
  8. Not controlling difficult behaviour = everyone becoming difficult
  9. Not summarising actions = misunderstanding of next steps
  10. Not motivational = attendees leave feeling flat and despondent

Sound familiar?

Of course it does because:

  • We all think, talk and occasionally rage about how to fix these common meeting problems
  • We want to take action and get our precious time back
  • We especially want that idiot to stop talking about the latest cat video on YouTube

So if we know what’s wrong with our meetings then why can’t we fix them? How can you take a new approach your next meeting to get the results that you want?

Here are 3 proven ways to build outstanding meetings today.

1. Get Real With Yourself First

At one point in my career I was an employee who yearned to climb the corporate ladder. I watched managers gather for their weekly meeting and felt pangs of envy as the boardroom doors closed. I imagined all of the high-level conversations and camaraderie that must have been taking place and I knew I had to be a part of that meeting.

Then I became a manager and I attended that weekly meeting… and wanted to go back to being an employee. We worked our way through the “Ten Reasons Why Meetings Fail” in no time.

As a result I felt disillusioned, helpless and I expressed my anger about these meetings to anyone outside of work who would listen. Then one day, in the middle of one of my prophetic rants my wife told me to STOP COMPLAINING.

She said that my complaining was endless and that the situation hadn’t improved FOR YEARS.

“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.” Maya Angelou – Author

My wife was right. Before I could change what happened in the meetings I had to work on myself first.

I started to ask myself questions like these:

  • How do I act during the meetings?
  • Am I loud? Quiet? Helpful? Negative?
  • How do I want to act during meetings?
  • Can I ask my colleagues to tell me what they actually think about my behaviour in the meetings?
  • How do I feel about the other people in the meetings?
  • Am I the Leader? Follower? Innovator? Peacemaker?
  • How am I going to become an effective meeting participant?

Answering these kinds of questions will help you to create awesome meetings because:

  • You will begin to gain knowledge about how to take responsibility for your own actions in the meeting
  • You will start to assess what you can and cannot control in the meeting
  • You’re approach to your next meeting will become more intentional

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to self-assessment. If you really need to take a serious look at yourself  then get started by:

  • Talking with your doctor, family and friends
  • Looking into workplace programs like the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for help
  • Researching proven personality assessment tools like Meyers-Briggs or True Colours

2. Get Real With Your Team

Once you have a better understanding of yourself it’s time to look into how you can influence your team. One way to begin to assess each team member is by adapting the questions you’ve already asked yourself.

  • How do they act during the meeting?
  • How do other people see them during the meeting?
  • What is their role in the meeting?

As you gather the answers to these types questions please keep in mind that they are based on the perception of you and your colleagues. So please don’t assume that you have all the answers when it comes to assessing someone else’s behaviour. For example:

  • If someone is quiet during the meeting does that mean that they don’t care?
  • If they sit at the head of the table does that make them a leader?
  • If they talk a lot does that mean they’re getting a lot done?

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Stephen Covey – Author

Once you have done everything possible to understand your colleagues and their point of view then it is time to get real with your team. This can be done in a number of ways including:

  • Connecting with your meeting facilitator
  • Voicing your concerns and then figuring out a plan of action

During a Meeting with a High Level of Trust

Find an appropriate moment during the meeting to voice your concerns and innovative ideas

During a Meeting with a Low Level of Trust

If you have done your homework, and you are clear about your own position, and you understand the support level of your colleagues and the senior leader then it may be appropriate to speak out – OR – You may have to make greater efforts outside of the meeting in order to find the right way to address your concerns during the meeting.

3. Get Real Resources

To help you get real with yourself and your team here are a variety of tools that I personally recommend that will help you to create awesome meetings.

Recommended Reading

Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni

“Death by Meeting is nothing short of a blueprint for leaders who want to eliminate waste and frustration among their teams, and create environments of engagement and passion.”

Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott

“Inspired by more than 10,000 hours of conversations with CEOs and senior executives, Fierce Conversations is the quintessential guide to productive, respectful, and results-driven communication and leadership.”

The Facilitator’s Fieldbook” by Thomas Justice and David W. Jamieson

“The Facilitator’s Fieldbook has long been the go-to resource for novice and experienced facilitators alike. The book gives managers, trainers, and group leaders in any industry the step-by-step procedures, checklists, guidelines, samples, and templates they need to make any group work like a well-oiled machine.”

Recommended Blog Articles

Steve Jobs Knew How To Run A Meeting: Here’s How He Did It” by Justin Bariso on Inc.com

In this article Bariso analyzes a video recording of Steve Job’s at a company retreat and he then offers excellent insights that will help you create awesome meetings.

Don’t Meet Like That. Meet Like This” by Patti Azzarello on FastCompany.com

Meet The Team” Pages: Examples and Trends” by Cameron Chapman on SmashingMagazine.com

“Meet the Team” pages are popular among web design and other creative firms, but are also found on sites within various other industries. These pages are a valuable addition to any site where human contact is an important part of the industry. It adds a personal touch to the company and can lend trust to visitors.

Recommended Professional Resources

IAF – International Association of Facilitators

As a professional association, we set internationally accepted industry standards, provide accreditation, support a community of practice, advocate and educate on the power of facilitation and embrace the diversity of facilitators.

ICA – The Institute of Cultural Affairs

The mission of The Institute of Cultural Affairs International is to advocate for and actualize the fundamental right of all peoples to define and shape their own futures, toward the goal of realizing sustainable, just solutions to human challenges.

Take Action!

Now I’m not suggesting that you rock the boat tomorrow. Applying these 3 Ways To Build Outstanding Meetings takes time, especially if you don’t have a history of being real with yourself and your colleagues.

  1. Get real with yourself first
  2. Get real with your team
  3. Get real resources

But what I can tell you from my experience as a professional meeting facilitator is that when a meeting is well run you can grow your productivity and profitability.

And when you do that, you will ultimately serve your clients at a higher level.