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8 Signs of Ineffective Management Meetings

Like many of you, I spend a lot of time in meetings in my job. Sometimes I am the leader/organizer of the meeting, and many times I am an invitee. Either way, I feel slightly qualified, simply based on experience, to provide some insight to help you determine if the meeting you are leading or participating in is ineffective or not. If your organization is like most others, you probably have weekly department meetings, weekly management meetings or regular Sr. Leadership meetings. The point being, you invest somewhere between 2-4 hours of your work week into these types of meetings each and every week. You want to make sure that the time spent is valuable. Far too many companies get focused on the routine and simply have meetings for the sake of having meetings. As you can imagine (and have lived it) this is a colossal time and money suck.

Ineffective meetingsBefore you can determine if your meetings are effective or not, you need to know the signs of ineffective meetings as these are quite overt and should be the first indication you may be in for a waste of time if you attend. Think of them more as red flags; that is, if you see more than two of these signs, odds are your meeting is going to be ineffective – whether you are leading it or are participating in it.

Signs of ineffective meetings:

1. No agenda – this is the biggest red flag of all. If there is no agenda, or simply a meeting request, or worse yet, a recycled agenda (i.e. same one used week over week with slight modifications) you are in for an ineffective meeting.

2. No clear meeting organizer – a meeting is called, but there is a lack of clarity around who is organizing it and for what purpose. The meeting request may have been sent out by someone’s admin. assistant but there is no clear subject or purpose indicated for the meeting request. This typically feeds into point #1 above as you can be sure there is not going to be an agenda either.

3. No minutes are taken at the meeting – without minutes, details are lost, action items are missed and there are no clear takeaway’s for anyone. This results in gaps, lack of accountability and frustration for all.

4. The meeting doesn’t start/end on time – this is a clear sign, especially when it occurs on a semi-regular basis, that the meeting isn’t a priority for the organizer and/or the attendees aren’t accountable for arriving on time. It shows a lack of respect for the attendees and it also sends the message that the meeting really isn’t that much of a priority because whatever was happening before hand was way more important.

5. Communication is one way – you often see this when someone “in charge” calls a meeting and it simply is that person “pushing” information to the others in attendance. There is no opportunity for questions, comments, exchange of ideas, etc.

6. The meeting organizer controls communication – this occurs when the organizer (often a department head) calls for meetings and uses them as a way to check in with his/her staff. Instead of having regular 1:1’s with them, he/she gets their staff together, calls it a meeting, and then runs through a series of updates/exchanges with the members of their team. It looks/feels like this: Dept. head asks Manager A for an update, Manager A provides this update. Dept. head asks Manager B for an update, Manager B provides the update and around we go. There is no discussion or dialogue amongst the peer group, no exchange of ideas or best practices. The meeting is simply used by the department manager as a way to check in with his/her staff, while wasting everyone else’s time as they do so.

7. There is no participation by the attendees– during the meeting, the participants have no information to share, they are not prepared, and they have no updates, no ideas or thoughts to contribute. An opportunity to learn and share best practices from amongst a peer group has been lost.  If this is the case, you either have an ineffective meeting leader (because they should not allow participants to do this) or you have the wrong people invited to your meeting. Either way, these are both signs of an ineffective meeting.

8. There is no clear “act” that comes from the meeting – when getting a group of managers together for meetings, there should be a clear “act” required and a follow up for the next meeting.  The act may be a request to communicate something to staff, to provide feedback on a process, or to deliver a budget update. Either way, meeting participants leave the meeting with a clear understanding of what they need to do or “act” upon. An ineffective meeting has occurred when participants leave the meeting saying things like: “What was the purpose of that meeting?” or “What exactly am I supposed to do now?” or “Why did they need us there, couldn’t they have just send us an email?”

Obviously I have not hit on all the signs so I would love to hear from you. What have I missed? What other signs are there that we should add? As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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