The Art of Conducting VERY Bad Meetings | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Posted On July 29, 2011

We’ve all attended meetings that went on for too long, were poorly managed, and accomplished little, if anything. But breaking just about every single principle of good meetings is truly an art, and one in which a recent client excelled. To be fair, the company had three characteristics that made conducting good meetings a significant challenge:

  • Culture – the culture of the country in which the company is headquartered is very relaxed
  • Age – management in the organization was very new
  • Lack of attention – the prior leadership lacked true managers and corporate did not pay attention to the organization

Still, if an awards category for bad meetings existed, this company would be a shoe-in as the winner.

Here are the do’s it did – or allowed – all of which are definitely good meeting don’ts:

  1. Meeting invites lacked objectives, agendas, location information and conference dial-in information for remote participants
  2. Far too many people were involved in each meeting
  3. Invitees arrived late, very late
  4. Invitees failed to show up at all, even after accepting meeting invites
  5. Critical materials were not made available to attendees either before, during or after meetings
  6. Meetings extended far beyond the allocated time
  7. Agreements and actions were not documented, and in many cases meetings ended without assigned responsibilities
  8. Action deadlines weren’t met, and thus appeared on agendas week after week
  9. Participants were focused on just about everything but the meeting (e.g., email, texts, phone calls, other work on their laptops)
  10. Meetings were consistently rescheduled, time and again
  11. Requests for responses (actual response, redirection to another individual, etc.) were ignored
  12. Action item or other approvals took far longer than acceptable, either due to lack of specific request or the request being buried in an email
  13. Recurring issues were not addressed
  14. Priorities were not communicated, leading to focus on less important things
  15. Communications were consistently misunderstood as the who, what, and by when weren’t clearly presented

Although helping this client conduct better meetings wasn’t a specific part of our engagement, we did work with it to help it understand meetings best practices. Insights we provided include:

  • The meeting requester should send reminders to all invitees
  • Meeting materials should be submitted to all invitees well in advance, especially if prior review or action is required, and invitees should be required to submit input or questions prior to the meeting
  • Designate a note taker responsible for distributing to all participants a document that clearly identifies actions, responsible parties, due dates, and next steps
  • Designate a person responsible for tracking actions, and documenting issues and risks
  • Establish meeting rules, e.g., set cell phones to vibrate (or even better, route cell phone to assistant), no laptop use, and no smart phone use
  • Prioritize and determine the root causes of recurring issues
  • Engage leadership to communicate the priorities and track their execution
  • Make certain all requests are abundantly clear in terms of the who, what, and when

A well-known quote says, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” But the above 15 “do’s it did – or allowed” practices are ones you don’t want to imitate. Instead, create your own best practices meeting art!

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