8 December 2021

Three Myths That Ruin Meetings

These urban legends have cost businesses billions of dollars in squandered payroll funds.

Myth #1: Structure spoils spontaneity

I once witnessed a two-day disaster that easily cost in excess of $40,000. Thirty people spent the first hour looking for a topic to debate, and then spent the following fifteen hours fighting about unsolvable problems. When I asked the manager who convened the meeting, “Where is the agenda?” he replied, “I didn’t want to impose a framework and ruin the spontaneity.”

Reality: If spontaneity were universally regarded as a sound business practice, we would construct structures without using plans. Naturally, no wise business leader operates without a plan.

Solution: Establish a goal and then create an agenda. In an ideal world, this agenda would be so clear, comprehensive, and explicit that it could be used by another person to guide the meeting toward accomplishing the goal.

Myth #2: Since it’s my meeting, I should do most of the talking

Certain meetings are conducted in the manner of a medieval court. The chairperson sits on a linguistic throne, while the subjects remain silent in reverence. The loud talker rationalizes this by reasoning that if the other attendees knew anything worthwhile, they would be leading the discussion.

Reality: If you are the only one who speaks, you are working excessively hard. Additionally, keep in mind that the majority of people defend themselves against lengthy monologues by sending their ideas on vacation. That is, no one is paying attention to you: they are too preoccupied with daydreaming, doodling, or fantasizing to pay attention to you.

Solution: Use a memo or email to convey big volumes of information. Then, based on participant-driven activities that assess or reinforce comprehension, convene a meeting.

Myth #3: Meetings are entirely free

The majority of meetings are financed using soft money. That is, it is money that has been spent on wages previously. Additionally, no purchase request is required. There is no requirement for budget approval. All that is required is for someone to convene a meeting.

Reality: Meetings are too expensive. They consume people’s time, and payroll is the main component of business operations. When people conduct ineffective meetings, they squander a business’s most valuable resource – the time employees spend working to create a profit for the organization.

Solution: Create profitable meetings. After all, a meeting is a business activity, not a team building exercise.

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