If you’re responsible for hosting meetings at work, here’s news you can use at the office today. Not that it’s breaking, but managers need reminders: Most meetings are huge time wasters. And that’s because most people have no idea how to run them.
The consequences of your miserable meetings could be more dire than you suspect. NPR’s Yuki Noguchi reports on Morning Edition today that ousted Mattel CEO BryanStockton blames that company’s downward slide to an innovation-stifling culture, which he blames on bad meetings.
Noguchi points to a recent study that reveals “the average American office worker spends more than nine hours of every week preparing for, or attending, project-update meetings … That’s up nearly 14 percent from four years ago.”
With all of the advice available, how can businesses be getting worse instead of better at holding meetings? Sources from Bain & Company to LifeHacker preach the importance of decision-focused meetings. University of California labor management advisor Gregorio Billikopf offers his academic colleagues (and the world) useful advice in an online edict, “Conducting Effective Meetings,” including this wisdom based on his cattle ranching experience:
“A successful meeting is like a team who carefully cuts, trims, and prepares a portion of meat to be hung by a hook. A hook is added, the meat is lifted and placed on a rail, and sent on its way. Oftentimes much work takes place in meetings. The participants may have cut, cleaned, and even lifted the heavy carcass, but they have failed to put it on the rail. Next time they will have to clean and lift it again.”
But most managers don’t bother seeking out such advice. Meeting culture expert Al Pittampalli, who calls time-wasting meetings “weapons of mass interruption,” tells NPR’s Noguchi, “One of the biggest problems in organizations is that the meeting is a tool that is used to diffuse responsibility.” In other words, managers use them to put off decision making instead of executing. Another problem? According to Pittampalli: Many people running meetings lack awareness that they’re doing it poorly, and "nobody is willing to give feedback to their boss.”
The best meetings I’ve attended in my 25-year career were hosted by a CEO who required attendees to stand, not sit, in a circle. They never lasted longer than 15 minutes. The most mind-numbing ones were run by a COO who proclaimed he didn’t believe in reading about management. My feedback? I quit.