image of company meeting tableDo you attend regular meetings at your workplace? Do you dread the walk down to the conference room, drag your feet, and call the last stretch of hallway with the indoor/outdoor carpet “The Green Mile”? Do you schlump down in your chair, just hoping that no one will notice you staring at your crotch as you text your way through the boredom that is the administrative BS you have to deal with on a weekly basis? Does anything really ever get accomplished at those meetings other than watching some meeting hog blab about how important he thinks he is, while you nod your head and wonder about how often he has to trim his ear hair? Do most of the people attending those meetings voice their true opinions, or do they merely agree with the others because they don?t want to sound dumb in front of their peers, upset someone in attendance, or prolong such nonsense?

Meetings Suffer from Group-Think
If your meetings are similar to most business meetings, they are not as productive as they could be. Usually one or two people will dominate the conversation, and everyone will tend to ?agree? with the opinions of others even if they don?t truly agree with them. This happens because of a dynamic called group-think, where diverse opinions can quickly be quashed by other opinions that are more popular among the group attendees. If your opinion differs from the CEO?s or from several group attendees, for example, you will likely not even voice your real opinion?you will simply agree with the group consensus. Your thinking here is that if you just agree with the others, you won?t risk looking dumb in front of anyone. Don?t rock the boat, you tell yourself.

Leadership Doesn?t Come from Meetings
There?s a reason why Army platoons have a single person in charge of deciding what the platoon will do when in combat. Imagine a group discussion among the soldiers, deciding what course of action to take. By the time everyone finished talking, they?d all be dead. So why are so many key decisions affecting a company?s future conducted in such group meetings?

Why Do We Have Meetings?
Leaders seek the true opinions of their closest allies. What they want are sounding boards for their ideas?they don?t really want or need ?yes? people that simply agree with them. They are looking for objective opinions outside of their own, hoping that additional honest and true feedback will improve their ability to make informed decisions that will improve chances for success. It?s part of a leader?s approach to receiving additional input before committing to a decision.

Some leaders also believe in ?democratizing? important decisions, allowing active participation by others in the decision-making process, including them instead of excluding them. But the problems with meetings are big ? so big ? that I have basically decided that I just don?t like internal meetings anymore and have chosen to have as few as possible at my company. The fewer the better, in my world.

What I Hate About Company Meetings
My beef with internal meetings is as follows:

  • They are time-intensive. Getting everyone together takes time. Did you know that corporate America hosts more than 11 million meetings per day? That is one giant s***load of meetings!
  • They are expensive to have. Add up everyone?s wages for the time spent in useless, boring meetings where half the people aren?t even paying attention, and the real costs to the company add up fast. According to a study performed by Microsoft, 5.6 hours per week are spent by the average employee on useless meetings. That?s 14% of a typical work week. So, do the math?14% of your total annual payroll cost is not immaterial. It?s big bucks.
  • They are subject to group-think (see point made above).
  • The results are not necessarily any better than decisions made without formal meetings.
  • They become less effective over time.
  • They are hard to eliminate once established.
  • They can mask problems by thinking people are actually doing real work, when all you are seeing is that they are attending meetings.
  • The more meetings you have, the less time you have to get real work done.

How I Came to Hate Meetings
About 3 years ago, we started having company meetings all the damn time (or at least it sure seemed that way). If we had an upcoming opportunity to bid on, we would have a regularly-scheduled meeting for that (as in once a week or more often) until the proposal was submitted. Then we would hold meetings about sales-related efforts on a product, also once a week. Then we would have a general meeting about the state of the company, also once a week. Soon enough, we had a large number of people attending 3 – 5 meetings a week. That may not seem like much, but after you?ve attended one boring-ass meeting where nothing productive seems to get accomplished, you?ve had enough of them. You end up wondering about the efficiency of the firm and what you are actually accomplishing.

I?ve concluded that leadership does not come from meetings. You can?t lead your way to success through meetings. While I believe in active participation by others and obtaining key data and opinions of others, the actual decision-making needs to come from one individual. And in the case of Terraine, that individual is me. The decision-making does not need to come from a committee of folks that would argue something to death before actually making a decision about it. If we did things like that, we would not be trying to change the environmental industry with unique software ideas. Instead, we?d still be conducting traditional environmental services, just like everyone else.

Does your firm have boring meetings that seem to go nowhere? If so, are you doing something to change that?

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