Facilitator Journal | Issue #0563, November 27, 2012
It's not exactly news that we attend far too many meetings that seem like a waste of time. What might be useful to know are the hidden or illegitimate reasons that inspire people to attend meetings. These reasons are neither discussed nor acknowledged, and at times, may even be unconscious. In this week's article, Avoid Illegitimate Meetings, we review several unreasonable reasons to conduct or attend meetings that needlessly sap our time and energy.
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Avoid Illegitimate Meetings
Be on the lookout for hidden reasons that people meet.
Group Management Skill
Before we discuss the illegitimate reasons people meet, let's start with a quick review of useful reasons to meet.
To manage (one-way communication…the leader seeks action)
o To build and inspire action and commitment.
o To gain support for an idea or project.
To enhance internal alignment (build team spirit…who)
o Team Building—to create identity, collaborative spirit, and clarify responsibilities for the group or work team.
o Celebration to build morale, confer awards, provide recognition, etc.
To share information or skills (one-way distribution…what)
o Training to present knowledge, introduce skills, etc.
o Meeting to inform others of important or sensitive information.
o To demonstrate a product or system.
To accomplish tasks (two-way maintenance processes…how)
o To generate creative alternatives and solutions.
o To reach group decisions.
o To solve a problem.
o To explore new ideas and concepts.
o To plan projects.
o To reconcile conflict.
o To share information among group members.
o To report progress.
Hidden Reasons People Meet
There are a number of hidden reasons people meet that are important to understand so that they can be avoided. These ’s reasons are hidden in the sense that they are neither discussed nor acknowledged, or they are unconscious in the mind of the participant. The primary hidden reasons that participants attend meetings are:
Hidden Reasons for Meeting
(reasons I attend as a participant—conscious or unconscious)
- I feel lonely working on my own.
- I’m scared of decisions being made in my absence.
- It makes me feel important.
- I want a rest from my real work.
- I want to offload or share the responsibility for a difficult decision.
- Meeting for Social Needs.
I believe that one of the greatest indirect purposes that meetings serve is to give people a break from work and an opportunity to meet their affiliation needs. As work pressures and our technological focus increases, these needs increase. When a break isn't allowed, a meeting will do. No wonder so many meetings don't go so well when many attendees are implicitly using them for rest breaks. Which itself is a good reason that many attendees come under prepared—the fourth biggest meeting problem (Mosvick & Nelson, We've got to Start Meeting Like This). There is nothing wrong with having a meeting to give people a change of pace or a chance to mingle, but when this need is unspoken in meetings ostensibly held to get work done, organizational trust and integrity suffer.
Illegitimate Reasons to Meet
There are a number of neither legitimate nor hidden reasons that meetings are held that contribute to us meeting too much, and too often they turn out to be ineffective. These I refer to as illegitimate reasons, which are summarized below:
- I’m a Flocker. People tend to just show up to a meeting when asked instead of finding out why they should be there and what’s expected of them.
- I’m scared of the chief. Hierarchical organizations that rule by fear use meetings to control or to appease a stodgy CEO. In these types of organizations, more meetings often equate to the appearance of more work getting done regardless of their outcomes.
- I’m a warrior; watch me walk through the fire. Those leaders who thrive on chaos and pressure often create or maintain crises so that they can feel alive and look good coming to the rescue. Holding quick fix meetings to address problems that will inevitably flare up again—appeals to the macho managerial types who just don’t get off on preventive maintenance. Besides, more crises solved makes one look like a winner worthy of awards from on high.
- I’m losing control. People often get nervous when things are moving quickly and want to keep tabs on what everyone is up to so that. This is particularly true for leaders who need to feel in “control.” Meetings then become the means for staying on top of who’s doing what for whom, when, and where. Time in these organizations would be better spent responding to the business drivers and customer’s wants and needs.
- I don’t trust you. With trust a growing concern in organizations today, leaders panic and chant the mantra, “We need more communication.” Translation—more meetings! While the real problem is better communication, not more of it.
- I’m lazy. It’s a lot easier to talk about an issue than to spend the time it takes to clearly think it through and write it down in such a way that you can efficiently and effectively communicate it to those affected—thus avoiding another rambling meeting that may not be necessary or for which you might better prepare.
- I’ve got to do something now! Meetings are often called impulsively to please a demanding superior, prop up a bumbling boss, or oblige a firefighting customer when prudence might dictate an alternative approach.
Add Your Comments
Have you ever attended a meeting or seen others attend for one of the illegitimate reasons above? Please click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience. I'd
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