Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Trevor E.S. Smith | Meetings Mete Out Punishment!

Published:Sunday | February 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMTrevor E.S. Smith

Meetings have a stranglehold on us.

When was the last time you called someone and they were not in a meeting?

How much of your active work hours are spent in meetings - formal and informal?

How many meetings have you left wondering why you were there?


Inadequate preparation: Participants come to the meeting without the required information.

Tasks that should have been completed are not done.

No thought has been given to the issues to be addressed and so nothing meaningful is brought to the table.


- Send constant reminders early.

- Make informal checks with key individuals to monitor progress.

- Throw out teaser ideas, questions, and alternatives to stimulate thought.

Too many people are present: Meeting invitations are too liberally extended.

People sit in three-hour meetings to participate for 15 minutes.


- Stop using meetings solely to bring people up to date. Emails can do that, while saving time and providing documentation. Only invite people who are required to contribute to the discourse.

Late start/late completion:

Meetings fail to start on time.


- Develop the discipline to start on time, even if some participants are missing.

- Make a fuss about it and demand apologies. This is true even if the convener is the culprit. A major excuse for starting meetings late is that an earlier meeting went past the scheduled close.

Part of the on-time-start culture must be an undertaking to end as scheduled.

Ineffective meeting management:

Chairing meetings require a skill that does not necessarily reside with the manager or team leader.

Some chairpersons allow people to ramble, go off tangent and interrupt unnecessarily.

Meetings meander along, going nowhere very s-l-o-w-l-y.


- Energise your meetings by rotating who chairs the meeting. Chairing the meeting does not give the chairperson the authority to make decisions. It is really about facilitating the discourse and moving it forward to achieve the desired objectives of the meeting.

No results or decisions:

The item being discussed has been on the agenda for many meetings, but are not getting closer to a decision.

People skirt the issues and fail to display the courage to make tough decisions.


- This may be a time to call a meeting with no end time. Meet until the issue is resolved. It will not be pushed forward to another date.

Poor follow-up:

- People leave the meeting, and leave the meeting behind. They immediately refocus on their agenda.

- Participants scramble just before the meeting to appear to have acted on a commitment.


- Require interim updates. Easy-to-use templates can facilitate that process.

- Make it clear that people will be held accountable.

Meeting because it is scheduled:

WeAkly (no typo) meetings may be the most effective way to waste time while appearing to be professional.

Many merely tie up the productive time of entire departments and units.


- Meet only when sitting together is required.

Issues can be moved forward via email circulation or WhatsApp groups.


Minutes are sent out late because the note taker needs approval.

A significant chunk of meeting time is spent reading, amending and approving the minutes.


- Someone sits with a laptop and types in decisions and assignments. Those are sent by email immediately after the meeting. They are used to drive execution and accountability.




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