Why are meetings so hard? There can be so many reasons that cause us frustration, procrastination, and consternation when it comes to meetings.
- We are over extended and/or unprepared
- We are focused on a set of work and not on the matter at hand
- Our calendars are not harmoniously synchronized
- People are late, that makes us late, that makes the universe late
- We take longer to get to the point being indirect for fear of calling someone out or hurting feelings
Just to name a few.
Today is my 1 year anniversary as a meeting evangelist and as I reflect on my role and purpose at Docket, my mind wanders to the whole reason why we started Docket in the first place. We all experienced bad or dysfunctional meeting cultures and knew there was a better way to get work done, making the meeting work for us rather than make us work for the meeting.
In a fast-paced, technical world, we all have so much work to do. In order to find solutions and make decisions, we need to meet because we need each other to make things happen. But in order to do that, we need schedules, people, and processes to fall into place and this doesn’t happen without effort on our part. We can complain about the facilitator who doesn’t keep people on track. We can gossip about that manager that always shows up late and makes us have to rehash what we already discussed. We can even talk about that person who can walk into a meeting hands-free, seemingly without a care in the world. (Yes, I am jealous).
Knowing there are always alternatives to poor habits and negative views, let’s pause to reflect on the purpose of a meeting and flip the script to look at meetings from a different angle.
Do you know what I love about meetings? When done right, they can be the greatest asset to a company showing humility, respect, diversity, teamwork, and compassion.
Humility in Meetings
Meetings are meetings because we have to meet to move work forward. In a simple world, you know your job and you can get it done. You don’t need to meet to get work, to understand work, to share updates on work, or to pass work on. But that isn’t how it works. Most of us bring an asset, gift, or trade to the table that works with others. Sales bring in prospects, who bring in requests to product managers, who bring requirements to designers, who bring designs to development who bring code to testers, who bring updates to release managers, who deliver product to customers. Among this process are discussions, debates, documents, and more that make the process as successful as the communication is among each phase and team.
Meetings show humility in each one of us because we know we cannot do the work alone. Reflect on how you can make this humbling experience better for others to empower them to do the same for you.
Respect in Meetings
Whether we think about this as we begrudgingly walk or call into a meeting every day, meetings take a ton of effort to collaborate and coordinate multiple skillsets, personalities, personal agendas, schedules, and expectations. Think about the room of 10 people you met today. We each bring a different set of work experience, history, disparate to-do lists, personal feelings, and our own voices which naturally has the potential for disaster.
Meetings show respect because we each have to carve out time from our busy day and set a mutual focus to join together, share, and solve problems to keep the work moving forward. Take the time to really appreciate how amazing it is that you are in the room with these people at the very moment.
Diversity in Meetings
While meetings show humility because humans don’t know everything and respect because we have to come together among our personal and professional 24-hour day to make things happen, one of the most beautiful things about meetings is how they bring out each individual’s unique talents. These are not necessarily as straightforward as Sally as a designer or Mike as an engineer but even deeper than the title, degree, or certification. Watch an associate come alive when they get an opportunity to present a subject they have confidence in. Watch someone jump in to organize a project unrelated to their role. Experience the person who makes guests feel welcome when they walk in the room.
Meetings show diversity because each person contributes a special gift. Looking past the flaws, take time to find the uniqueness of each participant as an individual.
Teamwork in Meetings
We discussed humility and the fact we cannot do the work alone…that means we already covered teamwork, right? Humility got us part of the way. By participating in meetings and essentially saying, “I need you,” we are opening up the process and the work to find the right people to pass or progress to the next step. In most roles, we think of it as a handoff but truly, we continue to be responsible end to end. This feeling of responsibility or accountability is teamwork.
Meetings show teamwork because we accomplish something as a unit. Look for ways to stay connected and accountable with those you share work with so that you are all engaged until the work is complete. Then celebrate together when you can say it is done.
Compassion in Meetings
If you aren’t finding the good in meetings from reflecting on the deeper purpose and good in the points above, at least try to envision how much you are needed. It may not feel like it as you spy a calendar packed with last-minute meetings that don’t take into account your own time to work, think, or take a lunch break. But you were called for a reason. You bring something special to the table and you are needed. Would it be great to get a meeting invite or agenda that says, “You are needed because you are awesome and can help us solve this problem?” Yes, but that would also be weird. Coming to the meeting knowing you bring something others need should help spark compassion to help and serve others.
Meetings show compassion because they enable us to help others. Take a breath before a meeting and think about the purpose and how you can help. When you show compassion for others by helping without condition, others will be willing to help as well.
Meetings are Inherently Good
Taking the stigma out of meetings is a critical step in establishing better habits that help us create a positive work environment. Join me in reshaping the landscape we work in daily and help make meetings a healthy, safe, and productive part of your work culture.