Meetings, meetings, meetings. Doesn’t every company have too many of them? Questions like, “What’s the point of dragging all of us out of our cubicles when the conversation only pertains to a few?” and, “Wouldn’t it be better to use that time actually doing the work instead of just talking about it?” scream ubiquitous disdain for any group powwow.
Why are meetings so often like a day at the dentist’s? Let’s face it—sometimes meetings are just plain bad. No agenda, one-way communication, endless discussion with no conclusion, and a lack of purpose all make for a bad meeting.
Even so, some people would hate it if it were the best-run meeting ever. Two types in particular—hands-on doers and techies—often find most any meeting tough to suffer through. The doers are hard-wired to be active. You know the type; they’re generally high energy. They like to get their hands into the project and get to work rather than sit around planning it, and any planning they do will be on the fly. Ask them to sit in a meeting and they’ll last about 5 minutes before starting to fidget. Thirty minutes into it they’re going crazy. An hour might as well be a waterboarding experience.
The other is the technical type who likes to work with things more than people. They’re not necessarily anti-social, it’s just that they don’t feel they need a lot of “Hey, how’re you doing?” interactions to enjoy the work. Given a choice, they’ll stick with burying their heads in a computer, calculations, machine or technical problem and leave the socializing to others. They wonder why those who feel they need a meeting can’t just do it and leave everyone else alone. What’s wrong with text, chat, and email, after all?
When the boss calls a meeting, who complains the loudest? The doers and techies. If you’re in a company filled with engineers and technicians, you’re a witness. If they don’t want to spend time discussing work in meetings, they won’t feel too motivated to discuss things outside of meetings, either. So, if you’re wondering why you can’t get your team working better together as a team, or why they can’t get more done, look at your meetings, or lack of them, as a culprit.
It’s hard for a team to work together to improve processes and the products they produce if team members aren’t communicating and don’t really understand each other. Teams that don’t meet regularly almost always have problems working together with any kind of unity. And, just because employees seem to get along okay and share information when they think they have to, it doesn’t mean they’re truly collaborating.
Just know that great team results usually require great meetings. That’s why when people visit high performing organizations, they almost always ask, “How do they get anything done when they’re always in meetings?” They don’t understand that what happens in those meetings is more than sharing information; it’s creating common purpose, common commitment, and synergy.
So, when the squawking from your doers and techies gets loud, it will take courage for you to say, “I know you’re not a meeting person, but we’re going to have a meeting because we need to work together as a tight-knit group of people, not separately within the same department. To do that, we need to know what each other is doing and find ways to help each other. We need to become a team. That means we have to meet and talk.”
You need to love meetings because they let you have enough control to create the conditions that will help a group of people gel into a team. For people to develop a strong sense of team purpose and sense of responsibility for each other’s success, they need to have social relationships that support that. Great team meetings can enable that.
Of course, just holding meetings doesn’t guarantee that everything will be peachy. The meetings have to be meaningful and effective. Otherwise, nobody will see value in attending or want to show up regardless of how willing they are to bite the bullet for the good of the team. You have to be able to show that the meetings are generating better results, maybe not immediately, but in a reasonable period of time.
So go ahead and have those meetings despite a few whines. Make them as much about pulling everyone into a team as about coordinating the work. Get everyone talking about what the team needs to accomplish and how they’re going to work together to do it. Let them experience that type of meeting regularly. It will connect them and grow their commitment to each other for the success of the team so they become the team that keeps pushing performance over the next bar.
Ascent Management Consulting is found at www.ascentmgt.com and specializes in productivity improvement through performance turnarounds, leadership coaching, and appraisal-less performance management.