My Love (or Hate) Affair with Meetings

Years ago, I began to get annoyed with meetings. I wasn’t quite sure what I didn’t like about them, so I attended as few meetings as possible. Of course skipping all meetings is somewhat of a CLM (career limiting move), so I had to be selective. Sometimes I left meetings energized and felt like they were a great use of my time, but mostly, I wished I could have had the hour back plus compensation for emotional damage.

Eventually, I discovered Pat Lencioni’s Death by Meeting and gathered some insight. Just like when I began to study testing and was able to classify my testing knowledge with more widely understood patterns and concepts, Lencioni succinctly described why some meetings worked and some didn’t, and I was able to relate that learning to my own experiences. I learned why some (but not all) meetings need agendas, and why conflict is necessary for essential brainstorming. I haven’t perfected every meeting I attend (or run), but the concepts from that book remain in my conscious. I’ve become sort of a sucker for Lencioni’s writings since then and think all of his stories are fascinating insights into team growth and leadership.

I got a bit of a boost a few weeks ago when I read Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli. This book is a manifesto on how to run a good meeting – and more importantly on why bad meetings are killing us. Having worked in organizations where status and informational meetings are abundant makes the points in this book ring home, and remind me why we can, and must do better about how we hold meetings and make decisions.

I love a good meeting, and after reading Pittampalli’s book, reflecting on Lencioni’s book, and recalling my own meeting experiences, I’m reminded of why. Brainstorming, collaboration, and a level of conflict all contribute to a meeting where the thoughts of the many are far better than the sum of their parts. These are the meetings that energize me.

I’m also reinvigorated to eliminate the bad meetings from my calendar. Meetings where goal is consensus or shoving information down attendees throats don’t belong in successful organizations. We can do better, and I’m inspired to try.

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