Who doesn’t roll their eyes at the thought of “another meeting?” But, while many of us think that it’s the volume of meetings that impacts our ability to get things done, there’s actually something far more dangerous to your productivity, and that’s the worst meeting you can have: “The meeting after the meeting.”
We’ve all been there. We’re engaged in a conversation, meeting or presentation where something is said or done that rubs us the wrong way. It feels personal, or at the very least it feels “wrong.”
So what do we do after that meeting adjourns?
We get on the phone, walk into our neighbor’s office or cube, or get on our IM to complain about what just happened. When we’re done, we feel so much better. After all, we’ve usually found a comforting ear or an outlet for our frustrations.
But here’s what’s wrong.
What we’ve done to fix the problem – that thing that bothered us so - amounts to absolutely zero.
And we’ve not only wasted our time rehashing the infraction, we’ve wasted another person’s time as well. And that means less time to spend delivering service to our clients; and potentially coloring another’s perception of the issue at hand.
Meanwhile, the person who has wronged us with their work product, proposal or words is blissfully unaware that they’ve caused damage. And that means they are likely to repeat the same behavior again – repeating the cycle of wasted time and energy.
So how do we eliminate the worst meeting?
It’s not easy – but you can do it. And it involves setting some ground rules in your culture and management approach.
The first thing we recommend is implementing a firm-wide understanding of how to deal with someone who brings a problem to you, that is not a problem you created. This happens a lot when we are managers, or main points of contact for others in the firm.
When someone vents to you there are only three possible responses:
1. What did that person who you are upset with say to you when you talked to them about it?
2. If you haven’t talked to them about it, when are you going to do that and do you need my help?
3. If you aren’t willing to talk about it, are you ready to live with it and not be negative about it?
This approach challenges people in your firm to deal with those who can help solve the issues that exist, versus spinning their wheels in frustrating “just hoping” bad behavior will stop. It also reclaims the time of your team members to address the responsibilities of their job without spending hours “caught up in drama” or working late to make up time that was lost in the “meetings after meetings.”
While this approach may seem easy, it’s not. It’s the hard work of communicating difficult things. And that means that you need to invest the time in learning how different members of your team – those who work for you, with you, and for whom you work – communicate and then putting in the work to learn skills to effectively get a message across to another.
I’m sure some of you are saying “this is fluff” or “we have real work to do.” And I get it.
But the business benefits of successful communication are well-founded.
Author Patrick Lencioni has written multiple books on the challenges of leadership, communication and working within teams as well as the impact of doing one, or all, poorly.
In perhaps his most popular book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” Lencioni outlines five main obstacles that prevent a team from accomplishing their goals, and, not surprisingly points to a foundation built – or broken – in communication.
Without open and honest discussion - that is founded in an ability to share all of one’s concerns and opinions with colleagues - Lencioni opines that it becomes almost impossible to have a truly proofed plan or shared goal. And without that, team members never fully commit to the plan, let alone achieving the results.
So as petty as an inter-office spat can seem, or that 15 minutes complaining about a co-worker or decision, each of those “meetings after a meeting” slowly erodes the foundation of effectiveness within your firm or team.
Demand that you and your colleagues use your time more effectively, and get things done more efficiently by building strong communication among team members and cancelling all the worst meetings you can have!