Blog > Waking up to better meetings

August 9, 2011

An advertisement came on the radio today about sleep disorders – you know the thing, waking up tired, having trouble waking up, having trouble getting to sleep. The advertisement was touting some chain of sleep disorder places that could make your waking life a whole let better if you get your sleeping sorted.

Given how much time we spend (or try to spend) sleeping, it seems practical to look for ways of improving the quality and quantity of our sleep. I did some numbers. We have 168 hours in each week, and we probably spend, what between 5 and 9 hours sleeping a night? So if you’re at the 5 hours a night end, that’s 35 hours out of your 168 spent sleeping, and 56 hours if you get 9 hours a night. I’m guessing most of us fall inbetween and it varies from night to night. That’s a lot of time to spend sleeping (time very well spent IMHO) so it make sense to try and get some good quality sleep too.

Let’s now skip to the waking hours. How many hours a week would you spend in meetings? Hmmm… Certainly not as much time as sleeping? Surely not. That would mean you would spend almost all of your working day in meetings. Yikes! I’ll presume that’s not the case then.

I wonder what steps people are taking to have more effective meetings? Meetings are not going to go away, so we might as well try and make the best use of that time together. Dwight Towers pointed me to this article 12 Acts of Courage to Change meetings for Good. There’s some good ideas there.

Johnnie Moore also posted about this as we’re working on something similar called We Can’t Go On Meeting Like This. Here’s a few of our initial thoughts about meetings.

Avoid abstraction theatre: When the discussion enters “Abstractland’ – a bleak and confusing place where everyone else seems to know what’s happening except you (or else they’re faking it) – instead of playing the ever-escalating status auction (“I’ll meet your jargon about core beliefs and raise you a new values statement.”) be curious and ask questions.

Fess up to feelings: Ever heard this, “Let’s keep the emotion out of this?” Eh? We’re humans, we’re emotional beings. Listen to your feelings. They might be trying to tell you something important.

Bring in the body: No not a corpse, although many meetings might as well be held with corpses given the amount of human-ness they exhibit. This is about physically moving. Walking and talking. Standing up. Sitting down. Anything but sitting for long periods of time. You know that sitting for long periods of time is not good for you, and it’s not good for meetings either.

Work with the willing: Obvious really. Go to where the energy is. Don’t waste time with those who want to block you.

Shelve the shadow conversations: These are the dangerous undercurrents of meetings, the untested assumptions about what others might be thinking or doing. The clue here is ‘untested’.

And if you’re part of a meeting, here’s five questions we think are worth asking of ourselves. After all, we’re all responsible for the meetings we attend, either directly or indirectly. Best not to wait for someone else to fix them.

Who am I going to be to this group?

What risks am I willing to take to create surprise, delight and significance?

What can we do with the space we’re meeting in to make it more human and inspiring?

How can we make each other look good and truly meet the needs of the whole group?

How can we make time for the things that really matter?

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