No, not another meeting!
By C. Fredrick Crum

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This is the first in a series addressing meeting effectiveness.

Have you ever attended a meeting that was a waste of your time? Most of us would answer yes to that question. That is true of about 85 percent of all the meetings I have ever attended. The following is a true story.

Rosa was so frustrated she could scream. This was her third meeting of the day and each one was progressively worse than the one before. She sat in the meeting in silence knowing that if she interrupted her new boss with any input she would be scorned for her suggestion. After all, she was the newest member of the team. Rosa had not yet earned the respect of her peers, nor did she have any political clout to have any influence on the direction of the meeting.


What is the best way to improve meetings?
  • 1. Make them shorter
  • 2. Set a clear direction or purpose
  • 3. Make sure the right people are involved
  • 4. Establish better ground rules
After the merger, Rosa was the only member of her former leadership team to survive the cut. As she sat in the meeting, she longed to be back as a member of her former leadership team. In her old world she was an influential member of the senior leadership team. Her highly successful organization was gobbled up by this larger group which let go almost all of the members of her leadership team except Rosa. She knew the success of her former organization was due to the leadership of her former colleagues. Rosa and her former colleagues knew how to meet as a team to move the organization forward.

Rosa’s former leadership team was highly trained in how to utilize meetings to build trust, cultivate ideas, inspire creativity, find the best solutions and embrace the culture of the organization. She wished her current leadership team had the same type of training. The meetings she has been attending the last few months have been nothing but a waste of her time. She could not wait to get out of the meeting and go home. Rosa had had enough.

While driving home Rosa once again continued her rant, her radio was getting quite a thrashing.

“I am tired of attending meetings with no clear purpose — meetings that follow poorly developed agendas that have no input from the leadership team,” Rosa said. “The wrong people are at the table and they are unprepared for the meetings. No ground rules or protocols are established so the meetings consist of two hours of interruptions, phone calls, political diversions, off topic conversations and intimidation.

“I’m tired of getting ridiculed, so I sit in silence seeming to give my agreement or consent to the direction the organization is heading. I am frustrated at the meeting process and at myself for fearing the risk of harming my career by speaking up. The boss and his cronies have their idea of how to run the organization with little input from the rest of the leadership team. As a result, the best ideas for moving the organization forward are never discovered.”

Rosa continues: “The cost of these ineffective meetings is staggering. It is not only that time and talent are wasted, but the organization is headed on the wrong path.” Rosa shouts, “This organization is doomed. I need to secretly start looking for a position in different organization while my reputation is still intact.”

Rosa again screams at her radio, “This ship is going down.”

Your story may be just like Rosa’s. How often have your screamed at your radio on your drive home?

Effective meetings are the engines that move organizations forward. The results of effective meetings help strengthen the corporate culture and set the course for the organization. Most organizational meetings, or engines, either stall, backfire or fail. Unfortunately, there are very few engines that run at peak performance.

C. Fredrick Crum is the president and founder of Effective Leadership Now.Org. He has spent more than 30 years working with leaders and leadership teams to improve their performance.