You can spend pretty much all day (or all week) reading about different ways to improve meetings. From making employees "pay" for them, to adapting a technique of elementary school teachers, to emulating the practices of the super successful, the internet offers pretty much an unlimited supply of advice on making regular office get togethers a little less painful.
Yet despite all these tips and tricks, your meetings still often suck. Maybe you need to take a new approach. Rather than asking yourself how to improve, maybe you need to focus on what you're doing to make them so terrible in the first place.
That's the premise behind a fun but useful new post from HelpScout's Gregory Ciotti that runs down all the well-intentioned but totally destructive ideas people have about meetings that cause their colleagues to groan when they receive an invite. If you know about these common ways bosses foul up their meetings, you'll be better able to counteract them, Ciotti's thinking goes.
1. Invite everyone who might be vaguely interested in the discussion.
You're all for transparency and collaboration, so it just makes good sense to get as much input as possible before making a decision, right? That might sound sensible, but according to Ciotti this line of thinking leads straight to one of the most popular meeting-destroying mistakes -- inviting everyone under the sun (and their assistant).
"I've never sat in a productive meeting that violated Jeff Bezos' two-pizza rule, itself made to guard meeting size at Amazon," insists Ciotti, who notes that "there is established and convincing literature that shows decision-making effectiveness sharply declines when the number of attendees grows into double-digit territory." So think carefully before adding each name to your invite.
2. Insist that everyone agree.
You're a nice person who values your team's opinions, so your plan is just to keep talking until everyone comes around to one position and you have universal buy-in on whatever decision you made. That might sound like the decent thing to do, but your meeting attendees won't thank you for it, Ciotti claims.
"Meetings aren't about finding agreement, they're about finding alignment -- there's a sincere difference between the two. Alignment means you can have reservations and even doubt, but you're choosing to commit to and facilitate the final decisions made. Alignment is always necessary; agreement is not," he clarifies.
3. Keep things light.
It's a universally accepted fact that pretty much everyone hates meetings, so you might decide to make yours a little more palatable by keeping things light and informal. This approach is sure to backfire, according to Ciotti. Meetings with vague start times, no structure, and no assigned action items are the very reason everyone dreads stepping into the conference room in the first place.
"On the other hand, when meetings are treated with a deserved seriousness, everyone shows up ready to make the most of them," concludes Ciotti.
Looking for ideas on how to mess up your meeting? Ciotti has several more on offer in the complete post.