When we complain that meetings are boring, time-wasting, maddening, or frustrating, it might help to check first about the roles we play ourselves. There are dozens of tactics and ploys, which I've been collecting over the years. Here's the second installment of a little catalog of the more common ones. See "Games for Meetings: I," Point Lookout for February 12, 2003, or "Games for Meetings: III," Point Lookout for March 19, 2003, for more.
- See how good I am at manipulating PowerPoint in arcane, undocumented ways.
- Animations, builds, video, audio, and artwork might have legitimate uses, but sometimes we go way too far. When we abuse PowerPoint's abilities, we not only waste our own time, but we also undercut our own messages. If you find yourself doing this sort of thing, ask yourself why you thought it was a good idea. More at "Think Before You PowerPoint," Point Lookout for January 2, 2002.
- Let's make our networked laptops display the slides so we don't have to look up at the projection screen — or at each other.
- For those blessed with the necessary infrastructure, networking audience laptops to display the speaker's slides can be useful, especially for remote audiences. But when a projection screen suffices, use it. The group will stay more connected.
- You think I'm looking at your slides on my laptop, but I'm actually txting the prsn sttg nx 2 me. [*]
- One of the risks of the networked laptop presentation is that people might find alternative ways to pass the time. As the presenter, be aware of this risk. As a member of the audience, remember that you can be found out.
- Not Me
- I didn't have anything to do with that horrible disaster.
- The old pass-the-buck ploy. If this happens frequently, it could be a sign that you live in a blame-based environment, and that's an unhealthy place to be. Consider moving on. If you're in a position to effect cultural change, start tracking the incidence of this pattern. It's an indicator of the need for an intervention. See "The Blaming Organizational Coping Pattern" for more.
- Hot Potato
- I don't want to have anything to do with that. Here, you take it.
- When we use this ploy, we might gain temporary advantage, but eventually, we'll get caught holding some other potato. Address the issue directly. Try to find a way to share the unpleasant work or at least, the risk.
- Serial Status Report
- We each report that everything we're responsible for is on track.
- A very wasteful pattern. Instead, compile status from everyone in advance of the meeting, and post or distribute the reports to all concerned. Use meetings to discuss issues, rather than to announce status.
- See No Evil
- Let's all silently agree not to mention the painfully obvious problem(s).
- If the problems are threatening enough, any team will fall into this trap. One way to avoid it: designate someone as "Curmudgeon," with responsibility for asking the embarrassing questions. See "Appreciate Differences," Point Lookout for March 14, 2001.
Which of these do you do? Which can you stop doing? What can you do instead? Keep track of what you see in your meetings, and talk about their costs. More coming in future issues — see "Games for Meetings: III," Point Lookout for March 19, 2003. Send me descriptions of your more delightful discoveries. Top Next Issue
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your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Taming the Time Card
- Filling out time cards may seem maddeningly trivial, but the data they collect can be critically important
to project managers. Why is it so important? And what does an effective, yet minimally intrusive time
reporting system look like?
- No Surprises
- If you tell people "I want no surprises," prepare for disappointment. For the kind of work
that most of us do, surprises are inevitable. Still, there's some core of useful meaning in "I
want no surprises," and if we think about it carefully, we can get what we really need.
- An Emergency Toolkit
- You've just had some bad news at work, and you're angry or really upset. Maybe you feel like the target
of a vicious insult or the victim of a serious injustice. You have work to do, and you want to respond,
but you must first regain your composure. What can you do to calm down and start feeling better?
- Discussion Distractions: I
- Meetings could be far more productive, if only we could learn to recognize and prevent the distractions
that lead us off topic and into the woods. Here is Part I of a small catalog of distractions frequently
seen in meetings.
- The Retrospective Funding Problem
- If your organization regularly conducts project retrospectives, you're among the very fortunate. Many
organizations don't. But even among those that do, retrospectives are often underfunded, conducted by
amateurs, or too short. Often, key people "couldn't make it." We can do better than this.
What's stopping us?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
- Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.
- And on March 7: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: II
- Narcissistic behavior at work threatens the enterprise. People who behave narcissistically systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this Part II of the series we consider the narcissistic preoccupation with superiority fantasies. Available here and by RSS on March 7.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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