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. [Note]
- 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
Do you spend 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:
- In the Groove
- Under stress, we sometimes make choices that we later regret. And we wonder, "Will I ever learn?"
Fortunately, the problem usually isn't a failure to learn. Changing just takes practice.
- Trying to Do It Right the First Time Isn't Always Best
- You've probably heard the slogan, "Do it right the first time." It makes sense for some kinds
of work, but not for all. For more and more of the work done in modern organizations, doing it right
the first time — or even trying to — might be the wrong way to go.
- It's a Wonderful Day!
- Most knowledge workers are problem solvers. We work towards goals. We anticipate problems as best we
can, and when problems appear, we solve them. But our focus on anticipating problems can become a problem
in itself — at work and in Life.
- Management Debt: I
- Management debt, like technical debt, arises when we choose paths — usually the lowest-cost paths
— that lead to recurring costs that are typically higher than alternatives. Why do we take on
management debt? How can we pay it down?
- Down in the Weeds: II
- To be "down in the weeds," in one of its senses, is to be lost in discussion at a level of
detail inappropriate to the current situation. Here's Part II of our exploration of methods for dealing
with this frustrating pattern so common in group discussions.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 22: Red Flags: I
- When we finally admit to ourselves that a collaborative effort is in serious trouble, we sometimes recall that we had noticed several "red flags" early enough to take action. Toxic conflict and voluntary turnover are two examples. Available here and by RSS on July 22.
- And on July 29: Red Flags: II
- When we find clear evidence of serious problems in a project or other collaboration, we sometimes realize that we had overlooked several "red flags" that had foretold trouble. In this Part II of our review of red flags, we consider communication patterns that are useful indicators of future problems. Available here and by RSS on July 29.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenuQKLUMsVubCpqOpqner@ChacCCvpZbzKGsgliMGNoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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