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:
- Pygmalion Side Effects: Bowling a Strike
- Elise slowly walked back to her office, beaten. Her supervisor, Alton, had just given Elise her performance
review — her third consecutive "meets expectations." No point now to her strategy of
giving 120% to turn it all around. She is living a part of the Pygmalion Effect, and she's about to
experience the Pygmalion Side Effects.
- The Hypothetical Trap
- Politicians know that answering hypothetical questions is dangerous, but it's equally dangerous for
managers and project managers to answer them in the project context. What's the problem? Why should
you be careful of the "What If?"
- Organizing a Barn Raising
- Once you find a task that you can tackle as a "barn raising," your work is just beginning.
Planning and organizing the work is in many ways the hard part.
- Deciding to Change: Choosing
- When organizations decide to change what they do, the change sometimes requires that they change how
they make decisions, too. That part of the change is sometimes overlooked, in part, because it affects
most the people who make decisions. What can we do about this?
- Issues-Only Team Meetings
- Time spent in regular meetings is productive to the extent that it moves the team closer to its objectives.
Because uncovering and clarifying issues is more productive than distributing information or listening
to status reports, issues-only team meetings focus energy where it will help most.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 15: Entry Intimidation
- Feeling intimidated about entering a new work situation can affect performance for both the new entrant and for the group as a whole. Four trouble patterns related to entry intimidation are inadvertent subversion, bullying, hat hanging, and defenses and sabotage. Available here and by RSS on May 15.
- And on May 22: Newtonian Blind Alleys: I
- When we decide how to allocate organizational resources, we make assumptions about how the world works. Often outside our awareness, the thinking of Sir Isaac Newton influences our assumptions. And sometimes they lead us into blind alleys. Universality is one example. Available here and by RSS on May 22.
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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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