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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meeting mania and mediocrity

Thanks to a tweet from a highly successful former student of mine @ZackNash posting this previous writing of mine, I am compelled to reprint, and add items. He keeps it posted on his desk.
Meetings have proliferated in higher ed and elsewhere since I wrote this years ago. They are one of the main reasons I'm glad I'm no longer even quasi-administrative. I've heard tales of this on campus at UCO, and can assume it's true elsewhere--of deans and others having five, six or more meetings a day.
That's insanity--it's inefficient, controlling, and a waste of money, time and talent. How can anyone be a leader, be creative, be smart, be energetic, or even be healthy. Or get any really productive work done?
In fact, our university emphasizes health and wellness. But that would mean a moratorium on meetings, and many fewer. Excessive, unnecessary, and long rambling meetings are guarantees of poor mental health.
It also emphasizes leadership, but extensive meetings are the antithesis of leadership--they suffocate the opportunity for leadership.
Consider the great ones--Jesus, Jefferson,  Churchill. Remember their meetings? No? Oh, today? Maybe if you can't name some great leaders, its because they're swamped in meetings and you never get to see or hear them.
If someone demands excessive meetings, that person is usually not a leader, but a micro-manager. Excessive meetings mean mediocrity.
In addition in this wonderful digital age in which we live, there is more and more paperwork, more and more trees being killed by multiple copies of extensive forms and reports nobody is really going to read, but just sit on a shelf to meet arcane rules and  policies.
So here's what I wrote back when we were merging two departments almost 10 years ago as advice to leaders:
Meetings and other Headaches
  • Be skeptical of paperwork and meetings.
  • Avoid meetings and committees.
  • Meet deadlines that affect your people.
  • Ignore all the paperwork, meetings and deadlines that you can.
  • Keep meetings short.
  • Meetings, like speeches, get worse and waste more time as they get longer.
  • Most committees are a waste of time, manpower and money. So are most reports.
  • Get to the point in speaking or writing.
  • Mid-level managers primarily require reports, meetings and committees to justify their jobs. Of course they think they’re important.
  • The more reports, committees and meetings people attend, the less efficient they’ll be as leaders.
  • Strong leaders keep them to a minimum.
  • Simplify all paperwork and forms.
  • Have two types of meetings: brief, agenda-ordered business and informational; and less formal ones that allow complete participation.
  • Start meetings on time, with an advance agenda. If you can’t do that, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
  • People who show up late to meetings are rude and disrespectful. 
  • So are people who don't start meetings on time, and end them on time.
  • In a meeting, let everyone have their say, but don’t condone personal attacks and keep them on agenda.
  • Every meeting should have a summary statement of accomplishment. It helps achieve goals and shows why the meeting was worthwhile.
  • Watch people getting off an airplane. That’s what it feels like when a meeting is over. What does that tell you?

1 comment:

  1. Good grief, I spend half my time on meetings. All Wednesday afternoon is spent putting together an incredibly detailed weekly report. Sometimes I'm glad that my beige box doesn't have a window or I'd jump out of it. Plus, ........ I am told to use passive verbs because they sound "more professional"

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