Pre-Meetings Are In. Aren’t They?
“Sorry I cant come back to you with a decision – I have ‘back to back’ meetings all day”.
Have you ever been called to a ‘pre-meeting’? You know, one of these secret squirrel discussions designed to try and manipulate some kind of outcome from the ‘main’ meeting , so that people feel they are making progress or as a defense mechanism to avoid being shown up.
Even worse! When there are a series of ‘regular’ meetings, you get wrapped up in a series of pre-meetings. And then to add insult to injury, the main meeting still can’t find a solution, so the outcome is to create groups of mini-committees (working parties) who then need further meetings to find the solution, pulling in others from the organisation for even more meetings, precipitated of course by a pre-meeting, so that their meeting can show the main meeting they have actually come up with something?
Bill Creech, the retired four-star General who conducted an extraordinary turnaround at the U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Command, framed the leadership challenge this way. “There is a war on…between the people who are trying to do something (usually the workers) and the people who are trying to keep them from doing something wrong (the management). There are times when things do actually get done and the organisation moves forward, despite the leadership and management, who without even realising it, are stifling progress, often on the premise that innovation creates risk and risk is bad!
Leaders today seek control.
Is Tom Peters Re-Imagine! right with his definition of “crappy leadership”- the leader who is only comfortable with their position when they are in control? Being in control = meetings!
Meetings today are a comfort blanket for leaders, manifesting in the following comments I get from leadership teams:
- We have meetings for meetings sake.
- I have to attend yet another ‘bored’ meeting!
- I spend almost half of every business day holding conferences and discussing problems.
- He can’t see you for at least a month as his diary is chocker-block.
- I’m going to be later tonight darling as I’ve been called to a ‘crisis meeting’.
- I’m always running late because my last meeting over-ran.
- Every meeting I go to starts at least 10 minutes late and people seem to wander in and out at random.
- We always spend the first hour or two trying to find out what the problem is.
- I’ve got over twenty mini-actions from yesterday’s meeting, so I had better call all my team in to a meeting to tell them what’s going on.
- Every meeting we have just goes round and round in circles and we walk out scratching our heads – why we have just wasted another few hours debating rubbish?
- If I could work out the cost of every meeting we hold based on peoples hourly rate, it’s costing the organisation $millions.
- There’s never an agenda and we seem to stagger aimlessly from meeting to meeting.
- There’s an agenda but we never stick to it.
- There’s an agenda but we only ever get to the third one down!
Recognise any of these statements. This is a leadership and management issue, so if you have a role to play in this picture – cut it out. STOP. But how?
I wonder what Simon Teague thinks?