Meetings Bloody Meetings

I recently posted on over-work and meetings was one of the topics I briefly covered, so I thought I would add a little on this vexed subject.

I think from long experience there are three types of meeting and ways to handle each:

  1. Performative Meetings. These are usually called by organizational Alpha males in order to show off, to exercise power, to have an audience to strut their stuff to and make them feel important. I had a boss once who called a one on one meeting with me at 9am every Friday and which lasted the rest of the day. He took every interruption he could to talk on the phone and show off his power to me. Mostly these sort of meeting waste far more than two peoples’ time. If you can possibly get out of this sort of meeting, do so. If not try to surreptitiously get some thinking done on some other subject but make sure you look like you are actually writing down the pearls of wisdom the Alpha Male is boring the room stupid with to cover up what you are doing.
  2. The Meeting as Group Therapy. At its worst, this a variant of Meeting Type 1 and if it really is intended to work out the early family life traumas of the Alpha Male it will likely stay as a Type 1. But if it is not such a meeting, then it has some potential to build the performance of the group to actually do some work. I tend to like the Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model. This suggests any group needs to take some time figuring out what its purpose is and having a lot of early conflict to surface and deal with differences on view on what the heck the meeting, group, project, whatever is really about. This is the Storming Phase. Once this phase has worked its way through, then the group can set some ground rules about how it is to work and achieve its now agreed goals in the Norming Stage. This sets the scene for the meeting, group, whatever to move into a Type 3 Meeting
  3. The Meeting Intended to Add Value. Unless it is utterly bland and routine, most regular meetings have to go through the Forming, Storming, Norming phases before they can Perform a useful function. And I suggest the Norming stage includes ways to handle conflict as a healthy group may repeatedly return to the Storming stage as further disagreements arise that need handling. Storming is a sign of health and vitality, though it needs handling non-destructively. I also suggest that meeting agendas include very tight time constraints for different items and group them as information only, discussion and decision in advance and all meetings end with a quick few minutes to address the question one of my past bosses who was otherwise a complete idiot, sensibly used to ask: “what haven’t we thought of?” Oh and the best meetings as in the one below are held standing up. Nothing cuts discussion down the essentials more than that. At one time the weekly major meeting of the senior staff of a $100 billion a year business was conducted standing up for two hours walking round wall charts and making decisions that everyone was accountable for. It often ended early and rarely ad not made all the required decisions with some really incisive discussion partly because it had a high humility leader who thought the group of senior managers knew more about each bit of the business than he did, so his role was conductor not playing his own fiddle.

I don’t go to meeting anymore in the main. But if I do, I only go to Type 3 meetings or Type 2 meetings with some probability of growing into Type 2. Many political meetings are Type 1 and to be avoided. Political meetings that will make a difference have probably to be Type 3, but I rarely see anyone in politics who understands this, which is why I rarely go to political meetings.

If anyone knows another typology, or another category of meeting to add, please comment accordingly and I will add/amend this post accordingly.


About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict Humor, Conflict Processes, PERSONAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION: CREATIVE STRATEGIES, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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