You’ll Get A Meeting Culture Whether You Plan For It Or Not

Let’s sort it out people!

By Ben Robinson

We’ve all heard the jokes about poor meetings. There are meetings about meetings; there are back to back meetings and all-day meetings. So many meetings in fact, that the actual work can’t get done or is squeezed in around the edges. I hear stories about people falling asleep in meetings or managing to write a full report whilst attending a workshop – I even know someone who took a shower during a conference call!

Every person I ask about the quality of the meetings they attend say they would change them in a heartbeat if it were possible. So, if there is so much dissatisfaction, why do poor quality meetings still prevail? Why do we make the jokes and ‘put-up’ with them anyway?

My supposition is that because meeting routine is so deeply engrained in the habits of an organisation, it becomes a culture all on its own. More than that, the meeting culture of an organisation probably evolved to be the way it is and may even have been inherited.

Organisations (maybe yours too?) invest resources in change programmes; creating new visions, re-writing strategy and plans and then wonder why they can’t get traction and buy-in throughout the organisation. I’d like to bet that one big reason is that they failed to attend to their meeting culture. The one thing that every person does every day; the one activity that is prime time for true engagement.

In truth, if meetings are done well and for the right purpose, they can unlock and liberate an entire organisation. Conversely meetings done badly, can bring an organisation to its knees.

From time to time, a brave soul will step forward and attempt to sway people towards a better meeting culture. But their efforts are soon subdued and then swept away because ‘people don’t like bright sparks and they don’t like change’.

Then, comes the idea that meeting skills are soft skills and they come way down the priority list. I know leaders who use every meeting to lead, to step up and to inspire their people. They create space and time, let ideas gather speed, develop thinking and plans with groups, in meetings. Harder still, they navigate complex discussions in a way that means both morale and ideas survive the brainstorm. There’s nothing soft about that, it is the day job, being done in the meeting.

Imagine a workplace where:

  • Leaders hold engaging meetings that result in robust decisions and aligned action.

  • Managers know that it’s the quality of meetings that really matters rather than the quantity.

  • Teams realise that meetings are the lifeblood of the enterprise and use them to work creatively; keeping them inspired, fresh and innovative.

  • Organisations support their employees to get better at the one thing every single member of staff does every single day.

Meeting culture sits deep within the fabric of organisational culture and will exist whether you plan for it or not.

If it is true that Energy Flows Where Attention Goes, decide to put meeting culture in the top 5 organisational priorities you want to deliver against and bring about a positive shift that unlocks and liberates your organisation.

I’m on a mission to revolutionise the working day and create a movement towards better meeting culture. Let’s sort it out.

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Illustrations by Georgie Mosley

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