We Need More Meetings at Work

I know – lock me up. While everyone else is finding ways to dodge meetings I’m raising the flag that says in order to do better business we need to do more meetings.

See, I’m not one to throw babies out with bathwater. I like to first see if the bathwater is really dirty or if we’re simply looking for scapegoats and bogey men to blame for our lack of progress at work. Whether that be employee recognition programs, employee engagement fails or… yep… you guessed it… meetings.

There have been more words written about the monumental waste of time meetings are than can be found in War and Peace. But the real truth is that meetings serve a purpose and just because someone does “meetings” poorly doesn’t mean we should eliminate them. But meetings are important. They serve a purpose.

Meetings Are Human

If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the last few years on this site or my own company site, you know that our mission has been to help companies be more human at work and help people focus on the whole person and not just a “human resource.”

And face-to-face conversations are a really human thing.

Sure we can text, email, twitter, twatter, snap and pop – but we’re not really connecting on a human level. We’re just passing bits and bytes and proxies for real meaning.

I am reminded of an article from the New York Times a few years back by Sherry Turkle called “The Flight From Conversation” in which she said:

“We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being ‘alone together.’ Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.”

As a manager in a company – and more importantly – as a manager in the HR function of a company – helping define, support and advance a corporate culture requires that people be invested in that culture. People need to be a part of, and share, the culture of the organization; otherwise your culture simply defaults to words on a framed piece of faux parchment.

Culture does not exist without the sharing of it with other human beings.

Meetings help us have conversations. Meetings help us share and reinforce ideas. Conversations are where we find meaning and where we find reason. Data driven by our use of technology can help point us in general directions for further study – but it cannot interpret the data like a good human conversation. One that gets to the root of something just below the surface behind the impulsive click and send.

I submit that while the rest of the world – including your competition – searches for the holy grail of technology that will ultimately allow an organization to “function’ with ZERO human interaction – you can get further and have a more connected organization by having more face-to- face experiences with your employees.

I’ve said this so many times I am becoming a caricature of myself…

Human beings need to be effective not efficient.

When we focus on making humans efficient we lose a bit of our humanity and our ability to feel empathy and sympathy. Losing those traits, I believe, makes us less effective as an organization.

As long as we allow our people to connect – but not connect – our corporate culture takes a back seat to the “tribe of one.”

Have a few more meetings. You can blame them on me.

FOT Background Check

Paul Hebert
Paul Hebert is the Senior Director of Solutions Architecture at Creative Group Inc and a writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. Over the course of his career, Paul has worked closely with clients to design influence, marketing, motivation, incentive, loyalty, recognition and reward programs to increase effectiveness and reduce costs. Paul is a recognized authority on incentives and performance motivation. Want to know what’s going to motivate your people to perform at their best and impact the bottom line? Want to know whether your service award program really means anything at all? Curious what psychological principles drive sales behavior? Paul’s your guy… unless you fervently bow down to Maslow. Check out his personal blog at "What Is Paul Thinking?" when you're tired of his FOT rants.

10 Comments

  1. Hi Paul,

    I agree – meetings are valuable (nothing beats face-to-fact communication) but only if you have the right people in the room and all attendees use the time well. It seems so obvious but we’ve all been in meetings that were essentially a huge waste of time.

    This (better) use of meetings is especially important in a business context of increasing ambiguity and competing priorities. People need to work together to achieve ‘good enough’ clarity and to come to a consensus on the way forward to get things done.

  2. Paul Hebert says:

    Thanks Melany – unfortunately – sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. Not every meeting is going to be rainbows and unicorns… but anytime people can get together there is OPPORTUNITY for human connection. Can’t guarantee it it – but I will guarantee sending another email won’t create it either.

  3. Karl Glotzbach says:

    Paul, I completely agree with this. So much time is wasted on projects because people don’t have complete information and make all kinds of assumptions when they read email or look at reports. The context of a situation matters a great deal, and that is often missing from electronic communication. Especially when you consider that current email best practice is to write very short emails.

    If a meeting has an agenda, starts and ends on time, and, as Melany points out, the attendees are chosen with care, meetings can save tons of time by establishing and maintaining a common understanding.

    • Paul Hebert says:

      Good points Karl on the “proper” prep for a meeting. Once again – meetings aren’t bad – bad meetings are bad. Let’s not abandon a useful tool because those wielding it are incompetent. Thanks for following along here at FOT!

  4. HRMantra says:

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  5. Joe Abusamra says:

    Hi Paul,

    I get your point/message about humanizing, touch points, communication, etc. and agree. I don’t think that means you necessarily have to have more. I think a better title/message would be “We Need Better Meetings at Work.” If you have a great one, that doesn’t necessarily you need another one on top of it. Drink good wine, just don’t overdo it.

    But I get your point — good post!

    Joe

    • Paul Hebert says:

      Thanks for weighing in Joe. But I really do mean to have more meetings. I also mean we need better meetings. I am convinced that most of the issues associated with business today stem from a lack of human connection – and email and other “tech” solutions while they may make the process “efficient” they don’t help with efficacy. So – yes – meetings need to be better AND we need to meet more.

      We can reduce the amount of back and forth on email and other messaging apps and decrease errors and time to completion if we have more face to face meetings. I’m not saying meet for meetings sake… but if you find yourself going back and forth more than two times on an email chain it’s time to get in a room and nail the answer. I think most of the time waste in our tech enabled world is invisible because the time wasted is “micro” – we don’t see it because it is small – but it is often… very very often.

      So – I still think more is better – until it’s not. Is that a way cover my a*&?

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