55. Meetings Don’t Need to Suck

Yes, you spend a ton of time in meetings and yes, most of them are miserable! You are not alone! In fact a recent poll revealed that people just like you rank over 50% of their meetings as poor.

In this episode of Crina and Kirsten Get to Work, our dynamic duo brings their laser focus to meetings – with the hope that we can defy the data that 50% of meetings are not satisfying – and great more joy, meaning and ease.

Check out the data . . .

Dr Joseph Allen, professor of industrial and organizational psychology at University of Utah, has been studying meetings for 15 years.  He found that pre- Pandemic a manager spent 75% of her time in meeting activities (prep, meetings and follow-up).  This is 30 hours!!. During lock down that time increased by 48.5 minutes average per work day.  A manager now spends 85-90% of her time in meetings!  And remember during all of these meetings, we are “performing” of “surface acting.” You know the smiling, engaged, professional, energetic self.  And this is draining.

And here is the bad news, over 50% of participants rate the meetings as poor.  Why:

No agenda

No clear purpose

Attendees do not stay on the topic

Attendees are not equally participating

Lack of information needed for the meeting

And like everything in the workplace, race and gender bias play a significant role in meetings.  Women and people of color are given less time to talk, perceived as less capable and talked over more.  According to Adam Grant: “Political scientists find that when groups of five make democratic decisions, if only one member is a woman, she speaks 40 percent less than each of the men. Even if the group has a majority of three women, they each speak 36 percent less than each of the two men. Only in groups with four women do they each finally take up as much airtime as the one man.”  The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation, and Institutions eBook: Karpowitz, Christopher F., Mendelberg, Tali: Kindle Store.  One study by the Yale psychologist Victoria Bresoll found that when male executives spoke more often, they were perceived to be more competent, but when female executives spoke more often, they were given lower competence ratings. Who Takes the Floor and Why: Gender, Power, and Volubility in Organizations – Victoria L. Brescoll, 2011

Personality type is important to understanding meeting dynamics. In The Four Personality Types in Your Meetings – HR Daily Advisor, Cameron Herold divides us into 4 personality types and being mindful of their needs and how they contribute:

  1. Dominant Personalities: extroverts, assertive, verbose, forceful, strong, type-A, and driven personalities. They will say what they mean, argue for it, and act forcefully. 
  2. Expressive Personalities extroverts, plus they are animated, talk with their hands, and think out loud. They tend to get excitable and emotional, and they eagerly jump in to speak.
  3. Analytical Personalities will literally think through their answers before speaking and tend to be introverts. Typically, they think through their answers for so long that Dominant and Expressive people feel they’re too slow
  4. Amiable Personalities avoid conflict and tend to get along in a passive manner. Amiables will say things like, “Well, whatever,” or “Whatever you’d like,” or “That’s fine,” or “I’m okay too.” Truthfully, they mean it most of the time.

Tips for meetings that do not make you want to put a needle in your eye:

Here are some ideas for better meetings – and if you are a participant, it is fair to ask questions when you have questions about the meeting.

  • Define the purpose or goal of the meeting
  • Consider whether you really need a meeting – will an email accomplish the goal?
  • Is discussed or collaboration essential
  • Is there complex or sensitive information
  • Make sure everyone who needs to be at the meeting is at the meeting
  • Create and share an agenda with any information needed – make everyone at the meeting knows why they are there
  • Start the meeting in some mindful way – check in, intention setting etc. . . .
  • Infuses mindful practices into meetings
  • effective meeting structure
  • Focused attention
  • Deeper connection
  • Thoughtful responses

– Think about how you will deal with the over-talkers AHEAD OF TIME

– During the meeting

  • Use Procedural Communication …we’re here for this purpose…can we get back to it?
  • For big decisions, consider presenting the issue or question and having folks write down their answers – allows folks who are analyzers to take some time, requires the talkers to be quiet and everyone gets to answer

– Run an inclusive meeting!

  • Call on folks for partition

– And don’t forget after the meeting

  • Send highlights/action items
  • Gather feedback and contributions
  • Evaluate and improve
  • Recover – a minimum of five minutes is needed to recover from good meetings and bad meetings much longer 

And here are some more good reads:

How to Deal with Difficult People in Meetings

Simple Tips for Happier, More Productive Meetings

Mindful Meetings Checklist

Perspective | Who won’t shut up in meetings? Men say it’s women. It’s not.

It’s Not Just You: In Online Meetings, Many Women Can’t Get a Word In