I don’t know about you, but meetings can be frustrating difficult to endure, and mind-suckingly boring. When you think the word meeting the next word that pops into your mind is boring.
It’s a real paradox—99% of all teams meet.
Yet during the meeting, a substantial part of the room sneaks peaks at their phones and asks themselves, “When will this ever be all over?”
“Can’t I just find a remote island in the middle of some unnamed sea—and just get my work done?”
So why is the most durable format of business—meetings—also the most maligned aspect of business?
And given how much people disparage meetings, how can this also be true (and it is true): Your success team meetings will be a major determinate of the success of your career. It’s a paradox!
It sounds like it wouldn’t be true—wouldn’t the most successful person be the one who gets out of the meeting as soon as possible and goes on to get the real work done?
Not true. Carol Kallendorf, PhD, myself, and our teams have tracked thousands of team members through three decades and we find that the inability to perform well in team meetings erodes and finally destroys more careers than professional ability. I have known a few cases of engineers in my life who were so smart and valuable to the organization they didn’t have to talk, but these are truly far between. The rest of us have to meet…and talk in those meetings.
Meetings are critical moments. When you are in a meeting, at no time are you being more evaluated for your performance. Many times in our organizational work, when we’re discussing specific team members, someone in leadership will say, “There isn’t any reason to invite Arthur to the meetings anymore. He doesn’t add anything.” This is deadly to a career.
An item that leadership asked us to add to our 360-assement survey is:
Raises the level of discussion by the insights he/she contributes.
So many people don’t understand how meetings are important to their careers. Without meetings to showcase what you do, to provide you with the opportunity to lead, to show how your work is critical to the accomplishments of the team, at best only a few people will know what you do.
The problem with meetings is that they aim so low, and the expected outcomes are even lower. Our organization has audited the actual dollar cost of meetings, and few people understand that a single half-day meeting with senior members of a company can cost many tens of thousands of dollars if you add up the hourly wage of the people in the room. Meeting costs are enormous and bad meetings are revenue sucking events.
The Manhattan Project—the World’s Most Successful Committee
The most famous team committee in history, the Manhattan Project, was the reason that Germany didn’t succeed in dropping the atomic bomb first. Begun in 1941 and headquartered in Manhattan, the project employed 130,000 people around the world. Working in front of and behind enemy lines, they built and delivered the bomb.
The Manhattan Project accomplishment?–dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. As a final blow that brought about the end of WWII, the atom bomb was a stroke of mastery to end the most deadly war in all history that killed 85 million people. The “humanitarian trade-off” of obliterating 4 square miles of Hiroshima and killing 80,000 people will always be debated.
Could the Manhattan Project Be Done Today?
Could the Manhattan project be done today? There was the will, grit, and guts of the Greatest Generation. There were no leaks, politicization, or internal fighting that brought the project down. And they had meetings…lots of them.
Actually, since then, in the last 80 years, there have been amazing accomplishments in science and technology…all of which were built on the humble cornerstone of meetings. The US was the first to land on the moon, but a total of five countries have sent spacecraft including Russia, Japan, India, and China. Elon Musk, who created SpaceX, was at the forefront of private space technologies.
Reaching High Today Through Groups—Huge Post Pandemic Opportunities
So how do you reach high and accomplish big in groups today? We have groups from Google to Amazon who have changed the world in the last decades. Yet as we move out of the pandemic or adapt to it ongoing, we need to create groups who can focus on outcomes and deliver on promises.
Working remotely from home on Zoom is the new reality and offers many opportunities and advantages. Long commutes are a thing of the past and not being able to locate a key team member is likely not an issue. We have technology to do and time to think and create. For many businesses this is a moment to seize and take advantage of.
And Work from Home drives even more meetings. Many of our clients report that they have vastly more meetings now than before COVID because they can’t stop by a person’s cube to ask a question or convene a small conversation in the break room. All of those interactions have been replaced by still more meetings.
Here are some key thoughts about meetings based on our work with hundreds of organizations.
Bring Together Lean, Purposeful and Outcome-Driven Team Members. One of the reasons that 40% of new executive hires fail is that although they have great educations and track records, they lack a passionate purpose. In the meeting you need a group of people who know why they’re there—to achieve the numbers, to deliver the service, to get the product out the door. They must have more than a to-do list to get them through the day—they must see what they are doing and why they are in the meeting from the vantage point of making the organization successful.
The Simple Key to Your Success—Do Your Homework. If you’re going to log onto Zoom as an authoritative, commanding figure, it’s because you’ve done your homework. You’re not just going to just give a report. You know where your organization is in terms of revenue, debt, and profit. You’ve studied the agenda of the meeting, you know who is going to be there, who are the leaders, and what outcomes you’re looking for. You not only know what your role is, but you know enough about the roles of the other team members that you are comfortable commenting about whether the group as a whole is on track or off track.
Zoom—You’re Live and on Camera. There has never been a better personal development tool than a meeting on Zoom where you can see yourself, hear your voice, and know how you’re coming over. Never has there been a greater opportunity to “step out of your own skin,” and see and evaluate your own performance. You could never have a better personal coaching tool than Zoom. I see when I lose interest, when I slump, when I’m distracted. When I’m on camera, it’s my stage where I can see my every gesture, my every change in my facial expression. Learn from Zoom—it’s invaluable.
Create a Plan to Win Big. Teams all too often aim low and expect less. The key to a great committee is a team member with a greater vision and a strategy to make it happen. When lay-offs occur the first people who will stay are those who have the organization’s future in their hands. If you are the person who does their homework and has a vision that is congruent with the organization, you’ll be on a sustainable career path.
Meetings are often the neglected child of the organization. Meetings are precious opportunities, the future of everything, and often criminally neglected. If you find yourself often in bad meetings, things will ultimately not go well for the organization. Without good meetings, the whole is not greater than the individual parts, thought and action are not tied together, and alignment in the organization is not a priority. Meetings are your greatest moment to pull together, align, and succeed. Don’t miss the moment.