It's business (meeting) time!

The Flight of the Conchords are New Zealand's Fourth Most popular comedy duo. They are sneaky good musicians with great lyrics and some astute observations on various aspects of life - including inner city pressure. Personally, I have loved them since I heard this song over a decade ago.

In this song, Bret and Jemaine reflect on how once spontaneous, enjoyable and powerful interactions in a relationship can evolve into an unexciting obligation that fits around other things that need to get done (like the recycling, social netball and television). The same thing happens with our meetings. What was once a useful gathering of people to do good work together becomes a chore that gets in the way of people's productivity and engagement at work.

Much like in other parts of our life, putting in a little bit of effort with our meetings can often make a big difference.

Last week, I met with a potential client. It was in his office and a few others from his organisation were involved. He had set the meeting start time - 10:04am.

I love that I have made an excuse to write about this for work. I take no responsibility for anything that happens when you watch the clip.

I love that I have made an excuse to write about this for work. I take no responsibility for anything that happens when you watch the clip.

Every person who attended that meeting made a comment about it. Every single one. How often do people pay attention and comment on the time that your meeting starts (or was scheduled to start)? It was a great point of conversation - also an ingenious hack. By taking a few seconds to change the default starting option, he had:

  • disrupted and challenged a default behaviour

  • allowed for people to move from their previous meeting or appointment

  • made it more likely for the meeting to start on time

This may sound trivial, but it can make a huge difference. Steven Rogelberg and his colleagues suggest that about half of meetings start on time...even worse that when meetings start late, there is an increased likelihood of people interrupting each other during a meeting. 

There are no guarantees, but by making small shifts designed to stop meetings becoming routine and mundane, you can make it more likely that meetings are productive and purposeful. Similar tips may be:

  • to change the finish time - avoiding round numbers is a great idea

  • changing the room or location for your meeting

  • mixing up the order of a standard agenda - try using questions like I suggest in this video

One of the biggest dangers to our meeting performance is getting stuck in a rut. A couple of questions for you to consider this week:

  1. Are any of your regular meetings in a rut?

  2. What is one small tweak that you could try this week?