The Real Meaning of Meetings


At a recent conference, I was lucky enough to hear the awesome Zoe Routh speak. Among many pearls of wisdom, she dropped this one..."Perspective is the gateway to the agency". I sat back and marveled at the way that she had distilled this idea so well. It's not the first time that I have heard that concept in some form or another, but Zoe's really landed with me. Since then, I have considered what this means for the work that I do. So often when I am working with leaders and teams, the ability to create space allows them to take some perspective on the work that they do and how they approach it. With some perspective, it is then possible to take responsibility for how they will work from that point forward. 

In many ways, this is about crossing a threshold. Once you have seen something in a certain way, it is often impossible to unsee it. Like when you realise that Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep are the same tune! This has been my experience working with leaders and teams on meetings. I can no longer see poor meetings as an acceptable cost of business. I can no longer see meetings as disconnected from a team's performance.

I have shared previously that Steven Rogelberg has strongly correlated meeting satisfaction and job satisfaction. In other words, if you hate the meeting culture at your work, you probably don't love your job. It is very likely that a similar correlation exists between your meeting performance and your team's performance. I shared this with a friend of mine last week and she agreed. She shared the story of a team where the meetings were basically the leader talking without much contribution from team members. They were what I would classify as Passive or Pointless. At one point, the leader pulled a team member aside and asked whether it was just his view that the meetings performance was low. It wasn't just him. More importantly, it wasn't just the meetings that were under-performing. 

The team was struggling. The new leader had failed to engage his team with their purpose, he hadn't invested time in building relationships with the team relationships and some team members had described his approach as authoritative, non-consultative and micromanaging. In that environment, it's unsurprising that the team's meetings were not very productive and didn't have an active contribution from team members.

Team performance is connected to so many factors within our work. For organisations, team performance improves financial outcomes, productivity, and profitability. For individual team members, team performance is linked to employee engagement, innovation and job satisfaction. Teams are too important to ignore - and also incredibly complex systems that are hard to always know where to look. You could start by looking at your meetings through the lens of team performance.

So, this week, I would encourage you to consider these two questions:

  1. What are your meetings telling you about your team?

  2. With that perspective, what can you do to lift or maintain a high performing team?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.