Dr. Steven Rogelberg is the Chancellor’s Professor at UNC Charlotte. He is a professor of Organizational Science, Management, and Psychology as well as the Director of Organizational Science. He has over 100 publications addressing issues such as team effectiveness, leadership, employee well-being, and meetings at work.
Steven is also the author of The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance, which is based on his 20 years+ of research on the topic of meetings.
Most of us have to deal with meetings on a regular basis, whether they are in person meetings or virtual, and they can feel like a waste of time. But Steven says, the solution to bad meetings is not to get rid of all meetings, he says that would be a dangerous approach. “Meetings are really an evolution in the world of work. It’s a recognition that organizations can be better with and through people. As organizations basically recognized that employee voices would be helpful and meaningful, they wanted to develop systems and approaches to capture those voices. And that’s really where meetings come in. So a world without meetings is actually much more problematic. We need meetings for communication, cooperation, consensus decision-making, and in many regards, organizational democracy takes place in meetings.”
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So, if we shouldn’t just get rid of meetings, what is the solution? Steven has found that there are many problems with meetings that we need to address in order to make horrible meetings into great ones. He says, “There’s no magic formula for an ideal meeting. The research doesn’t suggest that you can do A, then B, then C, and bam, that’s the ingredients for an ideal meeting. What the research suggests is that the best meeting leaders have something in common. And what they have in common is a similar mindset and it’s the mindset of being a good steward of others’ time. And when you have that mindset, you start to become intentional. You start to think about various decision points that exist when you’re running a meeting. You just don’t dial it in. So you start to ask yourself, “Why are we meeting? What do we truly need to accomplish? Who really needs to be there? What’s the best way of getting this work done?” I’m sure we’ll talk later about the fact that there are some alternative techniques such as leveraging silence in meetings, that can be very, very powerful. So the key characteristic of an excellent meeting is a meeting that’s designed in an intentional way and a way that truly honors the time of those that are attending.”
A few things you can start to implement right now include:
Intentionally picking a time length for the meeting –don’t just default to 30 or 60 minutes
Only invite people who are essential to the meeting. If others are interested you can tape the meeting and share it with them later
Utilize silence in the meeting–this allows ideas to freely flow without interrupting each other and it helps introverts to participate
The leader should facilitate the conversation, but they should not be the only voice heard, it is important to get everyone to participate.
“When you have a bad meeting, you just don’t leave it at the door. It actually sticks with you. You ruminate and you co-ruminate, you have to tell someone else about your bad meeting. So, the consequences of bad meetings for individuals and for teams, and then as a result for organizations is really well-established. But there is a flip side. What we have found is that when leaders are more careful in the calling of meetings, really making sure that they are relevant, when leaders carefully manage time in meetings, and when leaders create freedom of speech in meetings, that employees report feeling more engaged with the jobs overall. While we often think about meetings as being places of drain, meetings done right can actually be places of gain.”
What you will learn:
- A look at the evolution of meetings
- The biggest challenges that meetings bring
- Aspects that the best meetings have in common
- How to leverage silence in meetings
- What steps you can take to have a great meeting
- What to do if you have so many meetings you can’t get work done
- Advice for meeting leaders and participants