Give mundane meetings a makeover

The meeting starts like clockwork, 10 minutes late.

Joan from accounts gives a 20-minute PowerPoint update that feels a lot like the same update from last week, and the week before, and the week before. Leroy takes the opportunity to tell everyone how amazing he is, again, by explaining the wonderful things he did in the previous seven days. Mike from Risk puts everyone into a deep coma with his latest updates to legislative changes.

Then you start hallucinating about a massive sinkhole opening up and swallowing the entire organisation. Do you really have to put up with this extreme form of mental punishment every, single, week?

I call these Days of Our Lives meetings. You watch Days of Our Lives in January and Bo and Hope get back together and life feels good. You check back in June and they've unexpectedly broken up (who would have thought?) and you can't help but feel melancholic. Thank goodness you turn on the TV again in December and they've suddenly got back together. Life feels good again.

I think a lot of corporate meetings are exactly like Days of Our Lives - you only need to attend three episodes all year and you know exactly what happened. "Joan – present. Leroy – present. Mike – present. Insert loud snoring noises here."

Meeting madness

We spend way too much of our productive time in unproductive meetings. In Australia, 34.5 per cent of meetings are deemed a waste of time according to respondents in the Robert Half Workplace Survey. The main reason? Lack of focus. Nobody is driving the meeting machine, so it ends up being a vortex of wasted time.

Findings from the EY Australian Productivity Pulse show unproductive workers are more likely to spend time in unnecessary meetings, and software company Altlassian reports that meetings cost $37 billion in wasted salary hours.

Mundane meetings are the bane of executives' existence because they lack structure and vitality. The same people. The same agenda. The same non-outcomes. It's time for a meeting makeover.

Agenda bending

"If we can just turn everything we know about meetings upside down—replace agendas and decorum with passion and conflict – we can transform drudgery into meaningful advantage," says Patrick Lencioni, author of Death by Meeting.


Why not make meetings informative and interesting and using them for staff development? At my business, The Performance Clinic, we decided earlier this year to turn our weekly staff meetings into an opportunity for learning and development.

Most weeks one of our team, or an invited guest, shares knowledge through a short and punchy 10 to 15-minute presentation (a bit like a Ted Talk). We all learn something new, the information is relevant to our company, and it often generates discussion about how we can improve our services.

Some weeks we might read a relevant article and then have a guided group discussion. And I've gotta say, our team now looks forward to Friday meetings. Adding an education/personal development component has really changed the energy and focus of the entire meeting. And it has unearthed knowledge, experience and skills that we didn't realise some of us have (especially the quiet achievers).

Building the dream team

Research shows ongoing staff development improves productivity, relationships with colleagues, and employee loyalty. It also fosters a strong team dynamic, where each 'player' is seen as equally important in building a 'dream team'.

In the sporting world, the best athletes know it's not just individual performance that matters, it's the collective team performance, says Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of training company Ferrazzi Greenlight. "If they fail, they fail together. Our research has shown that the same peer-to-peer dynamic can be used in business as a powerful driver of performance." 

Here are three ways to incorporate staff development into your next meeting:

Punchy Presentations

Each week (or every few weeks) carve out 10 to 15 minutes for a presentation where one of the team, or an external guest, educates participants in a range of business and non-business related topics.

Alluring Articles

Give all of the meeting participants an article (or a summary) to read and then conduct a guided discussion with questions like: What can we learn from this article? Can we include some of these concepts in our business?

Crew Check

Begin with a meeting warm-up where you check in with the team. Ask  everyone to nominate their 'win of the week' and 'learning of the week'. This is a great way to engage the team and builds a dynamic group environment. Then get on with the rest of your meeting.

How have you fired up your staff meetings and made them more engaging?

Workplace performance expert Andrew May has been helping his white-collar clients achieve both physical and mental gains for decades, and has learned a trick or 20 - plus a few of the pitfalls - along the way. 

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