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8 Signs of Ineffective Management Meetings

Published on July 15, 2014

Scott Boulton, CPHRFollow

Human Resources Leader | Talent Strategist | Coach and Advisor | Business Enabler |
Blogger | @HR_ScottBoulton
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Like many of you, I spend a lot of time in meetings in my job. Sometimes I am the
leader/organizer of the meeting, and many times I am an invitee. Either way, I feel slightly
qualified, simply based on experience, to provide some insight to help you determine if
the meeting you are leading or participating in is ineffective or not. If your organization is
like most others, you probably have weekly department meetings, weekly management
meetings or regular Sr. Leadership meetings. The point being, you invest somewhere
between 2-4 hours of your work week into these types of meetings each and every week.
You want to make sure that the time spent is valuable. Far too many companies get
focused on the routine and simply have meetings for the sake of having meetings. As you
can imagine (and have lived it) this is a colossal time and money suck.

Before you can determine if your meetings are effective or not, you need to know the
signs of ineffective meetings as these are quite overt and should be the first indication
you may be in for a waste of time if you attend. Think of them more as red flags; that is,
if you see more than two of these signs, odds are your meeting is going to be ineffective
– whether you are leading it or are participating in it.

Signs of ineffective meetings:

1. No agenda – this is the biggest red flag of all. If there is no agenda, or simply a meeting
request, or worse yet, a recycled agenda (i.e. same one used week over week with slight
modifications) you are in for an ineffective meeting.
2. No clear meeting organizer – a meeting is called, but there is a lack of clarity around
who is organizing it and for what purpose. The meeting request may have been sent out
by someone’s admin. assistant but there is no clear subject or purpose indicated for the
meeting request. This typically feeds into point #1 above as you can be sure there is not
going to be an agenda either.

3. No minutes are taken at the meeting – without minutes, details are lost, action items
are missed and there are no clear takeaway’s for anyone. This results in gaps, lack of
accountability and frustration for all.

4. The meeting doesn’t start/end on time – this is a clear sign, especially when it occurs
on a semi-regular basis, that the meeting isn’t a priority for the organizer and/or the
attendees aren’t accountable for arriving on time. It shows a lack of respect for the
attendees and it also sends the message that the meeting really isn’t that much of a
priority because whatever was happening before hand was way more important.

5. Communication is one way – you often see this when someone “in charge” calls a
meeting and it simply is that person “pushing” information to the others in attendance.
There is no opportunity for questions, comments, exchange of ideas, etc.

6. The meeting organizer controls communication – this occurs when the organizer
(often a department head) calls for meetings and uses them as a way to check in with
his/her staff. Instead of having regular 1:1’s with them, he/she gets their staff together,
calls it a meeting, and then runs through a series of updates/exchanges with the members
of their team. It looks/feels like this: Dept. head asks Manager A for an update, Manager
A provides this update. Dept. head asks Manager B for an update, Manager B provides
the update and around we go. There is no discussion or dialogue amongst the peer group,
no exchange of ideas or best practices. The meeting is simply used by the department
manager as a way to check in with his/her staff, while wasting everyone else’s time as
they do so.
7. There is no participation by the attendees– during the meeting, the participants have
no information to share, they are not prepared, and they have no updates, no ideas or
thoughts to contribute. An opportunity to learn and share best practices from amongst a
peer group has been lost. If this is the case, you either have an ineffective meeting leader
(because they should not allow participants to do this) or you have the wrong people
invited to your meeting. Either way, these are both signs of an ineffective meeting.

8. There is no clear “act” that comes from the meeting – when getting a group of
managers together for meetings, there should be a clear “act” required and a follow up
for the next meeting. The act may be a request to communicate something to staff, to
provide feedback on a process, or to deliver a budget update. Either way, meeting
participants leave the meeting with a clear understanding of what they need to do or “act”
upon. An ineffective meeting has occurred when participants leave the meeting saying
things like: “What was the purpose of that meeting?” or “What exactly am I supposed to
do now?” or “Why did they need us there, couldn’t they have just send us an email?”

Ineffective Interaction and Unproductive Team Meetings

August 4, 2018
All the complexities of team dynamics come to the fore at the meeting. The meeting is
one of the most critical aspects of the team process with strategies and innovative
solutions to problems emerging during this time. The team meeting is also crucial for any
developmental work that the team plans to undertake and for any joint decisions that they
have to take. If the team members are unable to have productive meetings then they will
be unable to come up with sound strategies either. There are various reasons why
meetings go awry. Some of these reasons are discussed below:

Lack of Open and Sharing Communication

There are many instances when no clear cut action plan emerges from a team meeting.
This can be due to the team members rejecting any ideas that are suggested too quickly
and without giving the person a chance to explain or elaborate. This can prevent average
ideas becoming great ideas through there being no allowance for exploration and

The key lies in creating an atmosphere that fosters dialogue and debate on thoughts and
ideas. Team members should carefully introduce an idea into the discussion as ‘food for
thought’ rather than as a fait accompli. When the rejections begin, instead of allowing this
to happen, the team member with the idea could start with a request such as, ‘Just hear
me out’. Once the idea is fully explained, there has to be an attempt to encourage a
healthy debate, exploration of the idea, and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of
that particular approach.
If someone responds with a veto ‘I don’t think this will work’, the important thing is not to
let it put an end to the dialogue. Don’t stop there, ask ‘Why do you think it won’t
work?’. This kind of dialogue process leads to the interest level in good ideas gradually
gaining momentum. As the team members begin to see the light, they can zero in on
relevant ideas and finally make a well thought out decision.

Another way is to write all ideas down in a brainstorming session with the team regardless
of there plausability. This can then be reviewed and discussed together. It is a good way
of preventing immediate rejection and leads to more open sharing of ideas.

Poor Interaction Through a Lack of Communication Skills

Effective listening has to be taken a step further and integrated with interaction and two-
way communication. Putting ideas across is one aspect of the team process, team
members should also be able to present a counter argument or ask pertinent questions
to clarify doubt. This is when the group process begins to work efficiently. It may be
surprising to believe that not everybody is able to interact effectively in a group situation.
Everybody can communicate, no question about that. But effective communication and
business interactionis a whole different thing.

Egos or Just Plain Pigheadedness!

Ego hassles can create conflicts and power struggles within a team. It’s a kind of
pigheadedness usually borne out of personal insecurities. A stubborn attitude of clinging
to ones own views creeps in. This attitude implies – ‘My idea is the best- your idea is not
good enough’. It then becomes a fight for supremacy, a battle of ‘right’ verses ‘wrong’.
This can lead confused objectives and goals through team members trying to push their
ideas and no longer assessing what’s best for the task at hand. When the group effort
degenerates into pandering the egos of individual team players or fighting each other’s
egos, the team fails to deliver on the task. When egos are at play, individuals are unable
to focus on the joint responsibility that they have as a team. Vince Lombardi, one of the
most successful football coaches of all time once said:

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that’s what makes a team work, a company
work, a society work, a civilization work.”
This quote sums up what should be the basis of a teams focus in order to work effectively.
‘Individual commitment to a group effort’ should be the refrain that is taught to all those
who fall prey to ego clashes during team work. The task comes first and any ego issues
must be brushed aside. When individuals start feeding their egos at the expense of the
team, then work begins to suffer.


Indecisiveness is a concern of many team leaders. The team is able to discuss the
problem, come up with alternative routes to solving it but are unable to narrow down their
choice and zero in on one single course of action. It may be that one or more of the team
members are dissatisfied with the solutions that have been presented and the team is
therefore unable to reach a decision. The best way forward is to systematically assess
the pros and cons of each approach, i.e. the objectives in terms of likely results, cost
involves, time factor, competitive edge and so on.

Poor Listening Skills

Those who work together on a team have to develop an informal protocol of respect for
each others views. This means individuals have to actively listen and not switch off when
someone else is talking. Every member on the team warrants attention and their views
require due consideration. When good listening skills are absent, the danger of
missing a good idea goes up dramatically. Moreover, there are many who cannot put
across their ideas well, they are not forceful enough. If others on the team are not actively
listening, then good ideas can be lost.

Lack of Information Necessary for Decision Making

The team meeting is the communication point where all team members are present and
ready to discuss the problems and derive a solution. If the team does not have all the
data and facts ready for reference, then decision making has to be put off to another day
which can lead to delays.

In a cross-functional team, the team members have the responsibility to ensure that
relevant support information, statistics and research data is made available to each other.
Information should never be neglected. A team that does not follow this discipline will be
going into wasteful meetings where their decision making capacity is severely diminished
due to information gaps.

This post originally appeared on The Armchair HR Manager blog on July 15, 2013

Tips and ideas for effective staff meetings

Let’s make sure you get the most out of your next staff meeting! Here are some other tips
and ideas to make sure your staff meeting will be as efficient as possible!
 Share the staff meeting agenda beforehand, so staff members can prepare for the
 Start on time. This may seem logical, but a lot of meetings don’t start on time. If you have
to wait for 5 minutes per meeting, this will add up to a lot of hours of lost productivity. Also,
it can be extremely frustrating and won’t start the meeting off well.
 Start with noteworthy news. Rather than jumping in serious stuff right away, kick your staff
meeting off by sharing news, information and noteworthy items.
 Stand up. Ok so don’t throw away your chairs, but also don’t let people come in and sit
down till the bitter end of the meeting. Have people stand up once in a while. It will make
the attendees more energized and engaged. They even say standing makes people more
creative in brainstorming sessions!
 Seek feedback for improving the meeting. When the meeting is over, ask employees what
can be done to improve the staff meetings for the next one.
 Take time for recognition. Make sure to take a few moments to publicly recognize people.
This will make them feel valued and makes other employees aware of what he or she has
 Throw in some games once in a while. Like a “staff quiz” or “2 truths and a lie”, so people
get to know each other a little bit better.

Monthly meetings are a great opportunity to engage employees and further motivate them
to achieve their performance goals. When executed poorly however, they are often just
a waste of everyone’s time. Ask any employee who has sat through a top-down rambling
with an undefined agenda, for a longer than agreed-upon time.

Fortunately, running effective monthly meetings that engage your employees can be
achieved with a solid plan of action. Incorporate these tips so that your next meeting will
empower your employees, inspire greater performance, and align your people to
company goals.

1. Set and follow a clearly defined meeting agenda.

While this sounds obvious and simple enough, an undefined agenda seems to be a
problem that still plagues organizations. In a study published in the Management
Research Review on ‘Employee’s feelings about more meetings’, it is highlighted
that employees dread meetings when they lack structure and organization.

To solve this, set a clearly defined agenda for the meeting so that your employees know
what to expect. Then on D-day, remember to keep time, stay on topic, and follow through
with the agenda — don’t let that planning go to waste.

2. Always celebrate something.

Make it a point to celebrate something at every meeting. It can be a team success, like a
new process improvement or a timely bug fix. Consider also employee milestones: Do
you have someone who is crossing a work anniversary this month?
Celebrating achievements, no matter how small, are a good way to show recognition and
help your employees feel appreciated in their roles. This is important in employee
engagement and in retaining your top talents: A joint study by Badgeville and leading
employee motivation firm Make Their Day shared that 83% of employees surveyed found
more fulfillment in recognition than in rewards and gifts.
3. Break the monotone.
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘meeting’? How excited are you to be part
of that? When employees are not looking forward to a meeting, they’re also less likely to
be attentive and participative. This is where rethinking its different aspects can break the
monotone and help you to design a more effective and engaging meeting.

4 Ideas on making meetings more refreshing:

 Bring in snacks from different cuisines each month

Added benefit: You’ll have a team full of cultured gourmands.

 Meet at a different venue < br>Instead of the meeting room or the usual office
spot, find a change of scenery.

 Switch up the seating arrangements

Sit in circles, sit beside someone new, or stand if you’d like.

 Start with a 5-minutes meditation

Help your employees get into a calm, focused state of mind. Staff meetings at
Amazon begin with 30 minutes of silent reading.
Whatever you do, introduce something new.

4. Try a new way of presenting your message.

The researchers at Igloo Software surveyed 1,000 respondents on what aggravates them
when it comes to meetings. A good 29% highlighted that “Meetings that use PowerPoint
all the time” is a key source of annoyance. Jeff Bezos has banned PowerPoint at
Amazon’s staff meetings altogether.

At your next meeting, try a new way of communicating your message. Instead of a one-
way presentation from the team leader, adopt a fireside chat approach: Have your leader
sit down with an interviewer employee for an open discussion, during which you can also
invite employees to contribute their interview questions.

5. Adopt live audience engagement methods.

Audience attention “plummets to near zero” right at the 10 minutes mark, according to
biologist John Medina at the University of Washington School of Medicine. If you have
any doubts about it at all, think about the last time you were in a lecture hall.
Make a constant effort to engage your employees throughout the meeting, preferably
every ten minutes. One way would be to use Live Polls throughout your meeting agenda.
If employees are beginning to zone out, live interaction draws back their attention. Luckily,
polls are incredibly versatile.

3 Quick poll questions to re-engage employees at your meeting:

 “Which new initiative are you most excited about?”

 “Be honest. How sleepy are you?”

 “Describe your current mood in one word!”

Such live interaction not only keeps your audience energetic; you get the benefit of
immediate, actionable insights into your employee’s psyche.

Try live polls for free!

6. Carve out enough time for live Q&A.

Employees find meetings the most productive when they gain from it resources that help
them perform better in their roles, the study in Management Research Review concludes.
To this we say: Let your employees ask questions.

This will help them get the information they need to excel. Live Q&As can also provide
immediate gratification for employees who are able to voice their questions and feel like
they are being heard.

More importantly, this is where you will be able to identify the gaps in knowledge and skill
set among your employees. From their questions, you can gather valuable insights on
any employee frustration or lack of information in specific areas. So give more time to the
underdog Live Q&A, instead of the last minute “Any questions?” brushing-off we
sometimes do.

7. Empower employees to speak up too.

Having a live Q&A segment will not be effective, if nobody is actually going to say
anything during that time. And it happens — it’s why Q&A is sometimes a synonym for
‘awkward silence’. “We have a deep set of defense mechanisms that make us careful
around people in authority positions.” says James Detert, professor at Cornell’s Johnson
Graduate School of Management.
Creating a safe environment and giving employee different options may help, thinks
Joseph Grenny, cofounder of corporate training company VitalSmarts.

3 Tips to help your employees speak up at a meeting:

 Use a Live Q&A tool to collect questions

Some employees may be shy about speaking in front of an audience, or they would
rather not be in the spotlight. To cater to this crowd, use a Live Q&A tool to collect
the questions in text so that they do not have to physically get to a mic.

 Allow employees to submit anonymous questions

It’s common for employees to fear speaking up as they may have the impression
that it can jeopardize their advancement in the corporation, according to Detert on
the Harvard Business Review. As such, consider allowing your employees to send
in their questions anonymously so that you can still hear from them, and they may
still get their answers.

 Leave no employee behind

Opening a mic to the floor gives 3 or 4 employees the chance to ask their
questions, depending on how much time you allocate to the Q&A. Instead of this,
use a question collecting tool that gives everyone equal opportunity to participate.
This will help you curate a more engaging and effective Q&A for all your employees
at the meeting.
Over time, well executed live Q&As help to perpetuate a corporate culture of open
communicationthat will positively impact your organization outside of these monthly

8. Set goals for the next month, together.

Ever felt like a cog in the machine? If you have, chances are that everything at work
followed a top-down approach. A study on a Swedish hospital with approximately 4500
employees concluded that “the opportunity to influence decisions related to workplace
development are important to the workers.”
Instead of dishing out business goals that are produced by the leaders in a close-door
meeting, try this: set goals for the next month together with the team. Another benefit of
this is it helps employees to be more vested in the goals, and more motivated to achieve

Key steps to set team goals during meetings:

1. Crowdsource goals and key metrics.

2. Let employees vote on those that they agree with.

3. Agree as a team on 1-3 goals.

4. Meet them, overachieve them, celebrate at the next meeting!

9. Send employees post meeting follow-ups.

After you’ve run a refreshing and engaging meeting, deliver the full impact of what has
been discussed by doing a post meeting follow-up. Besides the meeting summary, there
are other components you may want to include.

What to include in a post-meeting follow up:

 The specific goals you set together for the next month
Including this in your follow-up reminds employees about their commitment to
these serious goals, and that collaborative goal setting wasn’t just a fun activity.

 Any answers to questions that were not addressed during the Live Q&A
If there were any important questions that were not addressed due to time
constraints (good job on adhering to the agenda timings!), put the answers in
writing in your follow-up. Doing this will further encourage your employees to
continue asking questions.

We’ve all been stuck in a bad meeting. You arrive on time only to have the meeting
start 10 minutes late. The agenda? Unclear. The person in charge? Also. Some people
start to offer ideas, others shoot them down. Nothing is really decided and the meeting
wraps up, as you silently lament the lost hour. There is a better way. Over the course
of speaking to more than 500 chief executives for my weekly Corner Office column, I
have learned the rules to running an effective meeting. These tips and strategies can
work for anyone, regardless of title.

The Three Rules of Running a Meeting

“Give me an agenda or else I’m not going to sit there, because if I don’t know why
we’re in the meeting, then there’s no reason for a meeting.”
—Annette Catino, chief executive of the QualCare Alliance Network.
It may seem like an obvious requirement, but a lot of meetings start with no clear sense
of purpose. The meeting’s agenda can be summarized on a handout, written on a
whiteboard or discussed explicitly at the outset, but everyone should know why they’ve
gathered and what they’re supposed to be accomplishing. The agenda provides a
compass for the conversation, so the meeting can get back on track if the discussion
wanders off course.

If leaders make sure there is an agenda before a meeting starts, everyone will fall in line

“If I don’t have an agenda in front of me, I walk out,” said Annette Catino, chief executive
of the QualCare Alliance Network. “Give me an agenda or else I’m not going to sit there,
because if I don’t know why we’re in the meeting, and you don’t know why we’re there,
then there’s no reason for a meeting. It’s very important to me to focus people and to
keep them focused, and not just get in the room and talk about who won the Knicks game
last night.”
Nothing can drain the energy from a room quite like waiting for the person in charge to
show up. Why do so many in positions of power fall into the bad habit of being late for
meetings? Is it just that they’re so busy? Or is there a small thrill in keeping everyone
waiting for them, a reminder that their time is somehow more valuable than everyone

Time is money, of course, and all that sitting around and trying to guess when the boss
may arrive is a waste of a precious resource. When establishing the informal rules of
an organization, employees take their cues from the person in the corner office. If
that person wants meetings to start on time, meetings will start on time.

Terry Lundgren, the chairman of Macy’s, has never hesitated to enforce a strict policy of
on-time meetings. “If the meeting is at 8, you’re not here at 8:01, you’re here at 8, because
the meeting’s going to start at 8,” he said. “Busy people that can’t get off the last phone
call to get there, [need to] discipline themselves to be there on time.”J

Just as important as starting on time is ending on time. A definitive end time will help
ensure that you accomplish what’s on your agenda and get people back to their work
promptly. “I like to have an agenda that we think through,” Mr. Lundgren added, “and we
say, ‘This meeting’s going to go for two hours,’ and we force ourselves to carve through
the agenda.’”
Leave the last few minutes of every meeting to discuss the next steps. This
discussion should include deciding who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines
are. Otherwise, all the time you spent on the meeting will be for naught.

Shellye Archambeau, chief executive of MetricStream, a firm that helps companies meet
compliance standards, likes to end her meetings by asking, “Who’s got the ball?”

“When you’re in sports, and the ball is thrown to you, then you’ve got the ball, and you’re
now in control of what happens next,” she said. “You own it. It becomes a very visible
concept for making sure that there’s actually ownership to make sure things get done.”

Mark Toro, managing partner of North American Properties – Atlanta, a real estate
operating company, uses a phrase to end meetings that has become a common acronym
in office e-mails: W.W.D.W.B.W., which stands for “Who will do what by when?”

“If somebody says during a meeting, ‘We’ve got to get this lease signed,’ everybody
knows what the follow-up question is going to be. I type the acronym so often in emails
— “W.W.D.W.B.W.” — that my phone just auto-fills it. So we’ve trained ourselves and
each other, but we’re also trying to do it with people we work with. We developed a system
where before we hang up the phone with somebody, we’ll say, ‘When do you think I can
have that?’ We track people who deliver and those who don’t.”