LifeXchange

Missing The Point: Why Do We Keep Having Bad Meetings?

Conflicts & disagreements. Unable to stick to the agenda. And people disengaging instead of contributing. These studies show what’s really causing ineffective, bad meetings in your company and how to turn things around right now

One half is fighting. The other half is late or doing something else. And you’re stuck in the middle wondering how you’re going to get anything done. Sound familiar? Look, we’ve all experienced ineffective and bad meetings, especially when they’re poorly organised or when there’s a meeting overload. But when your meetings keep devolving into conflicts and disagreements, there’s something else going on.

And science has proven it: Your concern shouldn’t be the bad meetings so much as the organizational culture behind it all. Here are a few unique thoughts on getting to the true heart of bad meetings:

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IT’S REALLY BAD FOR BUSINESS

We all know on some level that ineffective meetings must cost us money, somewhere, somehow. But a 2019 survey study online scheduling company Doodle expressed it in a few scary numbers. According to Doodle’s 2019 Meetings Report, which tracked 19 million meetings across the UK and US, bad meetings cost the United States economy some $399 billion and the UK $58 billion (£41 billion). Heaven only knows what the amounts are in South Africa and the rest of the world.

That’s a lot of money. But then the report goes on to step into the same cliche mistake we all make when we consider meetings, which is to try and draw conclusions from the opinions of the people inside the meetings. Respondents blame poor meeting organisation, unclear action, bad processes and irrelevant attendee requests as the main reason they think the meetings don’t work. Sounds logical, right? Blame the organiser and the processes (read: blame the boss).

But it took a team of dedicated scientific researchers to prove that we’ve all been a bit misguided all along – here’s what really causes dysfunctional meetings:

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WHAT’S REALLY CAUSING BAD MEETINGS?

Enter German researchers Simone Kauffeld and Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock. In 2012, they published this study which didn’t just ask people how they felt after a meeting but actually recorded their every minute facial expression during the meeting. Then interviewed them, and then compared the results to the company’s performance 2.5 years later.

Now that’s proper research. And what did they find? The success factors in a meeting goes a lot deeper than we assume:

  • Meeting success is all about the interaction between attendees (how people relate and interact with each other – see our post on employee withdrawal)
  • Teams that functionally interacted better with each other were better at problem-solving and action planning
  • Those teams also enjoyed their meetings more
  • Most importantly: Constructive interaction between people in meetings was related to more company success in 2.5 years

On the negative side, teams that didn’t know each other well or didn’t really get along didn’t enjoy their meetings. You had more dysfunctional communication (see the effects of poor communication in the workplace), complaining and criticising of others. And the negative performance results for the entire organization was way more pronounced (much worse) 2.5 years down the line.

In short, the most crucial part of a meeting is how your people get along and work together. In other words, your social capital and your organizational culture or company culture.

WATCH: WHY SOCIAL CAPITAL IS SO IMPORTANT

Lauded CEO Margaret Heffernan sums up the talent VS social capital dilemma pretty well in this video:

MEETINGS & ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE

In our new series of company culture articles, we’ve started looking at how your organizational culture shows up in everyday things like your company’s performance and your people’s behaviours.

Underperformance, we’ve shown that your corporate culture could be what’s forcing you to pay too much overtime, why a company gets a lot of customer complaints and why employees won’t ask for more clarity at work.

And under behaviours, we’ve looked at the real reason why employees come late and the kind of behaviours you’ll likely see when your company doesn’t focus on or have no core values.

And, in fact, all of these feed into the idea that bad meetings are cultural. You could almost imagine that, if you recognise one or two of the above “everyday struggles” in your company, chances are good that you have bad meetings from time to time. And vice versa. But there’s hope.

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HOW TO TURN BAD MEETINGS INTO GREAT MEETINGS

It will all start with developing your social capital. And all that means is leveraging the power of humans as social animals. Focusing on and helping employees build meaningful relationships with each other first, before getting to the work. There’s a significant amount of research that shows that teams perform well, not because they are smart or talented, but because they know and trust and depend on each other.

Practically, it means changing your systems and processes to make it possible for people to connect more positively, but in a scientifically proven and productive way (you don’t want to get the science part wrong, or you could see exactly the opposite happening). You want to focus on using the best methods to use social capital to create a high-performance culture.

Need help?

Good news! We are a change management company, and we specialise in helping companies discover, change and develop their Company Culture. We help companies get right down to understand their employees’ behaviours – in meetings and interactions with each other! – and use science-based organisational development to re-energise your people.

And we WILL SEND a team to your company RIGHT NOW to help you manage your meetings better – with no obligation from you! (Just book your assessment below).

Let’s figure out what’s going on, so we can help you get back to high performance.


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