How to Avoid the 4 Sins of Meetings

(This post contains affiliate hyperlinks. Please read my full disclosure.

Remember Meetings for the Right Purposes
Sin #1: Disengagement
Sin #2: Wastefulness
Sin #3: Disorderly Conduct
Sin #4: Lateness

Have you ever been in meetings where one person was the only one?
I have.
I was thinking of a senior manager. He was a very well-respected and lovely man. He hadn’t worked with customers in a frontline position for a while.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss process. The people involved in the processes were present. They didn’t contribute as much as they should.
Although I won’t know the exact cause, I think it was due to the presence of a charismatic, senior, and talkative person who loved solving problems.
Perhaps he knew more about the process that I thought he did. Perhaps the others had nothing else to offer.
I don’t know if we would have reached a different conclusion – or better. – conclusions if the less vocal members of the room had spoken out more.
Remembering Meetings for the right Reasons
Gerry Lewis discusses how to make meetings memorable in his book Shine: Communicate Your Path to a Brighter Career.
Meetings are a great way to make your mark at work. There are many meetings in project management.
You are always on display in meetings, regardless of whether you are the chairperson or the subject matter expert.
Depending on whether you are in the room in person or virtual, it could influence your feelings about participating.
Lewis discusses disengagement as one of the four sins of meetings in the book. The other sins are wastefulness and disorderly conduct. Let’s take a look at them all.
Sin #1: Disengagement
Lewis talks about facilitation techniques and how to engage with people as a meeting chair. He discusses how to bring out the creativity in people and get them moving.
Avoid by: Imagine yourself as a participant in one your meetings. Is it enjoyable? Is it enjoyable for people to come along? Or do they frown when you add another Steering Group meeting to the calendar?
Office culture is also important. Some of the project teams I’ve led would not have allowed me to bring creative ideas to the table. I would have been laughed at and not in an “engaged” way.
Tune your engagement activities to fit the organization. If in doubt, bring cake (plus a Gluten-Free option).
Sin #2: Wastefulness
This is where you waste too much time in meetings, talking about nothing. It’s wastefulness when it comes to time.
It happens when a meeting becomes a regular part of the calendar. It is possible to hold regular meetings with your project team, but it is not necessary if there are no topics that can be discussed in a more productive way.
Avoid this: Decide whether you really need a meeting. You can accomplish the same goal without a meeting. If not, cancel it.
Sin #3: Disorderly Conduct
Lewis writes, “People can easily become distracted at meetings.” He continues:
“Keep in mind that you don’t know their thoughts when they walk in. Are they coming from a meeting where they had to give a presentation, or just finished a difficult phone call with a client or colleague? Are they distracted by something else and see your meeting as an interruption to their day? Everyone has their own thoughts. We all do. The sooner you can be clear about what you want from the participants, the more efficient you’ll be.
Lewis suggests that you have a meeting agenda. Here are some meeting templates. This is one of the best and easiest ways to avoid distractions during meetings.
Avoid this: