How many times have you heard the phrase “I HATE MEETINGS”? It can be before a board meeting, a team meeting or a company meeting – the sentiment remains the same. People hate meetings. Meetings are time wasters, meetings are set up by people who don’t know how to decide things on their own, or by people who just want to shoot the breeze around a table. Meetings are at best useless, at worst, wasteful.

And that is part of the problem. When people come to meetings expecting a negative outcome, then not only will they feel negative about everything, they will also affect everyone else around the meeting table and that will just reinforce their feelings about meetings.

So how do you break this cycle?

  1. First and foremost, start having proper meetings. We’ve written about this time and again, but the basics are:
    • Have a goal
    • Write an agenda and send it to the participants a day before the meeting
    • WRITE THINGS DOWN – tasks, decisions, action items, dates.
    • Send the notes to all meeting participants
    • Follow up on the meeting tasks and decisions
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  3. Running proper meetings? Excellent. Now, don’t invite the people who hate meetings. It’s as simple as that. If you have a team member who doesn’t believe in meetings, and thinks they are a waste of time, no matter what he knows and how much you think he is relevant to the meeting, he won’t help. He’ll just be a liability. Don’t invite him. If you HAVE to hear his opinion about something, call him in, have him address the issue, then thank him and send him on his way. There are two options here – one, he’ll feel left out, certainly when the rest of the team is caught up in the enthusiasm of finally having effective meetings (you are following the steps in phase 1, right?), and ask to be invited, or two, you’ll find that this is a far more effective way to get his input, and everyone is happy.
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  5. Maybe you’ve been going at this the wrong way. Maybe your meetings, that look great on paper, really AREN’T very useful, and the people who ‘hate’ them don’t really hate them, but they don’t know how to give feedback very well. So sit down with the people who don’t like meetings. Don’t call it a meeting, by the way, or they will come predisposed to not listen to you. Sit down with a coffee by their table. Ask the questions, and try to understand. Did they ever have meetings that they DID approve of? What did they like about those meetings? What would they change about the meetings you set up to make them more effective? How would THEY run the meeting?
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  7. Have them run the next meeting. It’s a well-known fact that it’s far easier to look at something from the outside than actually do it. Have them write an agenda, plan out the meeting, invite the right people and preside over the proceeding. Again, it’s a win-win situation. Either they realize that meetings aren’t that easy to do as they thought, and making sure things follow an agenda (and don’t get bogged down in a discussion over a very specific issue between two people), while making sure that the tasks and decisions are being written down isn’t as simple as it looks, OR they are natural meeting organizers – in which case, congratulations, you’ve just found the person you can assign meetings to.