Vanquishing Meeting Monsters!

This week we came across Pilita Clark’s article in the Financial Times titled ‘Tackling the virus of bad meetings”. We were struck to read something so prominently placed in the National press about the prolific problem of poor meetings and poor meeting behaviours.

Instead of just quoting the stats about how much time is wasted and how expensive that is – although those things are true too – Pilita turned the lens on the damaging meeting behaviours in individuals, calling them out, and acknowledged the skill it requires to work well with people in meetings.

Pilita makes the point that many business folks are spending their days in back-to-back online meetings right now and most of them are unproductive, at best, and downright awful, at worst.

This experience of perpetual and perpetually bad meetings is caused, as she sees it, by the dearth of meeting skill and a proliferation of Meeting Monsters, whose rude behaviours and lack of consideration for others derail and waste precious time in meetings.

She acknowledges that:

“We are all monsters sometimes and running a meeting well takes skill. How strange then that managers are rarely trained in the art.”

We could not agree more!

We had our own close-up experience of a Meeting Monster this week. It felt like a bit of a throwback to the worst of the MadMen era. The horrendous thing about this particular monster was that he was not only rude and disruptive, he had the arrogance to think he knew everything there is to know about convening and leading collaborative group work online. He declared himself to be an expert convener.

So, this leads us to sharing our views, which we know still aren’t shared by many, about what it takes to be a Convener: the kind of leader that can bring diverse groups of people together to do good work, together.

What it takes to be a Convener:

  • The art of creating a compelling invitation, the courage to offer it, and the humility to hold it lightly – to be okay with people not accepting the invitation
  • The willingness to invest time, skill and care into designing spaces and structure for convening groups – and to hold this lightly – knowing that once the group arrives, we need to flex and change with what emerges
  • To be welcoming and provide hospitable, inclusive space for everyone that chooses to show up, however they show up
  • To be willing to hold difference and support lone voices
  • To lean into the mess which inevitably unfolds when a group of humans really starts to work together
  • To hold the compassion and curiosity necessary to work with and support what emerges in a group, however messy that might sometimes become, and often by getting out of the way
  • To recognise that when there are people in the mix, we are always and forever… learners

Right now, as we see it, the world desperately needs more Conveners. There are plenty of individualistic leaders who think they have the answers to the complex challenges we face in the world today, but they are deluded.

Only groups of people, coming together, can truly develop the emergent, immediate and longer-term solutions needed for the future.

The people who convene these groups, and who make room for everyone to bring their best in the spaces they create online, will go down in history as those who are tackling the virus of bad meetings and vanquishing Meeting Monsters!