Please Don't Let Bad Meetings Happen To Good People

5 Min Read

I once worked for a leader who would never let a bad meeting happen to anyone, and, most importantly, not to him. He didn't want his time wasted. He made it clear he simply didn't have the time to waste.

"How did the launch perform in the first four weeks versus prior launches?"

"What's the price per ounce comparison versus the competition?"

"Who have we sourced volume from or is this incremental growth to the category?"

He rattled off the questions, looking at his iPhone, back at us, and then at his iPhone again. One by one by one, he just plopped the questions onto the large conference room table. My manager fumbled, nervously tapping his fingers and responding with vague phrases sprinkled with awkward laughs. And I was equally unprepared, staring at the geese wandering outside our campus.

There are plenty of bad things happening right now. We don't need to add the stress of a bad meeting to that list.

"This meeting is over," our leader declared, abruptly standing up and proceeding to make a call as he walked out the door. "Reschedule when you are prepared. No reason for us to continue and waste each other's time."

That was one of the few meetings I have ever had in Corporate America that only lasted four minutes.

It was one of the most valuable lessons I learned early in my career about what constituted a good meeting: always come prepared. Preparation to make a meeting as painless as possible was key. Otherwise, you have to be prepared to kill the meeting as one of my favorite leaders always did.

Moving forward, our meetings with this leader were never more than 30 minutes. We debated the facts. We made decisions. We made mistakes and we learned. We moved the business forward. And, we actually had fun in these meetings.

Since that time, I am sad to report that on a number of occasions, as a leader I have let bad meetings happen to the good people around me. I have allowed them. I have enabled them. I have witnessed them. I have even encouraged them, letting them go on for minutes and hours longer than they should have. Sometimes, even including the dreaded bad "follow-up" meeting. Or worse, the bad pre-meeting before the actual bad meeting.

Since that time, I am sad to report that on a number of occasions, as a leader I have let bad meetings happen to the good people around me.

And we are dangerously close to bad meetings becoming a professional pandemic as we work remotely during this actual pandemic.

The real question is: Why do we allow a bad meeting to happen and then to continue in the first place?

Because we as leaders want to hold court and have our teams surround us — basically we like to make ourselves feel important. And meetings make us feel important because holding meetings give us a false sense of productivity and control in a time when we have very little.

Because if it's not my meeting, why should I care? After all, I am busy trying to peel and slice my kid an apple, while teaching my other kid how to spell "flower," and trying to pay attention and add some value in whatever meeting I am in at the same time. I have no energy, no mental capacity to intervene when a good meeting starts to turn into a bad meeting. Because now my daughter is having a tantrum and my son's password for his Zoom Spanish class isn't working and can someone else please just step in and stop this bad meeting?

The real question is: Why do we allow a bad meeting to happen and then to continue in the first place?

Because honestly, in the moment, none of us can muster up the courage to say, "Hey this is a bad meeting. A very bad meeting indeed. Let's end this and reschedule when we can actually have a good meeting."

The more I think about it. No one ever starts off wanting to host or schedule a bad meeting. Here are five ways I have seen meetings take a turn for the worse.

Introductions that tell your life story.

At a recent meeting, the facilitator said "Please keep your introductions to 2-3 minutes. There's always a rogue actor who doesn't stop talking." When an introduction starts off with "When I used to be captain of the high school lacrosse team," it will never end well. So please be brief with your introductions, your check-ins, and your opening remarks.

No one is in charge.

Who is making the decisions? Who keeps track of what happens next? Who can kill the meeting and put us all out of our misery? Please don't host a meeting without a strong facilitator. Just don't do it.

Are we there yet? Where are we going?

You join this meeting and soon discover that no one knows why the meeting is happening and what the objective of the meeting really is. Participants start discussing all sorts of other random topics. And it continues to spiral downward. It reminds me of my kids screaming in the car "Are we there yet?" And if you have no idea what the point of the meeting was, you will never meet your objectives. It will become the never-ending road trip from hell. With no snacks and no bathroom breaks.

No one is prepared.

Because your peers had no idea they had to be prepared let alone what they had to actually prepare. They likely had no idea what the meeting was about or why they were even invited... Why are we here again?

Is anyone even listening?

It's hard to pay attention. We are living during a pandemic after all. If meetings are short and to-the-point, people will be there, be present, and pay attention. Please stop with all the full day, multi-hour virtual meetings without no more than a 5-minute break. Even if I am cutting my son's apple and teaching my daughter how to spell, I will still be listening. I have now become the master of multi-tasking after all.

So please don't let bad meetings happen to good people. There are plenty of bad things happening right now. We don't need to add the stress of a bad meeting to that list.

3 min read

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

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Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.


Dear Sadsies,

I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.

I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!

- The Armchair Psychologist

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