"Let’s stop meeting like this" by Dick & Emily Axelrod  

  • By The Alchemist About Town
  • 02 Aug, 2016

Bits and bobs

Pic from brucerosenstein.
People usually dislike meetings. Often, meetings only waste time and build frustration. Multiply the number of your company’s meetings times the number of participants times their pro-rata hourly pay to discover the hidden financial cost of ineffective work sessions. Yet organisations need their people to confer or need to hold meetings to unite a team or fulfil a specific goal.


Take-Aways from the book

  • Many meetings are a waste of time. However, a well planned, well-executed meeting can be effective and useful.
  • If employees need to share information in person and that requires dialogue, then you need to schedule a meeting.
  • Invite people with specific knowledge, a role in the issue or decision-making authority.
  • Before each meeting, know why you’re holding it, how it will be different, who needs to come and how to inspire attendees to take ownership of its goals.
  • Use the six elements of the “meeting canoe: welcome, connect, discover, elicit, decide and attend.” This helps people feel engaged, challenged, informed and able to set a course of action.
  • Good meetings give people “autonomy, meaning, challenge, learning” and “feedback.”
  • If a session goes awry, “say the unspoken” and name the problem. Ask if everyone perceives the same dilemma, and find out what they “want to do about it.”
  • Good meetings provide value. They can energise employees to do meaningful work, enable timely decisions, build teams and address pressing issues.

Do people need to share important information? Does sharing this information require dialogue?

If the answer is yes on both counts, you need a meeting.

To help meetings go well, attend to the basics , answer the following five questions:

“Why are we meeting?” – No matter what the format – a staff brainstorming, work session, town hall, “major change initiative” or informal chat – align with your organisational needs. Meetings should always involve “work worth doing.”

“What do we want to be different because this group of people meets?” – A conference must have a specific purpose, for example, training the participants, communicating essential company information, planning strategy, and so on. Purpose is the North Star of your meeting. Align the length of your gathering with its purpose.

“Who needs to be in our crew?” – For successful sessions, bring in the right assortment of people with a productive mix of assets and capabilities, including “information, authority, responsibility” and “different thinking styles.” To avoid group think, include at least one contrarian.

“How do we get people to take ownership of the meeting?” – Have attendees participate in the design of your meetings. Ensure that the agenda fits “the culture and the participants’ needs.”

“Where and how long will we meet?” – A gathering’s environment affects its success. Whenever possible, try to arrange “round tables, plenty of wall space, whiteboards and natural light.”


Leaders, contributors and facilitators make some common mistakes and may find that their personal shortcomings and beliefs contribute to meeting failure:

Leaders – Managers go wrong when they develop an agenda without input from other attendees, are too unsure of themselves to open their planning to others’ opinions and manipulate their meetings  “through false participation” – that is, valuing self-interest over the session’s actual purpose.

Contributors – Experts fail when they don’t assume ownership of their gatherings, expect the leaders to fix any problems that develop during the sessions, place self-interest above the group’s concerns, or aren’t properly prepared and therefore can’t make a positive contribution.

Facilitators – Just because you’re running the meeting, don’t make the mistake of taking over and performing work that the group should handle. Never assume your special management “magic” can fix any problem.

Employee involvement specialists Dick and Emily Axelrod offer worthwhile strategies and methods to make meetings more effective. Overall, they provide quotations and useful, hands-on information covering planning, designing, facilitating and leading group sessions. Try it and let me know your thoughts.

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