5 signs your meeting was a flop

Have you noticed that some of the finest people you’ve ever worked with just don’t know how to run a good meeting?Graph

Make no mistake: Keeping people attentive, communicating and aligned on a goal is a real skill. You really shouldn’t take a seat at the front of the table until you’ve nailed it, but no one’s handing out certifications for doing so.

Morey Stettner, trainer, author and editor of Executive Leadership, advises running a mental instant replay of your next meeting as soon as you walk out the door. If any of these lowlights happened, you may well have lost a tiny bit of trust the next time an invite goes out to the team:

1. People launched their own mini-meetings. Whether they’re brief mutters or extended dialogues, side conversations can proliferate if even one is allowed to proceed. Stettner suggests taking the bold step of acknowledging the chatter and perhaps shutting it down right away. This sends the message that you’re hearing everything and are willing to put the meeting on hold until you have everyone’s attention.

2. The ‘Why am I here’ stare took hold. Restlessness used to cause people to stare into space; now their cellphones get the attention. You can make sure visible boredom doesn’t gain a foothold by sending meeting invites only to those people who truly need to be there. Forget tradition and forget preset email lists; treat each meeting as if you were handing out VIP tickets to the Super Bowl. Ask yourself: Who is essential to the proceedings, and who could easily get the right takeaways secondhand instead?

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3. The silence of the lambs set in. The most vocal employees were allowed to dominate the meeting, while intelligent workers with possibly valuable insights kept mum. Clearly, not everyone felt this was a comfortable, supportive atmosphere where input wasn’t just welcomed, but expected. In general, does the staff feel at ease with taking risks in what they say? What’s keeping them from that freedom?

4. You caved to Big Vagueness. Nothing was resolved, nothing was assigned or delegated, statements were hedged with qualifiers. People left the meeting with no clear purpose or assignment. Well, that was pointless, many likely thought as they shuffled out. This slowly breeds fatigue and even cynicism with the entire process of getting together around a table.

5. The credits rolled too soon. Near the end of the meeting, all eyes went to the clock, and much was rushed through just to serve it. Key points were glossed over or even skipped because you got sidetracked with others. Like an Oscar winner sensing the producer of the show was about to cut off his thank-yous, you wrapped everything up awkwardly, perhaps even with the lame offer of yet another meeting to revisit those lost issues.

A bonus meeting: Now there’s something nobody has ever asked for.