Did you ever wonder why so many of us absolutely hate meetings? Why we sit thinking about how we can get out of this small enclosed space breathing the same air as all those other people and it feels stale and depressing? Why so many executives and emerging leaders are concerned that when they end a meeting people will leave and talk about how bad and boring it was behind their backs?
Did you know that meetings are considered the ‘black hole’ of the workplace?
Last question: why are meetings almost universally bastions of discomfort? There is an underlying reason that is rarely considered:
Staff meetings have all the emotional elements of a family gathering!
“Impossible” you say, “None of us are related, so what does family have to do with anything”?
This may be a unique way of thinking about work and especially about meetings. Take a minute and give the following some thought.
We all, and that means all of us, come into meetings bringing our previous personal behavior patterns that we learned in our original organization, the family into our present organization at work. No one is excluded.
All the ways we were taught to relate as kids, all the ways we were or were not accepted, all the roles we learned to play for survival and security, they all show up when we are in a staff meeting.
Meetings bring up our fears and discomforts about being adequate, inadequate, liked, not liked, put on the spot or worshiped in the spotlight.
Think about the last meeting you attended. Did you go in with great ideas and a willingness to listen, really listen to your colleagues? Or were there some you thought were duds and others you felt you were in competition with and still others you wanted to cozy up to?
Often we go into meetings with our conscious minds ready for information, while at another unconscious level we are already wearing our armor to stay safe and not be criticized. Some of us learned as kids to be the clown and make everyone laugh. Others become the peacemaker and want to make sure everyone will get along. Some stay silent, others never stop talking.
Take some time to observe. You will begin to see how the same people play the same roles meeting after meeting.
“Ok” you say “I get it” And then you ask the key question:
How can meeting ‘hell’ be changed into something more productive?
First, acknowledge that discomfort and tension will not go away so quickly. Begin to see the tension as a creative arm of what good can come from meetings. Next, learn to manage the stress and anxiety of being part of a group that may bring up all kinds of insecurities and defenses.
Next, begin to learn about your own personal biases about people in the room. You may see the clown as someone just like your younger brother who stopped any real conversation when you were a kid by acting like, well, like a clown. And then there is the gal who is always grandstanding and wanting to be told how great she is just like your older most annoying sister.
Once you can begin to see that the patterns from childhood are there, right there in the room, you can harness your emotional reactions.
Experiment with your observations and then take the time to look at your own patterned way of responding. THAT is when accountability jumps. If you are the super achiever, the ‘me- me- me’ type, experiment with waiting to talk later in the meeting or acknowledging someone else straight out.
There are tons of way to change the dynamics in the meeting room. And when everyone begins to get at observation for their own behavior, well then, that is where collaboration kicks in and amazing productivity happens.