Coaching communication

Hate meetings? Try implementing this one simple rule to change the way you feel forever.

I love meetings. But I understand why you might not.

A friend recently shared a workplace anecdote. One day, she and her colleagues gathered together for a meeting.

For the first few minutes, they shuffled papers and fumbled with their phones. Then they stared at each other.

Finally, someone said it.

“Hey, what’s this meeting about?”

And no one in the room knew! After 15-20 minutes of griping, they went back to their offices.

Wow. I told my friend that was crazy.

Was it a meeting or an experiment? Absurd theater, maybe?

Waiting for Godot? No Exit?

Alas, no. She said this kind of thing happens at her workplace ALL. THE. TIME.

Sheesh. If that’s the kind of thing that happens “all the time” — no wonder people say they hate meetings.

If you work in this kind of crazy culture, I get it. Chances are, you can’t fathom how great meetings can be in organization that actually respects time, talent, and teamwork.

Cultural change is hard, though. You can’t just put up a sign that says “respect my time and talents” and expect it to happen.

Someone needs to make change happen. Someone needs to set some boundaries.

And that person? If you hate meetings, it might actually be up to you.

What if you took one brave step to change your company’s culture? And what if it started with your hatred of meetings?

Early in my career, I worked for two organizations. They both followed a strict “if no agenda, then no meeting rule.”

Going to a meeting without an agenda? Unthinkable. For years, I never thought there was any other way.

No agenda? No meeting.

It’s that simple. Don’t go to meetings where you don’t have a written agenda.

It’s one small rule, but it can start a conversation. It can change the way people in your organization think and talk about meetings.

Because once you get going on the “no agenda, no meeting” framework, you’ve set a constructive boundary. From this, other positive changes can start happening.

Meetings, after all, are a team activity. And if you’ve got a team, you need to play positions. (Who’s the leader? Who’s keeping minutes? Who’s following up? Etc.)

And of course, you make rules. (How long? Where? When? Standing? Sitting? Etc.) And if you have 1) a team that 2) play positions and 3) there are rules, then guess what?

You have all the basic ingredients for gamification, my friend. You can make your meetings challenging and (gasp) fun.

Remember: the word “goals” is a sports term. If your meeting has goals, you might have a game in play.

For example, you can keep stats on meetings with all the passion you have for keeping stats on your favorite sports teams. (Go, data!) You can define metrics for winning a meeting. (Hurray for innovation!) You can run spirited interdepartmental or by-client competitions. (Yay, team!)

Bottom line? You can make meetings productive, useful, and fun.

Adopt the “no agenda, no meeting rule.” You might find you don’t hate meetings so much after all.

Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and LinkedIn Learning author. New course released this month: Establishing Credibility as a Speaker