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Fix painful company meetings: 6 common problems, and their solutions

May 17, 2018

Meetings can be…draining. Sometimes, it seems like they’ll never get better; just talking in circles, not getting anything done with no traction to move the team forward. 

If you want to break the cycle, here’s some exciting news: You absolutely can. But first, you have to identify the root of the problem. Check out these six common meeting problems, and some actionable fixes you can implement to see improvement.

Handpicked related content: How to keep meeting on-schedule

Problem #1: Participants check out

We’ve all been there—you’re describing an important issue, and you watch as someone’s eyes glaze over. Maybe they even start doodling. It happens! There are a number of reasons people mentally check out of meetings, but most of the time, it’s because you’ve got the wrong people in the meeting.

That’s not to say they’re bad employees; If you’ve hired the right people, they care about performing well, and they care about issues that impact their work. But if they’re in a meeting that isn’t relevant to them, can you blame them for drifting off? 

Solution: Invite the right people

If you find that people are mentally checked-out during meetings, reevaluate the way you decide who needs to be there. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Who needs to be here? Why?
  • How will this person contribute to the discussion?
  • Who will the outcome of this meeting measurably impact? 

Problem #2: The meeting has no clear purpose

If you don’t have a clear purpose, no one will know what the meeting is supposed to accomplish. If you don’t know what the meeting is supposed to accomplish, the meeting will go in circles, discussions will get hijacked, and the cycle continues.

Solution: Have an agenda

Agendas give meetings purpose, shape and focus. As one columnist put it, “A meeting without an agenda is like a restaurant dinner without a menu.”  When you send the agenda ahead of time, it allows your team to come prepared, maximizing your time together while setting clear boundaries for discussion. You’ll be shocked at how much farther you get when you’re all looking at the same map. 

Problem #3: Getting derailed

We’re only human, after all—and social animals, at that. Everyone loves a good chat! Extroverts in particular are brilliant rabbit trail chasers, and if you’re not careful, you could get pulled along with them.

A good meeting should only has one conversation going on at a time, and it should stick to the agenda. If not, the meeting becomes unfocused, and sucks energy from what would otherwise be a productive conversation. 

Solution: Call each other out (with love)

Recognize the value of calling an Ace an Ace. Establish a ground rule that all discussion sticks to the agenda, and agree that anytime discussion starts to stray, it gets called out. Give everyone permission to be ruthless about it, too! That’s it—easy, right? Well, maybe not. After all, business is personal, and it takes time to build the level of trust required to do this. To ease the tension, cushion your call-outs with love. Say things like, “I love what you’re saying, but,” or “That’s interesting—I want to hear more about it later.” As long as it’s coming from a place of respect, your team is bound to follow suit. 

Problem #4: Painful meeting setting

Sometimes it’s not the meeting, but the environment you’re in. Coworkers keep popping their heads in to ask a “quick question,” or the noise from next door leaks through the wall, or the thermostat never seems to work. Maybe the room is drab, or the chairs are uncomfortable. Research shows that even the best meetings can be lousy if you’re stuck in a bad meeting space.

Solution: Find a place that works for everyone

Find a quiet, comfortable, well-lit environment that’s free from distractions. When everyone is comfortable and undistracted, productivity skyrockets. You’ll be surprised what a big difference it makes!

Problem #5: Starting late, ending late

Lateness is a vicious cycle. If you start late, your meetings will be less productive. And you’ll be training your employees to arrive late, which means you’ll push start times back even farther. Which means they get less and less productive. And if you end late, it eats up valuable work time. And if participants they have back-to-back meetings, they’ll either be late to the next one, or leave early from yours.

Also, starting and ending late is disrespectful to people’s time.

Solution: Commit to punctuality

Make it a ground rule to start and end on time, and enforce it the same way you enforce keeping discussions on track. Set a timer if it helps, or ask someone to be the official timekeeper. 

Problem #6: Nothing happens after the meeting

It’s possible to do everything right, and still not see movement. You can invite the right people, have the right conversations, start and end on-time and stick to the agenda—but none of it matters without next steps.

Solution: Delegate follow-up actions

For every decision you reach in the meeting, assign an owner to it. Discuss things like:

  • What do we need to make this happen?
  • Who’s going to do what? 
  • When does it need to be done by?

Less distraction. More Traction®.

Sick of wasted meetings? We’ve got you. Streamline your meetings with Traction Tools, an officially licensed software for EOS®. With build-in meeting agendas, timers and To-Do lists, you can eliminate meeting prep and focus on what matters most: Getting the work done. 

See how Traction Tools can help boost your meetings—get your free trial today!

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