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Friends & Friction: Meetings should not lead to resentment

Sep 10 2017 06:00
Muzi Kuzwayo

There was a time when all an employee had to do was show up at work and his salary was paid. The directors’ most difficult job was to sign the attendance register at board meetings.

The blissful era of management by ticking boxes is over. Now is the time for thorough thinking and meticulous execution.

Sadly, many managers are distracted from their work by endless meetings.

Once they have honoured a meeting invitation, they find their contribution is weak because they’ve had insufficient time to prepare. They then feel guilty, fearing they will be found out.

Meetings are a necessary part of business life. Someone once described them as sharpening the saw – at first glance, it may look like a waste of time, but it is necessary for the completion of the job.

The problem is that meetings have become the business themselves; they have gained social status within the corporation.

Some managers become upset when excluded from certain meetings, as if they have not been invited to their best friend’s wedding.

The number and status of the people who accept a meeting request says a mouthful about the organiser of the meeting.

If the good and the great are seen to attend, the minnows fall in line because they also want to be seen.

To make one’s meeting attractive, some managers advertise that refreshments will be served.

Many staff members come only for the cookies and the coffee.

What was considered rude in meetings a few years ago has become the norm.

Staff members unashamedly take out their computers and start reading and responding to emails, or engaging in unproductive activities such as pursuing mindless gossip on social media.

We now live in a world where loyalty is considered to be an ancient virtue, and the vices of Darwinian capitalism are at an all-time high.

Individuals do only what is good for themselves and pay little attention to the greater good of the team. This behaviour is understandable because, in the past few years, companies have been retrenching staff as a means of necessary self-preservation.

In addition, there are now too many devices that promote individuality.

A person can be totally isolated while sitting in a group, listening to something with headphones that cost thousands of rands, while exploring the world with his or her fingertips.

If the person running the meeting is weak, which is often confused with politeness, the participants can be simultaneously listening and busy with other things.

This makes the team unable to reap the rewards of collective brainpower.

If you have too many meetings with the wrong people, and you run them badly, you can rest assured that the business or the unit is not going places.

Time is money so, as the manager, you have to be bold and review every meeting.

Start with clear objectives – discuss the issues at hand, then spend the last few minutes asking all the participants if they found the meeting useful, and whether it added any value to their work.

Check if it achieved the desired objectives, and then enumerate the next steps.

Thabang Sekaja, who has spent many years in the corporate world, has a 3-D model of meeting management – “discuss, decide, do”.

Any follow-up meeting must start with what has been done. This enables members of the team to be honest with each other. It turns meetings that were a web of distraction into a force that propels individual and company success.

Meetings should not create resentment. Instead, they should be a good gathering of colleagues.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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opinion  |  work  |  management  |  meeting

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