The simple reason why meetings fail

01 November 2016 -


Running an effective meeting is not easy, but with these tips and tricks you can make sure you don’t fall in the common traps that so many managers succumb too

Guest blogger Chris Lewis

Many people complain about the number of meetings they have, because they feel they are interrupting an already badly interrupted day. This leaves people feeling resentful about the imposition of the additional workload they’re likely to pick up as a result of the meeting.

This means they seldom prepare as they should and seldom reflect on what was decided.

Meetings then can become ‘the loudest voice is the dominant one’ as people speak up loudly and quickly because they want the meeting over with. Much of this can be moderated by an enlightened chair.

Some people’s response to the shortage of time is to make all meetings shorter, this is Vanessa Brady’s technique, or make them meet standing up so they can’t last long.

Read more: The art of the 10 minute meeting

This often creates the illusion of speed because people don’t buy in. Meetings are there for all people to debate and decide on a course of action. This is fine, but, if all people are not unanimous, what looks like an efficient meeting can easily record decisions that simply fail at the implementation stage because of bureaucratic resistance.

This was sometimes the case with male-dominated meetings we had at LEWIS before we recognised the problem.

They were typical of other organisations. There were frequently meetings which featured rapid, forthright, opinionated statements from men who make statements first, then use logic to back them up.

The people that do this seldom ask other people for their opinions first. They don’t gauge sentiment or objections. They normally wade right in. This is not leadership because it does not encourage other ideas.

There’s a saying that: ‘If you’re the leader and you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.’ The leader’s job is to make everyone else feel like they’re the smartest person in the room.

Leaders in meetings should always speak last.

In many meetings, though, the loudest voice will decide the course of action. Reticence or indecision can often be interpreted as approval, then a measure is quickly agreed and the meeting moves on.

It’s only much later that the decision fails to implement because it doesn’t have the full support of those present. The leader doesn’t look so smart and the meeting doesn’t look so efficient now.

Too Fast to Think by Chris Lewis is published by Kogan Page, price £14.99. This extract from Too Fast To Think by Chris Lewis is ©2016 and reproduced with permission from Kogan Page Ltd

CMI OFFER: You can purchase Too Fast To Think with a 20% discount code. Visit and use the code TFTTCMI20 at the checkout

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