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Phil L

Leaders who extend meetings beyond the time limit as a power move. I think we all have experienced that many times. You bring up most of the reasons and they're all good ones. I think the most important thing for me is that ending meetings on time (and starting them) shows discipline in the operations of the company, that we do what we say, and say what we do, and it also shows respect for the people in the meeting.

Account Deleted

Very nice article. However I found that the idea of walking out could not be very practical especially in cultures where bosses are bosses. You can end up loosing job or getting transferred.

Two more reasons I find for delayed meetings are, i. Having every one from team in every meeting & ii. discussing too much problems rather than progress especially in progress monitoring meetings.

Michael

A well thought out post. I also think that two major issues in most meetings today are;

1) Poor agendas. A grocery list of topics is nearly useless--what is required is a clear description of the purpose of an item being on the agenda.
2) Off agenda discussions need to be curtailed immediately and put on a sidebar if required.

Robert

I have a Pastor who is a stickler on starting on time but not so much on his preparation or an end time. It's very frustrating to say the least to know that we are going to end up in a 2 hour minimum meeting because there is no real agenda outside of we need to discuss these areas. To sit in a 'brainstorming' meeting after a nine hour work day where every one is hearing it for the first time can be depressing.

Susan

HOw do you combat the bully who thinks it is insubordinate to draw boundaries and try to fire you for
having a life?

Chris Young

Great post Bob! I have chosen your post for inclusion in my weekly Rainmaker 'Fab Five' blog picks of the week (found here: http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2009/05/the-rainmaker-fab-five-blog-picks-of-the-week-1.html) to share you message with my readers.

Be well!

Kelley Eskridge

One tool that has always helped me facilitate meetings -- my own, and those fun times when I am the facilitator for the 35 300-pound-gorilla executives in the room -- is Ground Rules.

I pre-publish a prepared list of ground rules to attendees, and also bring it on a flip chart into the meeting and hang it on the wall. The rules typically include:

-- Start/end the meeting on time
-- No interruptions
-- No side conversations
-- No phone calls/email in the meeting
-- Everyone participates in brainstorming
-- In dealing with conflict, we focus on the business choices, not on the people arguing for or against them
-- We use a "parking lot" to capture ideas that are important to pursue, but not relevant to the work of this meeting.
-- We leave the room with a clear record of decisions made and who is accountable for follow-up.

At the start of the meeting, ask if there is anyone who is not willing to work by these rules, and if there are additional ground rules needed.

And then when the EVP of Bananas starts steamrolling the conversation, cut her off; point to the flip chart; and say, "Cheetah, we have a rule about no interruptions. I'd like Tarzan to finish what he was saying and then I'll turn it over to you."

Cheetah won't like it. But 95% of the time, she'll do it. The other 5% of the time, you have to be willing to enlist the group's help to enforce the rules. That goes something like: "Okay, we all agreed to these rules. Cheetah has just said that she doesn't want to be bound by them. Does the rest of the group agree that these rules should be ditched? In my experience as a facilitator, if you're not willing to have rules for meetings, you'll have less effective meetings. That's up to you. What would you like to do?"

And then abide by the group's decision. Which will usually be "well... I think we should have rules... " (with covert looks at Cheetah, who will be pissed but basically powerless, unless she is real asshole).

I can already hear the howls of disbelieving laughter from folks, along the lines of "if only"... but I've done this plenty of times, always with success and never with any kind of retribution beyond the occasional "oh, right, PROCESS!" sneers.

The thing is, people will generally follow the most effective behavior that's modeled for them. Ground rules help you model the behavior and give you an objective reference point for calling out rudeness/ineffective behavior.

Most workplace assholes get away with it because no one stops them. Having an objective tool agreed on by the group can really help.

Cindy

With respect to #4 does anyone have any suggestions at how to stop this from happening at your child's school? This has happened to both my children frequently as they've progressed through middle and high school. They have actually been written up for being late to the next class. I'm sure it's a power play and I know that teachers are feeling more and more powerless but it is still inappropriate.

With this sort of behavior being exhibited for the generation in school now I see this becoming more of an issue rather than less.

Matthieu

I agree with a previous comment, the best medicine in my view is a pre-diffused meeting agenda. It helps a lot focusing the talks, especially in conference calls.

There is nevertheless another situation that should be adressed: when the organizer/facilitator of the meeting is not the highest-ranked person in the room. It happens a lot in project meetings, when the project leader has to gather not only his team but also senior R&D, marketing, finance or operations officers. Stopping the "blabbermouth" without being rude gets even harder in this case.It happened to me, and I had to resort to being somewhat abrupt and barely rude, and I would like to avoid it if possible.

Any suggestions on how to handle this situation?

Rhonda Schulte

I've put many agendas together with times for each item to keep the meeting moving along, yet the board president ignores the schedule, jumps around and never really drives the meeting. The board members seem to think the problem is the agenda when much of the overtime is due to poor leadership. Thank you for pointing this out. I wish I could show it to my board but they will perceive it as finger pointing.

Tara C

For #2 above, does the author have any "tips" on how to stop the blabbermouths without insulting them? I've noticed that these people with the exaggerated sense of self-importance don't normally agree with taking the discussion "off-line".

Gail Talbott

An important attribute of a well run meeting is the advance distribution of the meeting agenda. This allows the meeting attendees to properly prepare for the meeting discussion. The meeting leader should then carefully follow the agenda -keeping on subject and identify issues and concerns not related to the agenda as "parking lot" items to be addressed in a separate session. This approach provides structure to appropriately manage the meeting duration as well as shows respect for the meeting attendees’ time.

Paula Reimers

Another option is to notify the chair of the meeting that you have to leave at a certain time. This makes the chair person aware that he/she should cover issues that pertain to you while you are present. As a professional, it is in your best interest to arrive at all of your meetings on time and this tactic will send a message to an inconsiderate facilitator. Make sure you leave as promised and give the leader a good nod as you go.

David Selby

Thanks for the article I hope ALL of our officers read this!!! Please also address people that are CONSTANTLY late for meetings; and then expect or request an update on what they missed. This is an extreme show of arrogance and cluelessness...

Dwayne Phillips

I agree that much of this is a product of our formal schooling.
We were children, the teacher was an adult, and we did not stand and walk out without the teacher's permission.
Now we are adults, the person running the meeting is an adult, and we can stand and leave the room any time we wish.
That is a big change. One that few people make in a healthy manner.

Zack Grossbart

Hello Bob,

I think you missed one key reason meetings run long: misunderstanding of the meeting topic. I've been in many 90 minutes meetings scheduled for a 30 minute window. Mostly this comes from the meeting leader not understanding the topic well enough to estimate the time. These topics really needed 90 minutes, they just weren't given enough time.

DG

Nice post. Other considerations are they are 1) poor facilitators and/or 2) disorganized.

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