Meetings & Trust: Do they go together?

Carmine Coyote had a great post over on Slow Leadership today titled “The More Meetings, The Less Trust“. The introductory paragraph sums it up nicely (emphasis mine):

In the list of activities that waste time and cause worthless frustration at work, meetings rank very near the top. Not only do many meetings fail to result in any clear decision, leaving you wondering why people came together in the first place, others have no discernible purpose at all. Worst of all, holding too many meetings passes a strong message: the boss doesn’t trust the team to function without his or her constant interference; and colleagues don’t trust one another not to undermine them in some way.

How many of you have experienced this in your career?  How many have experienced this within the last week?  I know I have.

I actually got to see the ultimate no-trust meeting request…a meeting to prepare for a meeting. If your boss wants to prepare for the meeting with his boss with a pre-meeting, you know you are in trouble.

There are very few times that having a meeting to prepare for a meeting makes sense.  If you’re preparing to present a solution to a client or something similar…you should be prepared and a meeting might be called for.  But…if you are calling a meeting of your staff to have them tell you what they will tell your boss in the upcoming meeting, something is very very wrong.

Why does this occur?  Why would a seemingly intelligent individual have to gather their staff together for a ‘pre-meeting’?  Well…I think it has to do with trust.  If you trust your staff, why would you call them in to debrief you on what they will discuss in the ‘official’ meeting?   You might as well as just scream “I don’t trust you” to your entire staff.

Even worse than just having a pre-meeting is having a pre-meeting and forcing people to change their commentary/report to match what the ‘boss’ wants to hear.  I recently saw this occur and was amazed that everyone went along so readily.  It seems that the ‘boss’ only wants to hear what he expects to hear so that’s what everyone tells him.

This type of attitude does nothing for morale.  It destroys what little faith employee’s have left in the organization and in their manager.

So how do we get out of death by meeting?

Simple…trust your employees to do their job.  Give them the freedom to get things done.  Make sure they know that you are available to help at any time but that you expect them to make the decisions that they need to make to do their job.  Make them feel trusted.

Carmine Coyote has this to say about bring trust back into the workplace:

What does it feel like to be trusted? You’re allowed to make decisions without constantly checking with others; to get on with your job and use your commonsense about whom you need to speak with to ensure success. You’re expected to ask for help when you need it, and not otherwise; and not to call others together until you have something really important to say. Add these up and you have a water-tight case for removing upwards of 75% of the meetings that disfigure people’s calendars. Think how much time and money that would save.

Yes..think how much time, money, energy you could save by just letting your people do their jobs.

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