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Meetings, @&!!$*@ Meetings!

Meetings, @&!!$*@ Meetings!

In the list of activities that waste time and cause worthless frustration at work, meetings rank near the top, just below performance appraisals and preparing budgets.

There you are, stuck in a meeting you don’t want to attend, thinking of all the work piled up on your desk, while you half listen to someone droning on endlessly about a topic you have no interest in. When the meeting finally ends, less than half the agenda has been completed and everyone gets out their calendars to arrange yet another time to meet.

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Worse still, many meetings seem never to result in any clear decision at all, leaving you wondering why people came together in the first place. Some people spend most of their normal working day in meetings of one kind or another. The only time available to do their own work is either very early in the morning, before the first meeting is scheduled, or late in the evening when they should be relaxing at home.

Why do organizations allow such a continual waste of time and energy?

The first reason, I believe, is simple: rampant distrust.

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  • Top executives don’t trust their subordinates to be competent enough to take full charge of important projects. They therefore require them to involve others in their decisions, in the belief this will guard against expensive errors.
  • Powerful colleagues don’t trust one another not to undermine their position in some way, so they insist on being “kept informed” before decisions are made—usually by demanding a meeting is held, then sending a subordinate who can stop unwanted progress and report back on suspicious activities.
  • Departments trust other departments even less. Same result, times ten.
  • People in general don’t trust others not to say something bad about them behind their backs, so they want to be there to defend themselves. (It’s a waste of time. People will always bad-mouth you, if they want to. They simply find another occasion when you aren’t there.)
  • Auditors don’t trust anyone (except themselves) with money, so they require decisions on expenditure to be made in committee, where others are always watching—often jealously. (It didn’t work too well in recent high-profile corporate corruption cases, did it? And weren’t the auditors involved in those shenanigans too?)
  • It’s always been that way. No one wants to take the risk of doing things differently, because they know there is one area in which they can trust others without question: to pile all the blame on them if anything goes wrong.

The secondary reason is less negative: a belief that many heads are always better than one.

This has some truth when it’s a matter of generating ideas. If the purpose is to get something done, many heads just about always slow things down. It’s amazing how easily a group of people can find delays and problems if they put their collective minds to it.

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Then there’s a earch for consensus: that over-worked concept that appears to produce decisions to everyone’s satisfaction; while usually ensuring the only decision possible is one that offends nobody—because it’s harmless, conventional and unlikely to work anyway. Consensus is nice to have, but it’s rarely essential. If the proposed action is new and unfamiliar, it’s unlikely consensus is even possible in advance.

Many meetings may be unavaoidable, but here’s how to avoid adding to the plague of meetings yourself:

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  • There are only three genuine reasons for a meeting:
  1. You wish to gather ideas and thoughts from those present.
  2. People have concerns about some topic and you are ready to answer them in person and immediately.
  3. A group of people wish to come together to celebrate a success or support one another in adversity.
  • If you have any other reason for holding a meeting, choose a more appropriate way to communicate. For example, merely passing information is typically better handled by memo, e-mail or some other document. If you can’t—or won’t—answer questions right away, collect questions by interview, in writing, or by telephone, and answer them only when you’re ready.
  • If any of these are your true reasons for holding a meeting, cancel it immediately:

    • You always have one. (Now’s the time to stop.)
    • You think people like to have meetings. (Sorry. They don’t.)
    • It’s a good way to set priorities and get everyone motivated. (It isn’t.)
    • It builds team spirit. (It doesn’t.)

    Meetings can be useful, but only if they’re held for good reasons (see above), are well managed, and last not one second longer than is absolutely necessary. In any other circumstances, they’re more likely to be a blight on everyone’s day. Give them up. Everyone will thank you—except those few who like to interfere in other people’s jobs as an excuse for not getting on with their own.

    P.S. Public and academic bodies are even worse. Only a public body could invent the Steering Committee, to oversee the Working Party, which discusses the eventual reports of one or more Study Groups, which first receive input from a series of sub-committees, which base their findings on expert staff reports almost none of the members understand fully anyway.

    Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

    Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

    Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

    Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination:

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    1. Make a list of your goal destinations

    Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

    So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

    Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

    If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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    2. Think about the time frame to have the goal accomplished

    This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

    Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

    3. Write down your goals clearly

    Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

    For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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    4. Write down what you need to do for each goal

    Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

    These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

    5. Write down your timeframe with specific and realistic dates

    Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

    For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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    Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

    6. Schedule your to-dos

    Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

    Write these action points on a schedule so that you have definite dates on which to do things.

    7. Review your progress

    At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

    Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

    Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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