Meetings: Performance art for bad managers

I recently read a great piece about how horrible meetings are. All I could do was say a silent, “amen, brother.”
For most of my career in journalism, I have been fortunate to work in newsrooms, where the meetings are limited. Daily newspapers have a news meeting every day, but it is usually pretty short. When I was an editor at daily newspapers, I tried to keep ours to 15 minutes or so.
If people are ready for the meeting, it shouldn’t take long.
We also had weekly planning meetings. But even for those we made sure everyone was prepared with ideas ahead of time so those meetings were kept to less than a half hour.
The last thing I wanted to do was take up the valuable time of reporters and editors with meetings.
In a past position I went to work at corporate for a newspaper company. I was stuck in meeting hell often – way too often. Meetings can really suck the fun out of life very quickly.
I came to realize a few things about the reality of meetings:
* Generally, meetings are for the boss, not for the workers. This is a chance for the boss to prattle on and on and make him or herself feel important. They might want you to believe that everyone’s input matters, but a lot of bosses only want to hear themselves talk.
* Meetings longer than, say, 45 minutes are a complete waste of time. You can do better things with your time than sit in a standard meeting. Now, a long planning session or annual meeting is another story. But the daily and weekly meetings should be short.
* Most meetings are not necessary. Need to impart some new information? Send an email. Don’t make the real work grind to a stop so you can grandstand for a while.
* The actual useful information in, say, an hour-long meeting would in reality take about 10 minutes. Meetings are performance art for bad managers. The longer the meeting, or the more meetings that you are saddled with, the worse the manager.
* Meetings waste your time. Period. Full stop. If you work at a place, or for a person, where meetings are long and common, they are doing it wrong.
For me, it all comes down to planning. Newsrooms are notorious for not being good at planning. I always said the daily scramble for content is the reason so many journalists liked to booze it up. At my first job, our newspaper was produced each morning. By 10:30 a.m., the top editors were on their way to the bar two doors down to “recharge” after deadline.
And by “recharge” they meant “get buzzed.” I won’t lie, it made the afternoons a breeze.
When I ran daily newsrooms, I was all about the planning. Come in prepared, make it short and then get back to the real work.
No, most meetings can’t be called real work.
If you are a good manager, you already know these things and try to keep meetings short and rare. If you have a boss who doesn’t know these things, come in to any meeting prepared and try to keep it on track. It’s great that Susie got a new cat, but discussion about Mr. Butterbutt shouldn’t take up your valuable time.
And for you bosses out there – ease up on the meetings. If you have three a week, try two, or even one. Keep it moving along and focused. Your employees will thank you. So will their livers.

Brad Jennings is Editor of The Ogle County Life.


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