12 Most Dangerous Meetings: Career Caution!

12 Most Dangerous Meetings: Career Caution!

Meetings are a fact of life in organizations of all sizes. Lately I’ve been to one too many of a meeting about a meeting. Why must we waste time in this way!? I often wonder how we actually get any work done. The ideal meeting has an agenda, is run by a person either trained in facilitation or a leader of some flavor, is held in a workspace with steady-state temperature, and is populated by people committed to solving a problem or advancing the company’s goals.

REALITY CHECK. Bet you haven’t been to a meeting like that lately, have you? I bet you’ve been to meetings about having other meetings. Meetings in rooms where the temperature ranges from 55 to 89 in two minutes flat and at least one person is menopausal or depressed. Meetings where people are answering their phones, texting, whispering, coughing with their mouths open. You know these kinds of meetings. Wink.

In real life, most meetings are ineffectual, sometimes even a disaster. Handle yourself wrong, come in unprepared, and that meeting could be career-limiting.

Here are 12 common types of meetings you’ll encounter in the workplace – and how to behave in such a way that the next meeting is not your last. Trust me, I’ve been there.

1. The Staff Meeting

A well-run staff meeting can rally the troops, provide useful information to all employees simultaneously and provide people with a view into where the company is going, why, and why their efforts are important. Sadly most staff meetings are poorly organized, put together at the last minute and attended by surly and aggrieved co-workers. Survive the staff meeting by being attentive, taking notes, commenting with positive ideas (hold those negative thoughts for a private follow up) and practicing active listening. Tip: leave the cell phone at your desk. Nothing is more annoying than people who take calls or text madly throughout a meeting. The truth: poorly-run staff meetings are soul-destroying. Warn others.

2. The Project Update Meeting

You’re part of a project team. Half the people are in other locations. You’re using a bridge line and conference phone, which of course has latency issues or faulty noise reduction software, so you can’t hear when someone starts talking over another person. Bonus round: only a third of the people have completed their assignments. Get through this meeting by jotting down notes of what you need to say, not talking over or interrupting others, sitting near the phone, and – it almost goes without saying – doing your work before the meeting. Tip: don’t bring your cell – see #1.

3. The One-on-One

Know that this is a test, and be prepared. If your boss asks for a one-on-one, make sure you know the topic in advance, and prepare. The one-on-one is always about how you’re doing – or not doing. Never make excuses, don’t apologize and don’t argue – be prepared, have a script, know your stuff. It’s the most lethal meeting type, so be on your toes. If you’re called in to a one-on-one with HR, you might want to start working on your resume.

4. The Client Visit

Not all clients are nice people. Some are sadists. Some visit to check up on you. Some want to get out of their offices for a day. Some like to watch your team twist. Some want to see if your offices are real, state-of-the-art and clean. Probably less than half of client visits actually accomplish anything. Have a written agenda; have drinks and some light food; make sure the whiteboards are clean; have a facilitator to make sure you go through the entire agenda. Make sure someone takes notes, summarizes action items and sends them to all participants. Follow up on all action items. Treat your client like a guest, not a pal, not an enemy, but don’t put up with any crap, either. You’re in a business relationship, so act that way. Even if the client is a jerk.

5. The Project Kickoff Meeting

It’s always high-stakes in a project kickoff meeting. It’s where goals are set, pecking order is established, deliverables and dates are agreed on. Run through goals with your manager first. Know why you’re at the meeting and what’s expected of you. Agree in advance on three things you need to accomplish, and get them done. Take notes and report back – and include personality sketches, and your assessment of who’s really in it to get things done. Remember it’s a project, not the rest of your life. You can do this.

6. The Team Meeting

Regular team meetings are essential in many organizations, but they can be fraught with danger. Not all teams get along. Some people may be disorganized or have negative attitudes. Go in acting like a leader. Make people accountable. Have your own assignments complete. And use each team meeting as an opportunity to build consensus and team spirit – don’t act like a cheerleader, but a leader. Stuck with a dysfunctional team? Well, aren’t we all at some point?

7. The Off-Site Meeting

Beloved of managers who think going to a hotel or conference center in the middle of nowhere will invigorate the troops and get things back on track. Games may be involved, or consultants doing Meyers-Briggs and other party tricks. IRL, this is bad strategy and almost never results in team building. Expect lots of eye-rolling and borderline disruptive behavior. Don’t plan off-sites unless you have a goal and a really good reason. Never think of these meetings as a ‘reward’ – they are to be survived. Don’t kid yourself that they’re fun.

8. The Performance Review Meeting

Some managers do quarterly reviews, some annual. Either way this can be the most dangerous meeting of all. A good manager will never surprise you in a performance review, but good managers are few and far between. So prepare by reviewing at your objectives, re-reading your last review, and coming prepared with a document that lists all your achievements against objectives, as well as areas where you went above and beyond expectations. Expect a few surprises and be prepared to hear hard things – some manager think it’s bad form to give an all-positive review. Be strong, and keep you emotions in check. Don’t argue – note where what you hear diverges from your reality, and ask to review those sections. Be dispassionate, not defensive.

9. The Budget Review Meeting

Another essential meeting, and one which should go smoothly if you’re prepared. If it’s an internal meeting, have your numbers crunched in advance. Ask for what you need but don’t pad too much. If it’s a budget review with a client, be realistic. Look at what you really need for budget to service the client properly, have your rationale, and ask for an appropriate budget. Don’t be defensive or uncertain. If you can’t add, bring a calculator or a colleague who didn’t flunk math three times.

10. The (Insert Year) Planning Meeting

Yes, you really do need to do an annual plan, even though chances are things will change. This is the meeting where you should bring your vision for what should be, strategies that will support the vision and tactics that will get you there. If there isn’t an agenda available in advance, bring a straw-man. And have last year’s plan as reference. Gosh – remember when companies did five year plans? At least those days are over.

11. The Industry Conference

If you’re sent to a conference or trade show, you’ve been sent to a meeting, just with another set of people. Behave well. Don’t get drunk and throw up on an industry analyst’s shoes. Know the company messaging. Know the competitors. Don’t tick off a potential customer, and don’t eye the gal or guy at the next booth. Especially in Vegas.

12. Any Company Party

Yet another dangerous meeting. The goal here should be to do no damage to your reputation. Dress appropriately, don’t get outrageously drunk, and say thank you. Remember management thinks these parties are a good thing, and they also think you should enjoy them and be grateful. Don’t smirk or scowl. Try to get into the spirit of the thing. If you bring your spouse or partner, remind him or her not to say snide things to the boss’s partner. Smile. It won’t kill you, and you might actually enjoy yourself. It could happen.
 

What meetings seem most risky to you, and how do you handle yourself?

 

 
Photo courtesy of garryknight. Used under creative commons, some rights reserved.

Meghan M. Biro

http://www.meghanmbiro.com/

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized leader in talent strategy and a pioneer in building the business case for brand humanization. Founder of TalentCulture and a serial entrepreneur, Meghan creates successful ventures by navigating the complexities of career and workplace branding. In her practice as a social recruiter and strategist, Meghan has placed hundreds of individuals with clients ranging from Fortune 500s to the most innovative software start-up companies in the world, including Google, Microsoft and emerging companies in the social technology and media marketplace. Meghan is an accomplished consultant who has helped hundreds of individuals in all levels in the organization (V,C level executives, mid-career, mid-level managers, software architects and recent college graduates) and across generations (Gen Y to baby boomers), develop effective career strategies that propel them to achieve personal and professional success. Meghan is a speaker, practitioner, author, blogger and mentor who is passionate about the subjects of leadership, recruiting, workplace culture, social community, branding, and social media in HR. She is Founder and co-host of two Twitter Chats: "#TChat, The World of Work", a long-standing weekly chat and radio show and #HRTechChat, both communities dedicated to addressing the business needs of the rapidly evolving people-technology landscape. Meghan is an avid social community builder who is inspired by connecting the people and talent dots. Meghan is a regular columnist at Forbes and Glassdoor and her ideas are often quoted, featured on top publications such as CBS Moneywatch, Monster, Dice and various other HR, Social Media and Leadership hubs of your choice.

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20 comments
TWFAccess
TWFAccess

@MeghanMBiro You are always worth a RT! #Love your work! #SmartTweep! #FF

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@HollyHM2 Thank you Holly. How did you find that lil #career #sm nugget? ;-) Thursday cheers.

WineEveryday
WineEveryday

Great article Meghan,

Today I participated in #2, #3 & #4

In #2, I was met with excuses as to why their end of the project is behind schedule. A waste of my time.

In #3, I was met with 'I don't know's & I'll get back to you', Another waste of my time.

In #4, Where I was the client, it started on time, we stayed on topic, I made final decisions on the project, and upon adjournment, immediately sent an e-mail follow up on what was decided.

Obviously, it's the people that make the meeting a failure or a success. Folks need to step up their game and approach the meeting with the goal of solutions.

This article will be circulated in my office tomorrow! Thanks for the post

ValueIntoWords
ValueIntoWords

Hi Meghan,

Superior post! ... and one that resonates with this meeting-averse gal here in Texas! I prefer well-plotted, meaningfully timed and purposeful meetings between a handful of folks who want to leave with a sense of traction. This is my ideal world! I really like what Margie Clayman said: " I think a lot of people approach meetings the same way they approach sporting events. They need to "win." They need to talk the most or the loudest or the smartest." <-- unfortunately, this is SO true. But on the flip side, as you mentioned in your post, if a savvy facilitator, leader, someone able to effectively 'lead' the meeting shepherds a committed group to solve a problem / advance the company, then the meeting has been successful. And, with this adept facilitation, all folks are heard versus a loud, dominant few who cannot leave their egos in check : )

One thing I notice about you, Meghan, is that you exhibit such leadership traits in your social media, TalentCulture, #TChat, and #TChat radio initiatives. As well, your one-on-one, brief, to-the-point and focused Skype calls are effective, ironing out ideas and moving our projects and goals forward. Keep 'showing' what good leadership 'looks' like, and others will continue to follow your lead (I hope!).

Cheers,

Jacqui

MZazeela
MZazeela

Meghan,

Sounds like the ideal meeting situations. Sadly, there are few that are so well organized. I propose a meeting to discuss having fewer meetings.

Marc

BruceSallan
BruceSallan

I read Dilbert and get all my business knowledge there - they never have any of these meetings! Lol...

TheOneCrystal
TheOneCrystal

Love it! I'd round out the 12 most as a baker's dozen with this 13th meeting: the "Drop-In Meeting." You know, where your colleague, boss, whomever just needs to 'pop in' for a quick minute or two ... which becomes an hour or two of lost productivity. We've all had 'those meetings.' Personally, I've found setting a quick outlook calendar reminder with an audible alarm for 10 min works well; if it is an important subject that you've not finished yet? You can always 'snooze it;' but it helps you keep track of time.

Great post!

catykobe
catykobe

Great post Meghan! I love it!

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV

This post is so relevant - I have for so long discussed how Meetings are perhaps one of the biggest problems in business. Rather than actively accomplishing something we sit in meetings. Not a great way to get things done!

chattyprof
chattyprof

This post has so much to teach students about the realities of meetings that occur in most professional environments. I would like to throw in one more that pops up all the time in higher ed: The ad-hoc committee meeting. Here's how that goes: Someone on campus has an idea for a new initiative. Admin won't commit to a decision until more information is attained. How does the new information come about? Throw interested parties on an ad-hoc committee. Have them meet three to ten times, volley around the idea and try to secure more facts about it, then report their findings to admin. Admin determines that the information poses more questions than answers. Yet another ad-hoc committee may need to form or the original ad-hoc committee continues to meet for an undefined period of time. Still, decisions are delayed... possibly forever. I have a feeling that the ad-hoc committee meetings are not limited to academic, but they are sure alive and well there :-). Ellen Bremen, M.A. @chattyprof

margieclayman
margieclayman

Hi Meghan,

I may or may not be familiar with the majority of the meeting types you reference here, and I may or may not agree that yes, many dangers of many kinds lurk in these kinds of people gatherings!

I think a lot of people approach meetings the same way they approach sporting events. They need to "win." They need to talk the most or the loudest or the smartest.

As an agency, we find ourselves listening at our meetings more than talking. Sure, we present ideas and plans and things like that, but we can't do that until we've listened REALLY carefully to what our clients are experiencing.

Thanks for a great post!

HollyHM2
HollyHM2

@meghanmbiro Morning Meghan & my pleasure! "How did I find it?" Hmm...probably exploring @12most blog - one of my favorites ;)

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@catykobe Hi there Caty! Glad you enjoyed the read.

PS: Is this my talented friend from #TChat Radio and #FocusHR ? I demand to see your avatar. Smiles. We should do a future show and chat on this very topic. Meetings are a reality in every style of workplace culture. No reason why we cant have some fun with them!

Latest blog post: Create an Unsinkable Resume

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@danielnewmanUV Thanks for the feedback Dan! There is not enough time in the day for all these "important" workplace "gatherings"....

The MEETING for the a sake of a MEETING ;-) Enough already! We should think of a new system for those of us who yearn for something else. Baby steps....I will continue the conversation here.

Latest blog post: Create an Unsinkable Resume

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@chattyprof Thank you much! Ellen. Appreciate you sharing insight with me. I'm just back from vacation so forgive my delay in responding to you. Always enjoy reading your posts.

Good to hear. This is precisely my point. It's so key for students, people in every career path to understand that meetings in a professional workplace culture simply HAPPEN ;-) For better or worse. Ad Hoc - Yes! So important to remember that new ideas, initiatives need room to take flight too. I want to hear more input on how can mesh the academic and corporate cultures - it's entirely relevant. Meetings will continue....

Latest blog post: Create an Unsinkable Resume

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

@margieclayman Hi Margie! Very welcome. Glad to be part of this awesome community. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint with me. Friday Cheers in your direction too!

I'm at a point where it's time to evaluate meetings for the sake of meetings. I see far too much of this. Some days it feels like a royal waste of time for all involved. You begin to wonder if there is a better way. I do a lot of listening in my role as well. No question meetings can be just like a sporting event. Funny analogy!

Ah--the need to WIN! Wonderful insight. Are people just talking over one another to have the most brillaint last word? We ponder on....

Latest blog post: Create an Unsinkable Resume

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