8 Meeting Commandments that we all Need to Follow

This post recently appeared on SmartBlog on Leadership:

We all like to complain about meetings. Meetings are a waste
of time, boring, inefficient, run too long, nothing gets accomplished, etc.,
etc., etc. Complaining is easy, but never makes things better.

The solution to bad meetings? How about a day of meeting
training? How about if we improve our meeting process? Maybe it’s the leader’s
fault, and
need to learn how to run better meetings
. Their agendas are too long, or
they don’t know how to facilitate a discussion. Maybe it’s the uncomfortable
chairs or the cramped, smelly dark room, or the bagels are stale.

While any or all of those reasons can result in a bad
meetings perhaps the one thing we have the most control over fixing is our own
meeting behavior.

Maybe, just maybe, if we all did an honest self-assessment
of our meeting behaviors and upped our own game the time we spend in meetings
might get better.

Here’s 8 things that anyone can do or stop doing to make
meetings a little more tolerable, and maybe even more productive!

1. Show up on time.
Showing up on time is probably the easiest thing to take responsibility for and
fix, yet it has remained on the list of annoying meeting behaviors since the
dawn of time, when cavemen would go hungry because their tribe mates arrived
late for the wooly mammoth hunt.  I
sometimes wonder if people think they look more important when they arrive
late? It’s as if their time is more important than anyone else’s, or they are
busier than everyone else. In fact, what it really does is delay the start of
the meeting, waste the time of others in getting them caught up, makes them
look stupid when they try to contribute and they missed an important
information at the beginning of the meeting, and shows a lack of respect for
the meeting leader and everyone else. If you are arriving late for meetings
more often than not, then do yourself and everyone else a favor and make a resolution
to leave 10 minutes earlier for every meeting until your curb the bad habit.
2. Keep your status
updates brief, to the point, and upbeat
. Status updates are a regular
agenda item for most meetings. Don’t be “that guy” who consistently takes way more
time than everyone else and drones and whines on and on about every little
detail of their work. Prior to the meeting, jot down a few items to share that
would be of interest to everyone in attendance. Keep it to 2-3 minutes tops.
Offer to go first, that way, you set the example and pace for everyone else.
Put some enthusiasm in your updates, even a little humor, and it will raise the
energy level and lighten the mood.

3. Pay attention to
your body language.
Next time you go to a meeting, try observing the body
language of everyone around the room. Are they paying attention, making eye
contact, leaning forward, and taking notes? Or are they slumped in their chair,
rolling their eyes, checking their emails, or daydreaming? Great meetings are
all about the collective energy level of every single person in the room. Your
appearance can add energy or can suck the life out of the room. Others will
feed off you, either in a positive or negative way.

4. Stop with the side
When someone else is talking or presenting, seeing someone make a
side comment to their neighbor can be incredibly distracting and annoying. You
wonder what they are saying and usually assume the worst. If you have something
important to say, then wait for the appropriate time and say it to everyone.
The same goes for texting – it’s childish and rude.

5. No hand grenades.
A meeting hand grenade is when someone has to leave the meeting early, or the
meeting is just about to end, and they toss an incredibly complex issue on the
table or say something controversial or rude without leaving time for anyone to
respond. If you’re going to bring someone like that up, consult with the
meeting leader ahead of time and ask to include it on the agenda with ample
time to address it.

6. Add value. If
you are invited to a meeting, then you are not only there to soak up everyone
else’s contributions – you are expected to add value. Set a goal to make at
least one constructive contribution to every meeting. Suggest a solution to a
problem, offer to take an action item, support one of your co-worker’s ideas, or
ask an intelligent question.

7. Come prepared and
follow-up on your commitments
. This one is my personal pet peeve. When we
all leave a meeting with action items, there is an expectation that everyone
comes to the next meeting with completed homework assignments. When the same
person either consistently “forgets” their assignment, makes lame excuses, or
tries to b.s. their way through, I want to reach across the table and slap
them. Don’t make your responsible co-workers want to slap you – keep your

8. Bring food.
When all else fails, bring yummy snacks to your meetings. Your co-workers will
thank-you and maybe even cut you some slack for occasionally violating any of
the above commandments. Don’t be that little piggy who devours everyone’s
else’s goodies but never contributes anything.

If everyone followed all of these commandments, our time
spent in meetings way less painful and we might even get some real work done.
Then we’d have to find something else to complain about, like performance