Do Your Meetings Suck? How do You Know?Raise your hand if you’re an above average driver. According to the American Automobile Association, 73% of drivers feel they’re better than average — a statistical impossibility.

How’s your meeting leadership? You likely feel that many meetings you attend suck. That’s because…many do. Too often meetings suck time and energy out of everyone. And most meeting leaders are blissfully ignorant about how wasteful attendees feel their meetings are. How do you know what attendees think of your meetings?

This month’s Harvard Business Review features an article by Steven Rogelberg, professor and author of a new book on the science of meetings. In “Why Your Meetings Stink — And What to Do About It,” he reports that 8 out of the average 23 hours a week executives spend in meetings are unproductive. That’s a day a week wasted! That truly sucks.

Are you contributing to meeting madness? Rogelberg reports a survey of managers showed they feel that 79% of the meetings they drive are extremely or very productive. But, they report, that just over half the meetings they attended as passengers are as effective as their own. So many managers are driving their meeting attendees crazy with mediocre meetings while believing “I am not the problem, they are.”

Here’s a big clue about what’s going on:  Rogelberg cites research showing that “the attendees who are the most active are the ones who feel that meetings are the most effective and satisfying. And who typically talks the most? The leader.”

Rogelberg’s solution for boosting meeting effectiveness:

  • Assessment — reflecting on meeting effectiveness right after the meeting, regularly checking in with participants, and getting candid feedback.
  • Preparation — what are your meeting goals, process, and agenda?
  • Facilitation — set and follow meeting ground rules (such as distracting screen time), asking more questions, fostering true debates, agenda time management, polling the group live or with technology, and “brainwriting” rather than brainstorming conversations. Click on “moose hunting” for an example of those last two suggestions.

I continue to be astounded and mystified why so many leaders accept poorly run, time-sucking meetings as if it’s an unavoidable price of doing business. The only explanation seems to be ignorance — of their own meeting leadership effectiveness and that meetings can be soooo MUCH better. Rogelberg points out that 75% of managers responding to a survey said they had no training in how to run a meeting. So, they don’t know what they don’t know about meeting effectiveness.

Meeting misery or mastery depends on the leader. I’ve been beating the meeting drum so long my arm’s getting sore. If you suspect you might be able to improve how you drive meetings, do a self-assessment with our Ten Essential Vitamins to Avoid Meeting Indigestion or these meeting process and ground rules checklists. Better yet, get your attendees to rate your meeting effectiveness.

You might find the chart showing how meetings showcase organizational culture useful. Are your meetings symptomatic of deeper team and organizational issues?

Be part of the solution, not the problem. Straighten up and drive right.