The Monday morning meeting. A place where tedium rules and dreams go to die. Your co-workers shuffle in, coffee cups firmly gripped, bracing for the one way conversation that is about to take place.
But it isn’t just the team leaders fault; everyone is complicit. The request for input or questions is greeted with a table full of blank stares. Communication is a two way street and everyone has a responsibility to make that work.
On-board an offshore vessel we conduct a meeting at the change of watch, at 1130 and 2330 every day. This is typically called a Safety Meeting, Pre-Tower Meeting, or Tool Box Talk. Everybody who is going on shift gathers and the plan for the coming shift is reviewed. Work permits are assigned, lessons learned are discussed, and safety related issues are brought to the fore front.
The risk with this meeting, especially on an extended job where the same task has been ongoing for weeks, is that the repetitiveness begins to eat away at people. Supervisors have no fresh input so end up repeating what the last person said, and the workers use the forum to gripe. Then just as you think it’s done, the Safety Officer stands up to tell adults how to properly walk when holding a coffee cup.
These meetings can go another direction though. The very best I’ve ever seen were high energy, collaborative, informative, and no longer than necessary. They reminded me of a football locker room at half time, complete with jumping around.
If it’s a waste of time, why do we keep doing it?
The reason for hosting meetings of any sort is to exchange knowledge and ideas, and to ensure that the companies vision is being carried out, as measured by goals achieved. The issues arise when something is missing, either through the leaders inability to properly control the meeting or by the attendees poor attitude. Often a bit of both.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani is best known for turning New York city around in the 90’s. During his tenure as Mayor the crime rate was drastically reduced, jobs were created, and the City once again became a world class destination. His methods also allowed for a rapid and effective emergency response following the terrible acts on September 11th, 2001.
One of the linchpins of his success was the morning meetings that he famously implemented when he took office. First thing in the morning he would meet with all of his top staff, who were in charge of running the cities various departments – police, fire, social work, etc. But rather than become an episode in one way communication, each member was expected to share the status of their departments, or areas.
In this way problems could be identified and action plans developed. If a problem was reported in some area on Monday, the Mayor expected answers on Tuesday. The participation of all members was ensured, as everybody involved were held accountable for their departments. When the meeting was over, each department head would then go and spread the contents of the meeting to their staff, as they saw fit.
The right people in the right place
If your meetings are being met with plenty of blank stares and uncomfortable silences, consider that you may not have the right people attending. Rather than bring the whole team in to every discussion try instead to have each of the section leaders present, then have them spread the message through their organizations.
And hold them accountable for it.
A premise of *Clear Communication is that people need to be kept informed. Does everybody onboard a ship need to know what is occurring with the project? Of course. Do they all need to be told at the same time. No. Especially with very large crews.
Not keeping the right people informed is the biggest cause of miscommunication. If you don’t share your expectations how do you expect them to be carried out?
By clearly stating your expectations to a select number of people your message is sure to be properly shared.
Especially if those same people are held accountable for it’s delivery.
How do you feel about meetings? Key to success or waste of time?