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Don’t Run Your Meeting Like My Dad

January 13, 2017

We sat there. . .waiting. And if you were late, woe is you. We were never late.

The smells from the homecooked meal wafted up from the steaming dishes tempting our resolve.

But, we waited: my mother, my brothers, my sister and me. . .waiting.

My dad was always the last to arrive. Once he arrived, we could eat.

I’ve been in meetings that remind me of my early dinner memories. You don’t start before the boss shows up and he’s going to make an entrance. I’ve never understood the desire to attempt to exert influence by making people wait. I understand that people do it, but I’ve never understood why. Maybe they don’t realize what they are doing. It’s hard to imagine, but a healthy ego and a lack of social awareness could lead you to being oblivious that you’re wasting people’s time.

I went to a convention one time with my friend Tim. Tim was celiac. He couldn’t eat gluten, found in most flour. So, when it was time to eat, he had a special meal ordered. We were eating in the convention hall and it was a pseudo-catered event. The meals, excepting those for people like my friend, were all the same, but waiters brought them to our table and served us.

At our table, the waiters brought everyone a plate except for Tim. We understood that his, being a special order, would take longer. So, we waited, because that’s what you do. Tim was telling a funny anecdote. And we waited. The punchline was pithy and dry in a Scottish sense of humor way. And we waited.

Finally, Tim clued in to the fact that no one at the table was eating.

Why is no one eating?

We were waiting for your food to arrive before we start.

Oh, please! Eat! Don’t wait on me.

And we ate.

Maybe the chronically late managers are like my friend Tim on that one occasion. Maybe they don’t see it.

Maybe.

When I ran meetings, I typically had an agenda and the meeting couldn’t start before I arrived. At one point I was managing both a team of email engineers and a team of Microsoft SharePoint engineers. I had to figure out how to avoid wasting their time. The SharePoint guys didn’t really care about the email issues. The email guys didn’t care about SharePoint. I cared about both. The solution was to hold a 90 minute meeting. The first 30 minutes was devoted to email issues. The middle thirty was combined issues. The last 30 was dedicated to SharePoint. The email guys stayed for the first 60 minutes, the SharePoint guys for the last 60.

What it really meant was that I, as the leader ended up in 90 minutes of meetings. And that’s the point, the leader should be inconvenienced for the team, not the other way around.

Now that I’m the dad, we’ve adopted a different family tradition. My grandmother, my father’s mom, used to “wait” in her own special way.

We will wait for you. . .like one pig waits for another.

I’m not sure how grandma would run a meeting, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t make everyone wait until she arrived.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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