The 15 Signs You Are Running Bad Meetings

15 Signs You Are Running Bad Meetings

Are your meetings as effective as you think they are?

Too often leaders think they are doing great with their meetings – only to find out later that their team has quite a different viewpoint.

While the best way to find out how effective your meetings are is to ask your team, here are some signs you can look at to see if you are running bad meetings (or not as effective as they could be).

1. Your meetings are seen as a drudgery

Sometimes we may think that it’s normal to think of meetings as drudgery, so we don’t think much about it. But meetings don’t have to be drudgery.

In fact, they shouldn’t be. They should be seen as useful and effective.

If your team sees them as drudgery, that’s a good sign you need to do something about your meetings.

But also look at yourself. How do you view the meetings? Do you see them as drudgery?

If you think and treat meetings as a waste of time that has to happen, it will affect how you run the meeting and the attitudes of your team as well.

2. Your team is disengaged or “checked out”

How engaged is your team in your meetings?

Are they actively participating, making comments, and sharing viewpoints and disagreements?

Do they give you and the meeting their full attention?

Do they see the meeting as a priority?

Or are they disengaged? Do you do most of the talking and your team just sits there passively?

Or are they constantly looking around the room, at their phones, or at their laptops?

If your team isn’t engaged, that’s a good sign that your meetings are ineffective.

3. You have too many people in your meetings

Bad Meetings - You have too many people in your meetings

Sometimes we include too many people in our meetings because we want to be “inclusive” or we don’t want anyone to feel slighted for not being invited.

The problem is, the more people there are, the less productive your meeting will likely be. Decisions will be harder to be discussed and made.

Certain viewpoints will be less likely spoken, especially if a few dominate the meeting. And taking time to get everyone to speak up can make the meeting last LONG.

You will also have a lot more people disengaged and doing what is called “social loafing”. They will just check out and let others do the talking.

Too many people could be making your meetings ineffective.

(Tips: only have those who need to be at the meeting; gather input from others earlier; give updates to those who want it; include people only in the parts of the meeting that apply to them).

4. You are constantly chasing rabbits during the meeting (you are constantly off-topic)

One sign you’re running bad meetings is when you are constantly off-topic. You’re chasing rabbits.

You start discussing one issue, but then you or someone else goes off on a tangent. Then you and your team jump on another tangent based on that one.

Before you know it, the planned meeting time is over, and you’ve only covered a small part of what you intended to.

5. People are frequently late (and you frequently start late)

If people are constantly late, even when you are still starting on time, that’s a good sign people aren’t finding your meeting important.

If you are constantly starting the meeting late waiting on people, that’s not a good sign either. When you do that, you are being disrespectful to those who are on time, and as long as you wait, they will always be late.

6. You do most of the talking

If you are doing all or most of the talking, that’s a good sign your meetings are not productive.

Generally, as a leader, you want to listen more than you speak. You want to hear other people’s input and viewpoints.

You want to hear other ideas to find the best idea.

If you are doing all the talking, it’s also a sign that your people are disengaged, just passively participating, or don’t feel safe enough speaking up.

7. Only a few people talk

Bad Meetings - Only a few people talk

The most effective meetings are where everyone is speaking and participating.

What happens all too often, though, is that just one or two (or a few) speak up, talk, and dominate. They may even cut others off to give the point they want to argue.

The others just sit back and let them talk, either because it’s easier or comfortable or because they know they can’t really get a word in with the others constantly moving their lips.

8. There’s me vs you mentality

You and your team should be unified around a central goal and mission. Everyone has their own ideas and input, but you are united around a common purpose.

What happens often, though, is that there is no central unifying purpose, or people aren’t focused on it.

They are about their department, their agenda, and what they think works best – not the unifying purpose.

It becomes a you versus me mentality, not working together, but competing with each other for resources and more.

If your team has this mentality, that’s a bad sign.

9. Everyone focuses on defending their ideas vs finding the best idea

Similarly, we can often start attaching ideas to ourselves. If someone points out a fault with or disagrees with your idea, it’s not just your idea they are finding fault with, they are finding fault with you.

That’s a dangerous mentality, but it happens so often.

When that happens, people aren’t about the best idea and finding the best idea, they are about pushing and defending their idea.

If this happens a lot in your meetings, that’s a sign.

10. There are unhealthy conflicts and behaviors

You want healthy conflict.

You want people to disagree, argue, and discuss alternative viewpoints.

However, you want the disagreement to be task-oriented – about ideas and the best ways to do things  – not relationship oriented – attacking the people themselves.

If it becomes nasty, attacking one another, putting down one another versus disagreeing with ideas but still treating one another with respect, that’s a bad sign.

11. The meetings take way longer than they should

The meetings take way longer than they should

If your meetings often run over time or take way longer than they should, that’s not good.

It either means you don’t stay on topic very well, you didn’t prepare well, or you didn’t plan the time needed for the discussion well.

Granted, there are times when topics take longer than we think. That’s okay.

But if you are constantly late or don’t get to topics because of poor preparation, planning, or being off-topic, that’s a bad sign.

12. You never get to some of the topics you need to discuss

If you never get to some of your most important topics for the meeting, you didn’t plan or run the meeting well.

Ideally, you should prioritize the most important topics first. Sometimes we put them in the middle or end, and we don’t get to them.

Or we allow too much time on certain topics (or chase rabbits) and don’t get to the others that we need to.

If this happens consistently, that’s a bad sign.

13. Nobody disagrees with you (or anyone else)

If everyone is afraid to disagree with you, that’s not good. You want disagreement. You want alternative viewpoints.

If people are afraid to speak up, they don’t feel psychologically safe. It could be they fear your response to their disagreement.

If that’s the case, you need to examine how you’ve been coming across.

It could also be they fear disagreeing with others. If the environment is one of hostility, where people make fun of or put down other people and their ideas (and you’ve allowed that), then people won’t speak up.

And, because of that, poor decisions will be made. It will hurt you, your team, and your company.

14. Consensus is your goal (you push for consensus)

If you stifle dissent or disagreement because you want people to “get along” or to bring “consensus”, all you are doing is hurting yourself and the company.

Consensus isn’t good. You don’t want everyone to agree. You don’t want groupthink. That’s how terrible decisions are made.

You want disagreement.

Even when the decision is made, it’s okay if not everyone agrees mentally as long as, once the decision is made, they agree with their actions and work toward it.

Listen to our podcast: Episode 11: Why You Don’t Want Consensus

15. Your team comes to the next meeting with nothing done

If your team comes to the next meeting with nothing done, then it’s a good sign that information wasn’t clear at the end of the last meeting.

It could be that you didn’t clarify at the end to make sure everyone was on the same page.

It could be that you didn’t make sure everyone knew who was responsible for what and by when. If you just said, “We need to get this done”, then it makes sense that no one did it because no one was responsible for it.

You want to make sure everyone is clear, especially at the end of meetings, otherwise, there’s a good chance nothing will get done.

Signs You Are Running Bad Meetings (The Conclusion)

If you recognize these signs in your meetings, don’t fret. Just work on doing it better.

Everything is a process, especially leadership, so just keep growing, learning, and getting better.

If you want to learn how to run more effective meetings, check out this article on 15 tips for better meetings.

Do you have any other signs? Let us know in the comments below.

You can find more related articles here.


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