Yes, I Declined Your Meeting!

Meetings.  In my role, I’m in meetings 70% of my day, most of which I schedule.  These include status updates, decision making, following up on an action, or just planning out a near-term deliverable.  Each meeting has a reason for taking place, a goal to accomplish and points to cover at the time of creating.  I hold myself to a very high standard when it comes to meetings because if not planned well, they’re a huge waste of time and causes frustration.

Because I host and go to so many meetings, I’ve developed a bit of an anger issue for those invites I receive that don’t have a purpose or agenda.  Usually, they don’t tell me anything at all what the focus is.  So, I decline them with the response “Too vague; what are we going to accomplish?”  Below is a discussion I recently had with someone where I declined their meeting request:

  • Person: Why did you decline my meeting?
  • Me: There was no agenda or purpose.
  • Person: Didn’t the meeting title cover it?
  • Me: That’s a pretty broad topic that can go 100 directions, and usually does.  I need more detail so I can come prepared.
  • Person: Aren’t you supposed to be prepared for anything?
  • Me: Yes, but unless everyone knows what we’re going to talk about and what goal we’re trying to accomplish, it’s a waste of time.  We’ll spin our wheels.  Again.  Besides, this was covered weeks ago in the last meeting you called.
  • Person: [snarky] Why don’t you run it then?  Obviously you got a handle on things!
  • Me: Gladly.

Meetings are only as good as the results they produce, so going into them prepared is critical to achieving meaningful output.  Below are the rules I have to running meetings.  Though there are more, these are the more “common sense” items:

  • Have a clear meeting title
  • Have the goal/purpose of the meeting clearly stated
  • An agenda – sounds simple but missed most of the time (can be omitted if there is a clear goal or purpose and there’s not a lot of different topics)
  • Start and end on time
  • Yell bullshit if someone goes on a tangent; parking lot anything not contributing to the meeting’s goal
  • Document decisions/actions and route to everyone
  • If you see the meeting is getting forwarded, remove unwanted guests and confront the person forwarding

Meetings.  You’re going to have them.  You can’t always control the meetings you’re invited to, but you can control the meetings you host.  By doing a little prep work, you can create the best results in the time the group is together.

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