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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
HomeBusinessProgress Despite, Not Because Of Meetings?

Progress Despite, Not Because Of Meetings?

As we witness the upcoming elections in Cook, Lake, and St. Louis counties, it’s worth con­sidering the workload of the average elected county com­missioner, as detailed on the Cook County website. These elected commissioners are tasked with serving on over 40 different boards, commit­tees, and state or regional peer groups. This multitude of com­mitments demands a signifi­cant amount of time dedicated to preparing for, attending, and following up on meetings each month.

According to Work Life, an online publication of Atlassian, a global software company, meetings are ineffective 72% of the time. Three out of every four meetings do not achieve their intended goals and proba­bly should not take place.

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the way we hold meetings. The ubiquitous Zoom app has become our vir­tual meeting room, connecting attendees from the comfort of home, their car, or their office. But these Zoom meetings ar­en’t what they used to be.

A recent article in Axios by Emily Peck says workers are “zoning out in meetings.”

Peck’s reporting shows, “In 2023, the share of workers who stayed muted for the en­tirety of a meeting was 7.2%, up from 4.8% in 2022.” She writes that workers attend­ed 10.1 virtual meetings each week in 2023, higher than in 2021 when the number was 8.3 and more employees were working from home.

Work Life says its research shows that the meeting culture at most organizations makes it harder for work teams and boards to reach positive goals. They report five areas of meet­ing culture that explain why three out of four meetings ar­en’t effective.

1. One or a small group of people dominate the con­versation. If attendees struggle to contribute, their participation is negligible and their interest wanes.

2. Too often, people leave a meeting with no idea what to expect next. Decisions aren’t made, and nobody knows what’s expected of them.

3. Repetition of a position or announcement more than a couple of times is tedious, leading people to disen­gage and sneak in other work during meetings.

4. Meetings that serve only to communicate informa­tion that could have been shared better by email are irritating and can lead to people disengaging from the entire meeting process.

5. A meeting without a clear agenda and a clearly stated purpose lacks focus, even if it is a regularly scheduled staff, committee, or board meeting. Discussion has no direction, no conclusion, and leaves no action that is to take place.

Meetings are like advertis­ing. John Wanamaker died over a century ago. According to Wikipedia, he is considered by some to be a proponent of advertising and a “pioneer in marketing.” He said, “I know half my advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.”

The same could be said about meetings.

If Work Life is right, three-quarters of meetings ar­en’t necessary. The challenge is to find out which ones are.

As for meetings in particular, Thomas Sowell, an economist, social philosopher, and politi­cal commentator, said, “People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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