13 Ways to Have a Bad Meeting


I’m thinking about writing a book about technical project meetings at software companies and ways I’ve found to make them better. To see if I have enough to work with I’m going to kick off a series of blog posts exploring different aspects of meetings based on my experiences.

If you see something I’ve missed or you think I should address, I’d value your comment.

If you’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of attending any of the meetings I facilitate–tell me the techniques I used that you thought were effective and those that weren’t.

Feel free to use a fake name if revealing your name would put you in a compromising position.

On with thirteen ways to have a bad meeting

1. Invite anyone that wants to come or is remotely connected to the topic or might need to know about the topic.

2. Invite the wrong people.

3. Never tell someone they can’t attend your meeting or need to stop coming.

4. Don’t share or prepare an agenda in advance.

5. Don’t document anything that happens at the meeting. Just assume that everyone has a good memory and will remember the outcome of the discussion and what needs to happen next.

6. Hold a status meeting that could have been done by email . Go around in a circle to learn about what what each person is working on while everyone else does something else or furiously prepares for their turn.

7. Ignore the clock. Don’t set an end time or time-box particular topics. Just talk and talk until you all feel like you are done.

8. Surprise the attendees by dropping a bomb on the meeting with a large or controversial topic nobody has had time to think about or prepare for. Bonus points for dropping it ten minutes before the top of the hour when everone has to run to another meeting.

9. As the faciliator, surrender the meeting to the strongest personalities in the room and let them drive the flow of discussion.

10. Never ask what the next steps are towards solving a complicated problem or who owns resolving it.

11. Meet because “we’ve always met.” It’s more important to maintain tradition.

12. Tell someone “it’s okay” when they’ve repeatedly missed their deliverables or often arrive late, disrupting the meeting.

13. As the faciliator, never ask the attendees for their honest feedback (publicly or privately) about how your meetings could be better or more valuable.

Now it’s your turn. What else should be on this list?

YAYOG Builds Muscle and Confidence

One of the things I love about You Are Your Own Gym (YAYOG) is that it doesn’t throw you in the deep end.  Yes, some of the initial work outs are hard and it maybe difficult to complete all of the repetitions, but keep trying and showing up, even if you can’t hit all the repetitions or feel like you don’t have the right form.

After approximately the first three weeks I saw how all the different exercises were starting to kick in to make other exercises easier and stronger than they had before.  A great example is push-ups.  There are programs out there for “getting to 100 pushups.”  I’m not knocking those programs–they probably work, but if you’re like me and you’re not that naturally active or you’re getting older you might not have all the muscles needed to support doing those pushups.  Yes, you can brute force your way to getting to 100 pushups, but what I like about YAYOG is that everything feels like it is building on each other.

The program doesn’t just build muscle in one place, it builds muscle everywhere in ways that add more support to simple exercises like pushups.  I think this is a smarter way to go because it also lessens the chance of injury.  I also recommend the five minute video warm-up routine.

I was doing a set of stappers where there were six elevated push-ups as part of the sequence.  At the end of the eight weeks I felt a ton stronger than when I started.  It was amazing how easy those six pushups were–so I did twenty instead–and they all felt strong.  That’s doing 4 or 5 workouts a week and never spending more than 36 min on any particular workout–wherever you are, no gym required!

One Foot In Front of the Other

One foot in front of another pictureSome days it’s the best and the only thing you can do. That’s okay. Just make sure you show up tomorrow too.

Regarding Nothing

Seeing “regards” as the close to an email or letter bugs me.  Iit doesn’t make any sense and we wouldn’t say it in regular conversation as some kind of good bye. Some of my other despised favorites: “kind regards” or “warm regards.”

I wouldn’t say “regards” in any form to anyone in parting and no one ever says it to me. So why do people write it to each other?

Regards strikes me as cold, distant, and unfeeling and it isn’t easily changed with a modifier like “warm” or “kind.”

If you’re going to close with “regards” just don’t have a close and end with your name. It’s better to have nothing. Regards is a throw away phrase.

You don’t have to have a close. Only include one if you really mean it, not because you feel like you have to.  Otherwise it’s awkward for everyone involved.

A good article in Slate called You Say “Best.” I Say No. It’s time to kill the email signoff, agrees.

Just Show Up

Show up every day
A project I’ve been following since Tiny Startup Camp is Fizzle.co. They have a podcast I highly recommend and just the other day I saw this good post about “showing up.”

It’s made all the difference in my work out program with You Are Your Own Gym. A lot of days I don’t feel like doing the work outs and yet I remind myself, “All I have to do is just show up and do the routine it says to.” I’ve been at it for almost twelve months now (not counting the month or so I took off because of an injury) and the benefits are becoming more and more pronounced–mainly reducing the size of the “banker’s belly” (too many deposits and not enough withdrawls).

There is so much to be said for “just showing up” because it is so easy not to.

“Everything changes when we stop thinking about how to get ahead or skip steps, and focus instead on building consistent, repetitive creative habits.”

There’s also a good quote from Jerry Seinfeld which I heard in a good interview over on Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin.  Everyone talks about how what a good podcast Here’s the Thing is, and it is.  Alec is hilarious and goofs around with the guests and is very curious interviewer.