1. Agendas are important. Sticking to them are even more so. I want a well-composed agenda. I want to know when we're starting and, more importantly, when we're ending. When I download my agendas for the following day, I want to know what I should be prepared to discuss. No surprises, please.
2. I like you, but I don't care about your dog. Personal chat should be reserved for before or after the meeting. While I am thrilled that you have a new grandchild, please don't tell me stories about him or her while I'm in a meeting. Even worse, don't pass around photos. Stay on topic.
3. If you're running a meeting, don't have handouts. We live in a digital world. There should be absolutely no reason why anything should be handed out at a meeting. I want information well ahead of time, in digital format. Sometimes there are last-minute things that need to be discussed and I get that. But if you're reviewing a budget, I'm pretty sure you didn't just create it an hour before the meeting. I want to come into that meeting having reviewed everything we're going to be covering. However, if you're smart and you're running the meeting, having 1 or 2 copies of each item is a good idea, in the event somebody can't access the information.
4. If you're a participant, that role does not start at the beginning of the meeting. Please don't waste everyone's time. When the information is pushed out (preferably way ahead of time), it is your responsibility to review it and make sure you understand it. If you don't, do some research and ask questions beforehand.
5. Turn off your damned phone. Unless you're an open heart surgeon, nothing is so important that you can't turn your ringer off. Seriously.
6. Calculate the expense. I find myself doing this all the time. When looking around the table, figure out how much this meeting is actually costing - in terms of employee salaries and benefits. Is what you have to say important enough that it is worth $50? $100? Depending on who is at the table, a meeting could cost THOUSANDS of dollars.
7. Breaks are stupid. I get it...people need to stretch and get a drink and use the restroom. Do we really ALL need to waste 10 minutes so that one person can pee?
8. Minutes are forever. I have a serious problem with this. I want the minutes of the meeting within 24 hours of its end. I don't want stream-of-consciousness nonsense. I want the meat, written with correct grammar and spelling. I want complete sentences. I want items we have to act on in bold. I want clarity.
9. If you are going to offer your meetings with conference call/online components, MAKE SURE THEY WORK. There is nothing in the world more annoying that calling into a meeting and finding out there is no audio.
I'm sure consultants are very useful. However, when these touchy-feely team building exercises get in the way of you doing your work, it's time to kick them out of the room. Recently, I was invited to a meeting that was basically a consultant telling people how to fill out a survey. These are well-educated librarians who have filled out thousands of surveys. This 25-minute meeting cost thousands and thousands of dollars. I had to attend it virtually for personal reasons. I logged in and there was no audio. I ended up listening to the meeting via someone's cell phone and it was a complete waste of my time. Had I spent the additional hour of drive time to get there, I would have been furious. But this is what happens with consultants. They want to take up your time, because you are paying them to do it. They will deliberate and moderate and write action plans until you stop paying them. They will find more and more that needs to be worked on. All the while, the real work is sitting there, waiting for you, while you discuss the best way to write an email.
I understand that staff development is important. But, as a very wise library director once told me, sometimes it's like sending a pigeon to eagle school. When a shift happens in the culture of an organization, there should be casualties. If there aren't, then what is the point in the shift anyway? Clearly, someone was doing something in the wrong way. Clearly, they thought they were doing it the right way or they wouldn't have been doing it. Clearly, if you've told them and they still fall back into their old ways, no amount of falling backwards into the literal or philosophical arms of your coworkers is going to change how you do your job. And, again, all the while, your work is sitting there, undone. Is an organizational shift important enough to through aside your actual reason for having your job? I just don't see it.
I know this sounds harsh, but at some point you may have to step back and say to your consultant (or consultants), "Hey, this is great...I'm so glad we've talked for a year about how to do something, but now we just need to do it."
Perhaps I've just had over-exposure to consultants of late. But it is a slippery slope that organizations sometimes fall into. Your stakeholders will get impatient. They will start asking the same questions I am asking. Where is the action?