80 % of business meetings are entirely unnecessary. The quality of conversation that occurs does not warrant the time allotted for the event. Magic will not happen. A click of the SEND button to disburse updates would have done the trick.
But here’s the real price we pay.
Every time we engage in another redundant business conversation, we kill the spirit of everyone who is present. We destroy creativity, initiative, optimism. We extinguish the fire that fuels exceptional work.
Now to you and me. We’re sitting in such a meeting. We sense the absence of collective energy. We want to say something. Our butts are starting to itch in their seats, our chests are tightening into a defensive shield. We feel the slow death. We want to scream.
What do you do? What do I do? I attended a strategy planning session last month. Bill, the GM, kicked it off with a series of research and data slides. They droned on. And on and on. Until Michelle spoke up.
I know you have carefully planned this session, Bill! Michelle said softly but firmly. But you’re losing me. I am feeling the energy die in this room. Can we open up the conversation?
Her words matched my sentiments. It took Michelle to say it. She said it clearly, directly, with respect. Michelle’s words made me think of all the reasons we invent for NOT speaking up. Our internal mind police:
- I don’t want to be the one who always rescues the team.
- I don’t feel safe speaking up.
- I don’t want to be attacked for my opinion.
- I don’t want to create tension in the group.
- I am not the meeting leader.
- It is futile to speak up.
The moment Michelle finished speaking, others chimed in. Surprising ideas were shared. The energy in the meeting began to crackle. Michelle stopped the slow death.
As I contemplate spirit-killing meetings, I think of the legendary theatre director Peter Brook. Brook wrote “The Empty Space,” a now classic book on how we create performance and make meaning. Anytime a group of actors gathers in an empty space, Brook postulates, it has the opportunity to create magic. When done well, the actors make a sacred theatre. When not, they perpetuate the deadly kind.
A spirit-killing-meeting is the business variant of deadly theatre. You and I are the actors in this sort of performance. And second by second, we have choices about how we fill our empty space.
Yes, it begins with you and me. Time to stop being a victim. Time to notice our mind police. And have the courage to speak up. Clearly, directly, with respect. Why not?
Energy will crackle.