Friday, February 8, 2013

Meetings Manners

I’ve never been great at meetings.  In most of our professional lives we must listen to our supervisors discuss schedules, routines, day-to-day business.   No matter if you are a firefighter, a doctor, a band director or a cop – we all have to attend meetings.  Organizational meetings are necessary to keep our well-oiled machines... running oily.  Most meetings are the least fun and engaging part of my job.

When I was much younger, I was cranky and contentious at meetings, fussing about the details, splitting hairs, never willing to give an inch.  Then for a long time, I tried to lighten meetings with humor.  OK, it may not have all been in good taste, but our faculty was small and we all got each other’s jokes.  It was the kind of one-upmanship where you keep trying to outdo the other person until the humor is ridiculous.  This didn’t do much for those running the meeting and trying to get through an agenda.  It had to have been annoying.

After one faculty meeting a couple of years ago, where I’d gotten off a couple of good ones (so I thought), a colleague of mine said something to the effect of Well, you are really full of yourself today.  Ouch.  Don’t get me wrong.  I can take it as well as I can dish it out.  But I thought, for the most part, that people enjoyed my humor, my attempts at lightening the mood, inserting a little humor into a rather humorless situation.  I must have thought wrong. 

During our first faculty meeting this year, when we were hammering out details of schedules, committees, lunch and recess, etc., I decided to change my ways in meetings.  While others were discussing who was going to the library when, I was making a list of Ways To Be (Act) At Faculty Meetings.  Perhaps I looked like I was seriously taking notes.  It is a work in progress.  Some are bland truisms.  Some are probably specific to me.  This isn't advice - merely a self-help guide.  No rocket science...

 Meetings, the practical alternative to work

Listen and be open to change

Be open to new ways to think, observe, consider

Seek to understand not judge

Be honest but not overbearing

Listen more/talk less

You don’t have to voice every opinion

Give credit where credit is due

Don’t constantly reveal your emotions through body language

Don’t get bent out of shape by the little crap

Listen actively and attentively

You are better than no one

Keep your eyes off your watch

Don’t disagree aloud unless it will make a difference

Sit by different people

Sit in different places

Don’t talk behind your hand

Change your mind

Sit up straight

Act like you’re paying attention - even if it is truly pretending

Don’t crack wise about everything

Here's a little dessert - I ran across this the other day and it gave me the motivation to write my own little piece...

1) Never arrive on time, or you will be stamped a beginner.
2) Don't say anything until the meeting is half over; this stamps you as being wise.
3) Be as vague as possible; this prevents irritating the others.
4) When in doubt, suggest that a subcommittee be appointed.
5) Be the first to move for adjournment; this will make you popular - it's what everyone is waiting for.

1 comment:

Chris Hass said...

Very wise, if not idealistic, advice. But you forgot one...take a class that meets at the same time as your meetings! (Just kidding. I had not choice. REALLY!).

I don't mind meetings so long as I feel it's time well spent. Of course, after twelve years of teaching I have found this is not always the case. I doodle a lot on my paper. I talk with my kids about this - "Be sure to look up and make eye contact from time to time to make sure everyone knows you're still with them!".

You should grade yourself at the end of the year for each of these items. Better yet, you should let others grade you. That'd be interesting!