6 Destructive Habits in Team Meetings

Destructive Habits in Team MeetingsPeople are imperfect creatures. Most of the time we manage to keep these flaws from being obvious. But in a group where personal agendas are at play and motives are suspect… our dysfunction can shift into overdrive.

I’ve been in several team meetings – with coworkers, clients, boards, committees, volunteers – and every one of these has the potential for displaying destructive habits. With the number of meetings popping up on calendars nowadays, we need to address these bad habits. Before we can do that, we have to be aware of them.

See if you’ve noticed any of these destructive habits during a recent meeting you were in:

  1. Silent Assassin
    This team member didn’t contribute in the room, but worked to advance their agenda after the meeting. They quietly pick off opponents one-by-one. The assassin feels like they are addressing issues in a strategic way, but ignored the damage being inflicted on the team. Leadership is usurped and collaboration is hampered.
  2. Vocal Vortex
    Someone forgot this was a team meeting and decided to make it all about them and their ideas. What was supposed to be open discussion has turned into a monologue and it is sucking the energy out of the room. Everyone else in the room is internally questioning why they even bother attending the meeting when they have no opportunity to contribute.
  3. Spintop Leadership
    Meeting notices were sent out. Everyone arrived on time. Drinks and snacks were available. The discussion was lively and you found out what everyone did over the weekend. In the end, consensus was the meeting was good and everyone agreed to do it again next week. The only problem? Nothing got done. In the end no decisions were made, nobody knows what was done the previous week or what they’re accountable for this week. The person in charge of the meeting spun up activity, but didn’t move anything forward.
  4. Window Dressing
    This is creativity for the sake of creativity. The group went through a brainstorming session or another form of creative exercise, but they never address any business objectives. How did this meeting help your team further their goals? If you can’t answer that, you need to rethink your approach next time.
  5. Hamster Wheels
    On the other side of the spectrum is productivity for the sake of productivity. Action items were documented and accountability was assigned, but the purpose of these actions wasn’t clear. Important questions were never addressed: Why are we doing this work and why is it so important?
  6. Lingering Elephants
    Last week, Phil shot down Deb’s idea in a caustic way. Everyone had forgotten this… except Deb. During this week’s meeting, her posture was closed off and her remarks were passive-agressive towards Phil. Everyone noticed this and realized what was going on. Still, nothing was done and the elephant in the room simply lingered. Unresolved conflict like this turns team chemistry toxic.

Have you seen these habits in your meetings? What other destructive habits have you observed? How have you addressed these issues or seen others address them?

Dustin Staiger is a business consultant and speaker in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, communications, creativity and branding for global corporations as well as non-profits and start-ups.

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