How IT Managers Can End Boring Meetings

Boring meetings can cause bad things to happen
Boring meetings can cause bad things to happen
Image Credit: Patrick Wallace

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all attended boring meetings. We probably didn’t want to go in the first place but our IT manager training didn’t show us how to avoid attending. When we got there we really didn’t care about the things that were being discussed. Once it was all over, we promptly forgot all about it and took no actions based on what was discussed. Clearly this was a complete waste of our time and our IT manager skills. Is it possible that the people who are attending the meetings that you are holding feel the same way? If so, then you have a problem on your hands and you need to do something about it.

The Curse Of “Social Loafing”

Bad meeting bring up the interesting question: what makes a meeting bad. It can be all too easy to blame the most common culprits: a poorly created agenda or the wandering leadership of the person who was tasked with running the meeting. However, the people who study such things tell us that there may be a more subtle cause for why so many of the meetings that we attend are boring.

Is it possible that when you go to a meeting that you find to boring, you really should not have been invited to that meeting in the first place? You may be one too many when it comes to people attending a boring meeting. It has been shown that people who are attending meetings that have a lot of people in them end up feeling less accountable. They don’t make an effort to participate in the meeting because they believe that any contribution that they might make will not be rewarded by all of the other people in the meeting.

This feeling of being in a meeting where you are not needed has a name. It’s called “social loafing”. When we find ourselves being bored in a meeting, all too often we’ll end up blaming others instead of trying to find a way to fix the problem. IT managers can screw up by asking too many people to attend one of their meetings and it becomes hard for everyone to work together. There is a flip side to this in which an IT manager invites too few people to a meeting and just ends up wasting everyone’s time. The trick is to know how many people to invite.

The Right Number Of People To Invite To A Meeting

So just exactly how many people should you invite to your next meeting? This is a good question and as with so many questions there is not just one answer to it. It turns out that you first have to take a look at the type of meeting that you are planning on holding. Once you understand this, then you’ll know how many people to invite to it.

We call some meetings to discuss a specific problem. These meetings are best attended by between 4-6 people. Your goal should be to include enough people so that the right expertise can be in the room. However, you don’t want to invite so many people that the conversation starts to wander. Most importantly, everyone that you invite should play a role in the meeting.

Some meetings are held in order to make a decision. This meeting is best when 4-7 people attend. If too many people are invited to a meeting like this, your chances of being able to reach a decision starts to go down. Some people say that for every person beyond 7, your chances of reaching a decision go down by 10%.

Some meetings are about meetings – we get together in order to set an agenda. This kind of meeting can be attended by between 5-15 people. The goal of this type of meeting is to create a daily agenda and the meeting can be brief and the number of people attending probably depends on the size of your team.

The final type of meeting that we often hold are brainstorming meetings. These meetings can be attended by 10-20 people. Your goal in this type of meeting is to invite people who will be able to provide you with diverse ideas to the topic that is being brainstormed. You’ll want to invite people from different departments and who are members of different social networks. Do be careful here however, it turns out that people don’t necessarily generate better ideas when they are part of a larger group.

What All Of This Means For You

For most IT managers, time is our most precious resource. This is why we hate to get trapped in boring meetings. It’s often not clear why a given meeting is boring and it can be all to easy to blame the agenda or the meeting organizer. However, more often than not it turns out that too many people have been invited to attend the meeting.

When we attend a meeting that we really should not be in it’s called “social loafing”. The reason that this is happening is because the person who called the meeting has either invited too many people or too few people. Both of these situations will just end up wasting your time. The number of people who should be attending a meeting is based on the type of meeting. You need to determine if you are going to be hosting a meeting to discuss a problem, make a decision, create an agenda, or brainstorm. Once you know this, you’ll know how many people to invite to it.

As IT managers we need to take whatever steps are required in order to make sure that we don’t find ourselves getting trapped in boring meetings. We simply don’t have the time to spend doing this. Likewise, we need to make sure that we don’t trap people in our meetings. In order to do this correctly, we need to determine what type of meeting we’ll be holding and then invite the correct number of people to come and do some IT team building. Let’s do our part to get rid of boring meetings!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If too many people show up for one of your meetings, what should you do?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it, as IT Managers we’d all like to be liked. We enjoy the parts of our job that are fun. It makes us happy when another large IT project is successfully rolled out. However, life is life and part of our job is that when there is bad news to be delivered, we’re the ones who have the job to use our IT manager skills to share the news with the people who work for us. Most of us have never had any IT manager training in how to do this correctly. Nothing that I can tell you will ever make this an easy thing to do. However, it turns out that there are ways that you can deliver information like this in ways that turn out to be less stressful for you and, perhaps, just a little bit more comforting for the people that you have to deliver it to.