3 Kinds of Useless Meetings (And How to Fix Them)

Everyone has been there:

Sitting in a meeting that is an absolute waste of time.

I have not only attended many useless meetings, sadly I have called and hosted many of those meetings myself. Those meetings are painful. Minds turn off, smartphones turn on and everyone leaves wondering why any of this was necessary. There is an endless swath of content of making meetings better so for the sake of brevity I will hit on three kinds of useless meetings and offer thoughts on how to make these meetings more effective. The goal is God-honoring productivity. With that aim in mind, we turn to useless meeting #1…

Meeting #1: The “Why Are We Here” Meeting

These meetings are aimless and have no stated, overarching purpose guiding their content or structure. Typically “why are we here” meetings happen because they have always happened and no one has stopped to consider whether a meeting is even needed at all. Without clear, stated objectives it is next to impossible to gauge the meeting’s effectiveness.

Fix It: These meetings are the easiest to fix. The leader of the meeting must think deeply and critically about why this meeting is necessary, what this meeting hopes to achieve and how to capture and communicate the goals of the meeting. Once the meeting’s purpose is established, a written goal for the meeting should be stated clearly at the outset of the meeting and preferably featured in an agenda that is provided electronically before the meeting is held. The more people in attendance that have a clear understanding of the meeting’s purpose and goal; the better. 

Meeting #2: The “Rubber Stamp” Meeting 

This meeting is merely a collection of people put together to be informed for the purpose of stamping a seal of approval on the issue being discussed. The question asked in these meetings by the majority of the participants is not “why are we here”? The question in “Rubber Stamp” meetings being asked is, “Why am here”? When people These meetings are typically dominated by one leader with very little collaboration happening between the other participants.

Fix It: This one is a bit more complex and systemic. A “rubber stamp” meeting culture on a team is a product of a leadership problem. Specifically, the leadership problems causing the “rubber stamp” can range from poor planning to close-minded, anti-collaborative leadership cultures. Leaders who regularly hold “rubber stamp” meetings should be challenged to expand and facilitate collaboration opportunities in the meeting’s they hold. 

Meeting #3: The “Now What?” Meeting 

These meetings can be highly interactive and collaborative but come to an end, without any action items assigned. The true productivity of a meeting can usually be assessed by looking at the action items completed in the wake of that meeting. The purpose of any meeting is decimating information that enables others to complete tasks and lead with excellence. Without clear, assigned and documented action items “now what?” meetings are inevitable.

Fix it: Now What Meetings require time dedicated to action item assignments. I should also add action items without accountability is merely an operational wish-list. Think deeply about the culture of accountability in your leadership team when addressing this issue.

Remember the goal is not productive meetings. The goal is glorifying God. Let this aim motivate and energize our lives and leadership.


Chad Williams






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