How to Recover From a Bad Meeting

Jun 9, 2021 2 min read
How to Recover From a Bad Meeting

Bad meetings happen every day. Do you tolerate them or do you speak up? If so, read on and make a difference the next time you hold a meeting.

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

How mechanical are your meetings? And how effective are they? Does the group pull together to become a capable force for change? Or is it tripped up by a poorly planned and poorly executed meeting structure?

Meetings are an essential part of business life. They are usually convened for achieving some common goal. Yet, they can be ineffective and damaging if badly managed.

Why is this? Why do we tolerate bad meetings?

How to Recover From a Bad Meeting

Perhaps it’s because the organization follows a traditional command and control leadership model that’s based on military-style structures? I see this all the time. New groups form and are full of energy and enthusiasm. There may even be excitement about the things we want to change. Everyone comes up with ideas; some good, some great, and some not so good.

Then it kicks in! Everyone wants to control one another. There is debate, discussion, and disagreement followed by more and more talking… frustration grows, and we lose trust and credibility. The group has failed to carry out its objective, and this is simply not good enough!

So, you’ve met for some time and the group isn’t getting anywhere fast. People are friendly, but distractions come easy, and before you know it, time is up and the group has made little or no decisions.

It’s a vicious cycle: the next time you attend this meeting you’ve already decided it’s a waste of time, and focus on something else.

What you need is focus and discipline.

A Different Approach to Meetings

First, be prepared. Do your homework to make sure you understand the priorities and what you need to do during the meeting. Build the agenda and schedule around these things, but don’t bite off more than you can chew! Limit the number of major topics to one or two at most. And plan to be done before the meeting room booking ends.

Start the new meeting by stating clearly that we need a change of focus. That something different is going to be tried. Make it clear that the meeting is time for getting work done. Emphasize this change of tack with a new style of agenda that clearly shows the main topic of discussion and the decisions to be made. Make this the focus when starting out and when discussions go off-topic.

Finally, stick with the new format, as it will take a few sessions for everyone to get used to it. Stay on track, don’t get derailed, and make use of a facilitator if necessary.

Soon everyone will see a difference because the meetings are more effective. You will be sidetracked less often and almost certainly meet your objectives. What’s more, people will learn to trust the process and trust each other.

No more bad meetings.


How do you manage bad meetings? What tips can you share to get a bad meeting back on track? You are welcome to share your thoughts and experience in the comments.

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