Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Rah-Rah Meetings Are Often Nothing To Cheer About

Ava Hovis Fryer-Arkansas City High School (Kansas) 1964-Rah Rah Rah!!!The employees have their bagels and hot tea or coffee and they gather around the conference table for the weekly or monthly update meeting. After a few opening remarks the manager or supervisor says, “OK then! Let’s go around the table and share what we’re doing right now! Ava, you and your team are sure working hard on your new project, so why don’t you share some of that with the rest of us?”

Two hours later a bored and irritated group trudge out of the meeting, glad it’s over for another week or month.

That negative image is not meant to suggest that you should never have people share information about their work. There can be value in such meetings on occasion. However, think carefully before you make them a regular occurrence or end every staff meeting with a sharing session.  

The Pros and the Cons

1. Everyone gets a chance to talk about their accomplishments and the work they and their teams are doing.
Another view: Self-reporting is often inaccurate, especially if there is a feeling that the more work you report, the better you’ll sound.  Many people over-dramatize or fluff to sound impressive, get sympathy or justify not helping others. This is especially a problem when others know the person reporting only has a lot of things to do because he or she procrastinates or wastes time. Consider setting a time limit of one minute per person and not one second more. People only need to hear an overview list of what others are doing, if that. Managers should not need these reports to make him or her aware of the work being done.

2. Everyone can appreciate the myriad tasks involved in the big picture of work and how much every individual contributes.
Another view: Once you know that, you don’t need to be told the next month and the next and the next. Consider limiting sharing meetings to every six months or so.  

3. Team members may find areas of common focus or concern and perhaps can assist each other.
Another view: The role of a supervisor or manager is to be aware of what work is being done and to bring employees together in ways that will assist them. Consider teaching employees the value of checking with each other to see if someone else has expertise, experience or information. 

4. Managers and supervisors can see how employees interact with each other and how supportive individuals are of the team.
Another view: Rarely do managers do or say anything about how individuals act in meetings, either to commend or correct. They should, but they don’t. I don’t know of many (or any) managers or supervisors who have ever included meeting behavior in performance evaluations. Again, they should, but they don’t. Consider evaluating interactions that take place in other group formats.

5. The manager or supervisor can use the meeting to build the team and identify issues that need to be handled.
Another view: The reports are usually about what one person is doing or what that person’s group is doing, not about the overall work of the group or the organization, so they are not team-oriented. Rarely does the manager or supervisor do a closing that pulls all of the information together for the group, ending the meeting with a team focus. In addition, most issues that are disclosed in meetings are already known. Some meetings are called specifically to get known issues “out in the open.” Problems should be intervened about while they are happening or soon after, rather than waiting to have the problems vented in a meeting. 

6. The manager has an opportunity to commend in public.
Another view:  Some of the weakest, most embarrassing expressions of appreciation I have ever heard have been in meetings when a manager felt compelled to say something positive. Consider a private, sincere thank you. Show your appreciation in public by the supportive, friendly way you treat people and the occasional comment that others hear.

The bottom line: Meetings to share information about work have value when there are clear connections between what each person is doing an an overall task to be accomplished. There is even more value when the leader or a faciliatator briefly makes that connection for the group as each person talks. What I have found to be unhelpful and even damaging are meetings where many people talk at length about their current work and their To Do lists.  Those who like to preen about their work and lists of tasks seem to love those meetings.  Most employees dislike them and resent being required to participate.

Personal, direct and specific conversations will do more to build individuals and the team than forced sharing, with or without bagels and hot tea or coffee.


May 4th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 9 comments