I’ve never been a big fan of meetings, particularly meetings with a large group.
Often the attendees spend time gazing out of the window when the meeting is discussing something totally irrelevant to them.
I’ve seen a logistics manager gaze blankly out of the window while the boss discussed the new tap options in the executive suite wash room.
I’ve come across managers who believe that meetings are the best way to run a business. This is wrong.
Meetings in many cases damage the business due to managers being taken away from their duties when they could be much more productively involved in the issues of the day, making sure everything possible was being done to keep the customer happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I do see the importance of meetings.
I have always disciplined myself in order to have meetings with the people who can add the most value, very often one-on-one meetings.
The bigger the meeting, the more pressure there is on people to say something.
Very often, what is said has little or no relevance, but it makes sure that everyone has a chance to share their opinion.
Another important feature of the meeting is the refreshments on offer.
Sometimes meeting tables groan with bowls of fruit. This is a sign of a very important meeting that possibly includes guests from outside the company.
I remember attending a meeting many years ago with a Canadian colleague in Tehran, with fruit on the table. Amongst the fruit juices were cans of Coca-Cola.
This was at a time when Coca-Cola or Pepsi were not available in Iran.
When we broke up for lunch, the coke had not been touched. After lunch, when we returned, amongst the juices were cans of Pepsi and, again, none was consumed.
I have a picture of confused Iranians wondering where they went wrong due to the coke and Pepsi not being touched.
I’ve often received by e-mail, at the last minute, the meeting pack.
Being diligent I burnt the midnight oil, read the e-mailed document and arrived at the meeting fully prepared with my notes.
Sometimes, just in case you did not open your e-mail, hard copies of the meeting pack are handed out in envelopes at the start of the meeting.
We then spend time debating the pack and why it would have been better to send out hard copies, rather than a soft copy on e-mail.
The meeting I always remember was one in Scotland, when I worked for a bakery group.
The boss loved to walk around the room when he was in full flow with one of his lengthy diatribes.
There were two doors in the room, one at the side and one at the end of the room. Mid-flow, the boss walked out of the side door talking and, after a short period of time, reappeared through the other door still talking.
He then put his hand on the shoulder of the sales manager and said: “What was the last thing I said before I left the room?”
After a pause, the sales manager replied: “Goodbye.”
Furious at the insubordination, the boss immediately ended the meeting.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org