Saturday, December 22, 2007

Staff Meetings

To paraphrase Richard Brautigan, staff meetings could be Jesse James for all the time they stole from me.

Think of the staff meetings you've attended throughout your career. Be generous and estimate the total percentage that could possibly be characterized as helpful.

My personal estimate is nine percent.

In my pre-consulting days when I had a boss, there was always careful consideration of which topics to surface at the staff meeting. The trick was to bring up items that would show progress in your work unit while not seeming to boast. The iron rule, however, was the topic must never trigger excessive attention from the dragon at the end of the table. The last thing wanted was any sort of "assistance" a.k.a. meddling, from on high. As a result, my colleagues and I only mentioned carefully sanitized topics that could bore a tree sloth. As the boss went around the conference table, we dutifully reported on these Potemkin Villages and quietly groaned when anyone went on too long. The most naive team members were those who, when the boss asked how things were going, gave a straight answer. Frankness was always promptly punished.

Another major sin was if a colleague suggested some improvement in another's area. My only regret is that such moments are not preserved on film. They were valuable lessons not because of what was said but because of the exquisite illustrations of eloquent body language. You could witness an exchange and know the paperclip Cranston suddenly began to twist was really a substitute for Fiedler's neck.

I recently learned that craigslist, the highly successful ad site, has no meetings. No meetings? That must be an exaggeration but even hearing it produced a burst of admiration.

After all, we can dream, can't we?

And in the case of staff meetings, we can daydream.


Eclecticity said...

Fiedler and Cranston! I know those guys too!

Michael Wade said...

They get around!