With the holiday season upon us, it is important to reflect upon the meetings we are hosting and attending. At these times, it is important to remember Peter Drucker’s advice in following Alfred Sloan. All meeting have a purpose and only one purpose. Trying to combine meeting types and meeting purposes is a recipe for confusion and lost productivity.
One example is the urge to use holiday gatherings as a business purpose such as a year end summary or a look ahead for the coming year. This is fine in itself. Yet, what happens is that managers attempt to turn these into social events that are meet, greet and team building. By trying to make these into hybrid meetings, they fail in both efforts. They cannot decide whether to talk to the staff, give them a briefing, or have a dialogue and shared conversation. In worst case scenario, they are turned into impromptu focus groups where staff are being asked to comment and contribute to the future strategy.
The challenge is to let staff know what type of meeting they are attending and preparing the occassion. For example, if the meeting is to be team building across an organisation or departments, it is important to have name tags. First, this helps break the ice because most people work inside teams rather than across them so one iteration beyond that team, the chances decrease that they will know the other staff by name. Second it helps to change the dynamic by placing everyone on the same level.
If the meeting is about team interactions, then the whole setting should facilitate that aim for eexample, seating could be by assignment to keep teams from sitting together. Otherwise you reinforce the walls rather than the interactions across teams. At the same time, the event can be broken into opportunities to mingle and interact either at the beginning or the end. At one level this can seem contrived and artificial, yet one has to consider whether the “natural interactions” are sufficient to make the necessary connections. The best parties, like the best meetings, have a hidden structure that keeps them flowing even as they appear without structure or agenda.
In the end, the more the participants know what to expect the better their participation and productivity. If they come expecting a dialogue and discussion and get a monologue and a presentation, the less chance the meeting has of serving it intended purpose.
So by all means have a holiday get together but don’t confuse the festivities with a focus group othersie you are likely to get more coal than candy.