Does your organization hold meetings as a proxy for meaningful human interaction?

Do you find yourself in meetings in which, just as you’re all about to reach a decision, someone raises another objection or reason for further investigation?

Now ask yourself if you spend more time in these meetings that you do speaking to people one-on-one.

If you answered yes to both, your organization may be culturally replacing meaningful human contact with controlled group interaction.

Possible reason:

Your organization started small with a lot of collaboration, then grew and virtualized. Now, except for meetings, you only communicate by email or chat. Meeting as a group was once a fertile collective ideas-generation activity. Now it has become the only way for people to connect with each other.

People need human contact. For people who work long hours, their colleagues at work are often the only trustworthy resource they have. When people don’t have a way to connect one-on-one, they will use meetings to get what they need. And when final decisions threaten to end the possibility for continuing to connect, people will find a way to preserve the ongoing resource for connection by blocking the decision.

Test the theory:

For two weeks, encourage everyone to meet one-on-one with two or three colleagues for a few minutes each before the meeting. Tell them the goal is to be curious, listen and ask questions – perhaps suggest 2-3 minutes for each person to ask questions of the other. Then hold the meeting. Notice if some of the meeting behaviour changes.

Next encourage them to switch the colleagues they meet with before the meeting, so they aren’t always having one-on-ones with the same folks. Ask each participant to eventually meet at least twice with each of the other participants who regularly go to the meeting. Again, the goal is listen and ask questions.

When the participants avoid one-on-ones with specific people repeatedly, take note of how they interact in the meeting. There may be an opportunity to join the two of them and, rather than rescuing them or facilitating their conversation, simply model asking questions and listening. Ask them to work on their interaction together on behalf of the rest of the group who want them to be able to work together more effectively.

And let me know how it goes 🙂