Play by the rules. Rules are meant to be broken. I before E except after C.
Oddly enough, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, there are rules for everything…including how to make rules.
There are essentially two types of rules: written rules and unwritten rules. We all know the many written rules: Pay taxes by April 15; Obey the speed limit; Don’t bring 13 items into the 12 items or less line. Then there’s the unwritten rules: Don’t take coworkers food from the fridge; Aways split a pair of aces in blackjack; Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.
Sports are a breeding ground for unwritten rules. In the sporting world, the general concept of these rules revolves around etiquette. Basically they are guidelines for behavior that have become generally accepted. They are meant to “preserve the game”. In baseball for example, don’t attempt to steal a base when you are up by a lot of runs late in the game. In hockey, if you take a run at the other team’s star, you should be prepared to get hit or get in a fight with that team’s enforcer.
The business world has a lot rules as well. Some are written, for example SEC rules. However, many are unwritten. In my experience meetings have no written rules, but are chock full of unwritten rules.
What are some of the unwritten rules of meetings?
In my years of corporate life I’ve attended a meeting or two (typically before 10 am each day). I often will walk out of a meeting wondering, sometimes aloud, well there goes an 67 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.
I’ve also come to realize that there is an unwritten set of rules regarding meetings. Some companies adhere to these while others seemingly could care less. I for one am all about surviving in the corporate world to live another day. As such, here are my rules for meetings.
- Have an agenda published in advance. No agenda means it’s a free for all. If there’s no agenda I won’t accept the meeting invite.
- Start and end on time. We’re all busy. If the meeting is scheduled to start at 10 am, start it at 10 am. Don’t wait until 10:11 hoping more people will show. It’s their problem to catch up. And, at the end of the scheduled time…end the meeting, move on.
- Follow up. After the meeting summarize decisions and action items. If you don’t, know one will do anything and we’ll end up meeting again in one week to discuss the same stuff all over again.
- Gadget abuse. Technology is cool but if someone who isn’t the presenter is madly typing away on their laptop, iPhone, BlackBerry, etc. they are not paying attention. With the exception of the presenter or the note taker, close your laptop, quit checking Facebook, stop tweeting and focus on the freaking meeting.
Perhaps my most important unwritten rule in the world of meeting etiquette: If the only time, I mean ONLY time, that you can schedule a meeting is during the noon hour, you MUST provide lunch for everyone invited. I know that we’re all busy and scheduling meetings with more than 2 people is about as difficult as understanding the US tax code, but the lunch hour (or so) is my time.
No one likes to waste time. We’d all like to show up do our job and go home at some reasonable hour. Meetings are inevitable. So, if we’re going to have them, let’s all respect each others time and adhere to the unwritten rules.
And, while there may be no such thing as a free lunch, I do expect lunch if I’m going to waste the next 67 minutes in your noontime meeting of the week.
P.S. I’m expecting chocolate chip cookies too.