In The Mouth Of Meetings

My dentist told me,I had to floss; until this year, this was something I only ever did in the most half-hearted way, but now, growing older and more aware of my impending obsolescence, I finally began in earnest. It’s strange; I didn’t feel as though it made much of a difference, but when I failed to floss over the weekend in Hong Kong, my mouth felt revolting. That’s one way to inculcate habits.

I was in a meeting today with twelve other people. I suppose lucky 13 wasn’t a charm; pretty much everything was wrong. The conference line was crackly and indistinct, the meeting room had been double booked so we all ended up crammed into a room that’s uncomfortable with three people in it, and people dialing in were late. I looked around the room half way through and was unconvinced that everyone there was a consummate multi-tasker, capable of paying attention to the call and contributing, while simultaneously checking their emails on their laptops. Well, I assume that’s what they were doing; they might have been checking Facebook or sending Snapchat pictures for all I know.

I figured people weren’t paying attention because one person came up with an epically offensive excuse for why their performance wasn’t as expected, and got told that wasn’t an acceptable response, and ten minutes later another person tried the very same excuse, as if everyone would have forgotten what had just been said. Sanity is not saying the same thing over and over and hoping to get away with it on repeat offences.

Eventually, the meeting came to a halt. I turned off the phone and asked the assembled throng how many of them had said something in the meeting. Less than half. I asked how many of them were going to do something different as a result of the meeting. Less than half. I asked them why they were in the meeting, if they were neither contributing nor receiving value.

They looked at me like I had gone insane.

Perhaps I had food in my teeth, and that’s why I now floss regularly.

People are not, as a rule, paid to keep meeting rooms warm by sitting there and breathing. As habits go, it may not be that exciting to list the things you’ll do differently as the result of a meeting, but if you don’t, it’s harder to identify which meetings are worth attending and which are not. This is why agendas are good, but only if somebody makes the effort to follow up with minutes afterwards. Otherwise meetings are just rotting food, building up between the teeth of productivity and the tongue of efficiency.

I’ve been awake too long today, with such revolting mouth-based metaphors for business life. But if I don’t attempt to inculcate better habits in myself and those around me, I’m not doing things properly. What will crack first – my flossing, or focusing on getting something tangible out of every meeting?

3 responses to “In The Mouth Of Meetings”

  1. Love the analogy. You should produce a pamphlet with life affirming quotes such as these. You could make a fortune

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