Meetings: Inviting the right people
By C. Fredrick Crum

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This is the fourth in a series addressing meeting effectiveness.

In my first article in the series on meeting effectiveness, you were introduced to Rosa. Well, Rosa is at it again. She is giving her car radio a thrashing on her drive home.


Do you find critical people are often missing from your organization's meetings?
  • 1. Yes
  • 2. No

Rosa had just been in a number of meetings that wasted her time once again. It was not that the meetings did not have a clear goal — they did. It was not that the meetings were too long. They were very concise, being only about 45 minutes in length. It is not because the attendees veered off target. The meetings had stayed on topic. They even resulted in an agreed-upon plans of action.

"Unfortunately, we decided we had to collect more information and reconvene the meetings in two weeks," Rosa ranted. "The problem was once again the wrong people were at the table. If the right people were invited to the meeting a true course of action would have been the result."

Rosa continued, “What is really frustrating is the wrong people will be at the table for the next meeting."

This same scenario occurs daily in every organization. Meetings are scheduled to discuss critical operations, and the wrong people are at the table.

As with all premeeting planning, great thought must be taken to who should attend a meeting. Having the wrong people at the table not only wastes time, but it could have a disastrous impact on your organization. After the real purpose and clear goals of the meeting have been established, deciding who should attend the meeting is critical to the outcome.

I was recently asked to perform a number of meeting audits for Organization X. The audits clearly showed that Organization X continually invited the wrong people to the table. Even though Organization X prided itself in having cross-functional teams, the wrong people still attended the wrong meetings. Their organizational structure seemed to place invisible barriers to getting the right people to the table. The barriers appeared to be ingrained in their corporate culture.

At times organizations fail to discuss the elephant in the room, because the elephant in the room is not inviting the people to the table who may have the best solutions to the problem. For example, I was invited to analyze a meeting of a cross-functional team at Organization C in which the agenda topic was how to improve packaging for their product. The senior leaders were proud of the results of their efforts. I was appalled that no decision-makers from marketing, sales or logistics were at the table.

Rosa continued her rant, "When I am charge of this division next year I will always make sure the right people are in the room and at the table for meetings. I will not waste our division leader's time. Together, we will make the best decisions for our division and as a result we will improve productivity and our time to market."

C. Fredrick Crum is the president and founder of Effective Leadership Now.Org. He has spent more than 30 years working with leaders and leadership teams to improve their performance.