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Dealing with Meetings You Can't Stand: Meet Less and Do More (Business Books) Paperback – May 22, 2017
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About the Author
Dr. Rick Brinkman is the coauthor of the international bestseller Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, which has been translated into 25 languages. He is a top keynote speaker and trainer on leadership, teamwork, customer service, effective meetings, difficult people, and managing multiple priorities.
Top customer reviews
I love a quote by Dave Barry in the first chapter: "If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings.'" I think many people would agree with him. The author's intent with this book is to make your meetings more focused, shorter, and more effective. He aims to make meetings more exciting and energizing events through what he calls the "Meeting Jet" process, using an analogy to people being effectively trapped together on an airline flight for a certain period of time. The book builds the method step-by-step, concluding each chapter with a section titled "Great Moments in Meetings," which are actual examples of things the author or his clients have experienced at meetings.
The author introduces the concept of a "Lens of Understanding" to examine various behavior types and how they contribute to the success or lack of success of a meeting. The book then gets down to the nitty-gritty - the details of planning and having a successful meeting, first by establishing the purpose of the meeting and if in fact the meeting is necessary at all. The author presents his thoughts on preventing or countering problem behavior by meeting participants. The book includes tips for creating focus, such as proper visual devices, maintaining that visual communication remains in the mind longer and better than auditory communication. The use of virtual meetings and conference calls may be appropriate.
A 2015 Harris Poll survey found that the number one obstacle to getting work done is having to attend meetings. Based on my own experience, I believe that. The subtitle of Dr. Brinkman's book is "Meet Less and Do More." I wish I had had his book when I was still working.
Problem 1, The book is more about how to run effective meetings, than the title of the book; perhaps they are related, however the book is more about to facilitate and to some extent participate effectively in a meeting.
Problem 2, the suggestions will not work for most of us. For example, giving everyone the same amount of time to speak, or starting a meeting at an odd time e.g.6:02, or locking people out or not letting them on line for a virtual meeting if they are late; it will make an employer or supervisor look inflexible or eccentric. Perhaps in a military setting, some of these rules would be allowed, though most organizations I have been involved will not tolerate these suggestions, though the ideas do have advantages.
Problem 3, is that the book is best about how to make a meeting effective when there may is more agreement about the goals. However, meetings are often about people not with different opinions, but different agendas, so I am not sure that is adequately addressed in this book.
Problem 4, He begins the book with his parents being concentration camp survivors, and the final chapter is a powerful vignette of the persecution and brutal treatment and heroism of his family during the holocaust. For me, it just does not fit in the book the way the author seems to envision. Meetings and human interactions are certainly the cornerstone of human existence, so I understand his point, though somehow I am not sure I agree with the context of it here. I am very nervous about these past few sentences because the stories of his family during the holocaust are important, moving, and need to be shared; I'm just wondering if this book is the best place for that.
There are enough good ideas to give the author four stars.
1. Doing what you can do to bring discipline to the meeting, starting time, ending time etc. Since the title of the book is Dealing with Meetings you can't stand, I can't help but wonder what advice the author might have for an employee in which the supervisor is always late to the meeting and exhibits lack of focus and agenda that the author emphasizes. I actually thought the book was going to be more about dealing with meetings that "you can't stand."
2. I'm so glad he brought up "time of day" on page 72; I think that is a very important topic on the pros and cons of that. Just to add to his excellent thoughts, contentious meetings in the evening are difficult in that it is difficult to sleep after them. I think morning may be best for those, e.g. Saturday morning, when you have the rest of the day off.
3. I do like the author's idea of "no catching up for latecomers." So often, the chair will bring latecomers up to date on what was said, etc, facilitating their lateness.
4. Page 94, using power point or other audio visual is probably underutilized at meetings, very good suggestion.
5. Specifying a limited time frame for speaking. Most of the meetings I have attended involve "boards of directors" or shareholders etc. It is unlikely that such a rule would be doable, and moreover, sometimes the best case to do or not do something, is a bit more cumbersome and time consuming to make. For non-profits, typically board members are volunteers, and some board members give more time and money, and know the issues of the organization better. The author seems to want everyone to be given an equal time, even though most meetings comprise of two groups, the central core group of stakeholders and other participants who may have less to contribute and their speaking less is often in order. However, I do agree with the author, that the current situation of someone being allowed to talk as long as they want should end. How to do this and keep reasonable back and forth discussion is still problematic in my mind.
6. The author also emphasizes "effective follow up" and this part of the book is excellent. The most effective meeting chairs that I have worked with, make sure their is accountability and specific assignments on who is going to do what and when.
7. The author makes many other good points and recommendations, and to summarize, they generally provide discipline and organizational pointers. Calculating the cost of meetings in wage and salary (this often won't work since people in management meetings are often salaried and not hourly workers) is a good idea that author points out. Some of the recommendations in this book would work best in a situation in which the chair of the meeting has considerable power, though others are applicable to any situation, e.g., not bringing people up to date who are late would work well on meeting of volunteers for a non-profit.
8. I generally am not keen on chapters that start with a proverb, (which I consider to be trite) however I really must say that in this book, the author overcame my objections with some really good ones. I'll share a few:
David Barry: "If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, the word would be meetings."
Anonymous: "Where minutes are kept and hours are lost."
Military Expression: "If you're not early, you're late."
One of my favorites that is not in the book is that "no one in this room is as stupid as all of us together, ideas in a group setting can have a life of their own, that no one alone would have been dumb enough to come up with."
I was fascinated by the book's title. Although I was disappointed that the title and the book content seemed not congruent enough, the book makes many important points about running and participating in a meeting. There is enough good advice in my view to give in four stars.
I realize that the author has quite a following and that this review may provoke criticism or cause umbrage with some people. Book reviews are inherently subjective, and I write this essay from the standpoint of someone who has been attending many types of meetings for decades.