3 Mistakes Business Owners Make in Meetings

October 30, 2017 by in category Business Owners, Leadership tagged as , , with 0 and 0

In previous weeks, we’ve discussed the importance of meetings with regards to developmental business strategy, and we have reviewed how to effectively run meetings.

Still, a lot can go wrong that quickly shifts the meeting from productive and strategy-oriented to lackluster and time wasting. Worse yet, a meeting gone south can severely undermine the leader, damage the purpose of the agenda, and threaten the success of subsequent meetings.  

It’s common to encounter some form of frustration in meetings. Business leaders can feel frustrated if it seems no one is paying attention, no one cares about the matter at hand, the necessary work isn’t being accomplished, or time isn’t being utilized effectively. Participants have these same frustrations too. If they feel they are in a meeting that doesn’t pertain to them or isn’t fruitful, they will also feel like their time isn’t being utilized appropriately. In a particularly bad case scenario, bad meetings will contribute to a Prisoner, Vacationer, or Critic mindset in attendees.  

Common symptoms of unproductive meetings include:

  • Lacking defined purpose for meeting
  • No agenda
  • Bored participants: texting, sleeping, staring into space
  • No participation or inactive/passive responses
  • Unprepared participants
  • Disorganized flow

Common results of unproductive meetings include:

  • Wasted and lost time
  • Stress to makeup for time “wasted” in the meeting
  • Unresolved topics and lack of growth
  • Disengaged employees
  • Growth of hierarchy/disconnect between leader and participant
  • Loss of of leadership

Frustration is present for a number of reasons in meetings. In order to have a successful gathering that pushes the business forward, leaders should understand how to prevent, address, and react to these frustrations.

Today, we’ll be discussing the three major mistakes that even the most successful business owners make. These mistakes create a disconnect between leader and participant, thus reducing the value of the meeting.

This disconnect leads to lowered engagement, lowered productivity, wasted time, and lack of growth. These three mistakes further undermine the leadership of the business owner; if an owner can’t run a meeting effectively, participants may wonder if he can run a business effectively.

It’s time to consider and reflect upon these three concerns: acting like a dictator, not being involved in the discussion, and failing to plan ahead of time.


In this situation, the meeting leader—the person who called the meeting—walks through the door and takes over the conversation. Everyone else sits, watches, and pretends to listen while the dictator controls every aspect of the discussion. There is no room for input from participants, and the focus is on presentation rather than collaboration.

What is dictatorship?

A dictator is a ruler with total political and social power over a country. They usually obtain or keep that power by force. Even if they are elected to that position, they often use coercion and manipulation to maintain that power.

Consider historical examples of dictators like Hitler and Mussolini. These men were elected by the people, but they used tactics of fear-mongering, terror, brute force, and psychological manipulation to maintain control.

Dictators in business aren’t necessarily using brute force in the way a political dictator often does, but they are using brute force in terms of their own actions.

In a meeting, dictators are often managers or leaders who have a hierarchical view of organizations. They may view themselves as the one and only leader, and they thus impress their views and plans upon their employees. Dictators embody the phrase, “It’s my way or the highway.”

Consider what author Bruce Coville once wrote: “Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.”

The dictator determines what information is disseminated in the meeting, how business strategy will project, and what business operations will look like. Employees are there simply to do the dictator’s bidding.

Often this creates an idea of leader versus followers, rather than leader and contributors.

Why is dictatorship a problem in meetings?

The moment a dictator walks in the meeting room, the participants zone out. If a leader is threatening or authoritarian, participants will be afraid to share their opinions, thoughts, and viewpoints. Furthermore, even if a participant attempts to share, the dictator will shut them down by being uncompromising and obstinate.   

With a dictatorship, there is no room for growth. This kind of meeting is not a conversation. A dictator uses the meeting space to reprimand workers, to present new information, and to prove his or her own importance in the company.

This leads to disengaged, fearful employees, which diminishes the team spirit and creates an antagonistic atmosphere. In the long-term, this can even cause employees to leave the company with a high turnover rate.

This also leads to a single-minded company that’s not adaptable to change. In turn, this inflexibility can drastically damage the business, which needs to be able to adjust to fluctuating industries and economies.  

Moreover, dictators simply run unproductive meetings because they don’t utilize the value of their team members. If a company is only as good as its people, how can only one person create a productive and successful company?

Why does dictatorship happen in meetings?

Dictatorships can often stem from ego or pride. Think of a boss you’ve had in the past who simply loved to hear himself speak. He told you what to do, and you were expected to do it, because he believed his word was final. But this isn’t the only cause of dictatorship.

Often, dictators stem from: fear, a lack of education, an inability to build relationships, or misguided trust.

  • If the leader is fearful that they will lose power, they might take a more aggressive approach in an attempt to preserve that control.
  • If the leader is uneducated about how to run meetings, they might also take a more forceful approach to seem more dominating and in control. This again relates to the fear of being seen as an incompetent leader.
  • If the leader doesn’t have a relationship with the employees, they may feel they needs to control the meeting because they are unsure of others strengths, weaknesses, and inputs.
  • Moreover, if the leader does not trust the employees’ viewpoints or is unsure of her plan, she may dominate the conversation to avoid any unwanted opinions.

Ultimately, most leaders do not go into a meeting thinking with the intention of being a dictator. Rather, individuals become dictators when they hold the fear that they will not appear to be a strong leader.

This means that without active evaluation, even the best leaders can become dictators.

No involvement

In this case, a leader does not involve others to participate in the meeting. Unlike the dictator, this kind of leader will not be aggressively forceful but instead passively supervisory. This kind of leader may appreciate their employees and value their opinions but will not request their involvement. There will be no formal participation process where employees are asked to bring information, ideas, and opinions with them to the meeting.

What does “no involvement” mean?

A “no involvement” leader does not take the initiative to invite others to participate. They may dominate the entire meeting or encourage discussion without a formal process of idea exchange or input. This can often be perceived as discounting, ignoring, or overlooking the value of members’ ideas and thoughts. “No involvement” destabilizes the teamwork aspect that’s crucial to the success of any strategic meeting.

As Steve Jobs said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

Participation is active. It requires action on the part of all members. If the leader does not encourage and promote this communication, there will be no opportunity for participation. Participation is vital to add value to the conversation, gain new insights and ideas, and push the project and organization to new heights.

Why is no involvement a problem in meetings?

This lack of involvement results in a push-through of the leader’s ideas, without taking into account the thoughts and opinions of the employees. This includes stopping other conversations, discouraging participation, redirecting points, and a “one-mouthed meeting.”

There’s no point in having a “no involvement” meeting. If there is no involvement because a leader has news or updates to share, this meeting should not be held. That information can often be included in an email or memo explaining the points. If a leader is calling together a meeting, the purpose should be to gain the insight of all participants towards the betterment and productivity on some project or strategy.

A lack of involvement creates wasted, unproductive, inefficient time that could best be spent elsewhere. It creates disengaged employees who see meetings as an unfortunate necessity rather than an opportunity for business growth.

Why does a lack of involvement occur?

Usually, this sort of problem stems from an insecurity on the part of the leader. They may not have a clear vision, so they keep talking to no avail and without involving participants. Often, this leader is unclear regarding for what purpose is he or she called the convention. This stems from a lack of organization and vision on the part of the leader.

The leader may also be intimidated by the feeling that they might not have the most superior idea in the room. This is a common fear we all have when in positions of power. What if someone else is better than you? Does this make you less of a leader?  

In these cases, it’s important to remember the true role of a leader. Leaders do not need to be the best at everything. Instead, leaders should bring out the best in their team. The best leaders are not the most talented people in the room; the best leaders are those that know how to utilize the talents of those on their team.

Poor planning

If a leader does not plan the meeting properly, it leads to disorganized chaos. In this way, the leader often feels they have to takeover the meeting as a way to try to mitigate and control the chaos.

What is poor planning in meetings?

Leaders ought to come prepared with a purpose and agenda for the meeting. This includes a defined reason for calling the meeting as well as a list of topics to be discussed. The leader should also include an agenda with time limits for each topic and the bullet points to be discussed amongst the crowd.

It is beneficial for leaders to be prepared with necessary resources, information, and questions to ask the team. They alert the necessary participants of the meeting in advance, giving specific instructions with regards to what each participant needs to bring with them in order for the meeting to run smoothly. The leader should choose to prepare in order for the participants to be prepared.

Leaders that don’t organize in this way create ineffective meetings that can be equally as detrimental as those run by dictators or no-involvement leaders. Unplanned leaders quickly try to compensate for the lack of organization by talking incessantly without turning the floor over for discussion.

Poor planning means there’s no fixed time to build success.

Why is poor planning a problem in meetings?

Often, meetings are called without advanced notice or reasoning. There is no perceived or desired outcome for the gathering. Without a goal, meetings can last indefinitely. People often leave the meeting feeling as though nothing was accomplished—or even that there was no topic to discuss to begin with. In turn, the business owner might feel equally as resentful because the participants weren’t fully prepared or present in the meeting.

Disorganization makes all participants feel lost, confused, and unproductive.  The meeting can’t go anywhere. This lack of progress creates frustration and stress without any fruitful outcomes.

Why does poor planning occur?

Poor planning occurs often because a leader is just too busy. Meetings can take a backseat to other duties, especially if the business owner or leader already sees meetings as a waste of time. Those leaders that understand the value of an effective meeting are more likely to devote the time to planning, because they know that the time investment of an effectual meeting will have a strong return.

Poor planning can also occur if leaders have ineffective communication skills, lack of vision, or don’t understand the importance of planning ahead. Often this calls for coaching and mentorship for leaders from a business coach.

Succeeding in meetings

These three common mistakes relate back to one key point: tyrannical leadership. The leader takes control of the entire meeting and does not involve participation of the members.

Understanding why and how this is occurring is the first step to proactively combating these issues in your meetings.

How do you overcome these mistakes?

  • Dictatorship: Approach the meeting with an open mind. Avoid aggressive behaviors.
  • No involvement: Realize the value of your team. Encourage active participation from each individual.
  • Poor planning: Learn the value of meetings, so you will put the time to plan an effective meeting.

Most importantly, hand over the floor to the participants. Sit down. Speak only 10% of the time. Guide the conversation rather than host it.

Running an effective meeting is based on the 3Ps: planning, participation, and purpose. Visit our article about Running Effective Meetings to further expand on this information and learn how to host successful, strategic business meetings.

Are you a leader looking to create more fruitful meetings? Contact Peter Marcus today to set up a workshop for running effective meetings in your own business!

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