Why Consultants Can't Run Meetings or Is It Me?

In almost all cases, it seems that consultants don't do a good job at running meetings. I am not sure why that is, but I have my guesses. I know, guessing is not a good word to use with some of you.

I am in a meeting. I am not sure where we are. I am not sure how we even got here. But here we are, in the middle of it. Worse, I am not sure where we are going. Worse still, if there is such a thing, these are people I work with, people who report to me.

"Wait. Where the heck are we? You. Stop talking while
I am trying to get a handle on things."
I can't call a timeout. That would be bad. I don't want to embarrass my staff. The truth is that isn't the real reason. The real reason is I don't want my staff going back to the office and telling everyone I am a control freak and took over the meeting. I can hear the voices now: We were doing great until he took over. He can't help himself; he just wants to run everything.

I am annoyed. I try to not show my feelings by remaining expressionless--so I sit still. The more I try to remain still, the more I am sure I am squirming. I can feel my mouth, my jaw, the words start to form--but I gain control of myself and not the meeting--I don't say anything.

"If only" I begin to think. If only we had an agenda and confirmed the items with the client before the meeting started. If only I forced everyone, no strike that, that's the control freak I am afraid of looking like being coming out; if only I persuaded, (that's close enough, I am a control freak and I have to get over that) the team to sit in the client's chair and think about what's on their minds before we created the so-called "agenda" that we didn't put together beforehand, and didn't confirm with the client.

The team, who haven't tried to become better (improved themselves) thinks running a meeting is natural, and it has to be "spontaneous." No rigidity here please--we are free thinkers and, oh, by the way, everyone thinks like us, because we think logically and we are rational. So who couldn't follow our thought process and our conversation? And besides, we have a lot to share with the client, we don't have time to think about how the client thinks and how the client receives and processes information. Why do we need to know what's a priority for them? We know what should be a priority for them: what we are about to tell them, that what should be the client's priority.
The client? They were fully engaged.
We captured their attention right away.
I am not clear why they aren't calling us back.

I am now watching to see if the client is squirming as much as I am squirming on the inside. I cannot tell. He is poker faced. I look to his right. His colleague is sitting there taking a note or two every few minutes--she looks--well--I think she looks unimpressed. I think she is creating the to-do list for the remainder of the day.

I listen to my team. We are droning on and on. No pause. Just a lot of words coming out. I couldn't interrupt if my life was depending on it. No space between the words. Not enough space without talking over someone and really making a bad show of it all. They'd be pissed: Control freak. Jerk. I am going to transfer out of his group--to the other group.

I am now waiting for the meeting to close. It does. The client says, "Let us think about it. We will get back to you." The two kisses of death. And stated in one sentence. I am right. The meeting was not a good one. I don't feel good or vindicated. My team doesn't know what those two words mean yet. I am doubtful they ever will.

We don't hear back from the client. The team doesn't call the client--they don't think it's good form to call the client--they don't want to "intrude" on the client. They want to give the client "space."

I call the client. I can't wait. I am not a waiter-type person. It's good and bad this not waiting thing. I think I am becoming better because now I can wait one more day before doing something. But I think that's more like procrastination sneaking in on my to-do list than it is becoming patient.

The client is still not calling us back.

I resolve to become a leader some day and resolve to find ways to coach my team into doing what I want the next time. I realize that's not leadership and thereby revise my thought: I resolve to help my staff become better at running meetings, but all them the space to learn on their own. I add: without placing a boat anchor around my neck and pushing me off the bow of the ship. Am I muttering? I think I am.

They (my team) are oblivious why the client isn't returning our calls. It must be a bad prior relationship with the firm. Yes, that's it. I remember someone said we did some work for the client ten years ago . . . And the team just rationalizes away the issue.

I am working on myself. Let's see what I can do to help them . . .

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