I am hugely fortunate to have a job that I really enjoy and spend time with fabulous people doing something I hope makes a difference. The last couple of weeks I have been sat in meetings, either as a participant or an observer, and want to make my pledge (for NHS change day) to change the way we do this.
The NHS has always been one for organising meetings, sometimes productive and sometimes not, they are often populated by the following people who don’t really help; do you recognise any of them?
There’s Mr Loving My Own Voice, talking endlessly, oblivious to whether anyone is listening or not as he rambles on enjoying hearing his own thoughts shared with the room. If only he were to think a little bit more about what the point was that he was trying to make, listen occasionally to other people, look at those around them and see whether they were engaged or not.
Then there’s Mr I am In a Different Meeting to Everyone Else, often quiet but when he chimes in it is to say something utterly irrelevant, misplaced or ill timed. He is the antithesis of quiet waters running deeply; loud and no depth. If only he were to listen to people, think about the conversation being held, wonder what a useful contribution might be and how he may interject in a way which adds clarity, offers insight or helps resolve an issue.
What about Mrs Repetition is the Greatest Form of Flattery, never known to have an original thought her contribution is just to repeat what someone else has already said. She doesn’t move the conversation on and often just consumes time and air. Perhaps if she engaged more in the conversation and didn’t feel the need to put her voice in the room without really having something to say. Perhaps if she was motivated by trying to resolve an issue, make a decision or conclude a debate she wouldn’t feel the need to just interrupt to repeat someone else’s contribution.
Then there’s Mr How Clever is my Question. You can tell he is really pleased with his questions as he doesn’t demonstrate any interest in the answer. If only he was more interested in understanding colleagues contributions, in supporting rather than undermining people, genuinely seeking greater knowledge, understanding or adopting a different perspective.
And finally there’s Ms Sorry I Was Planning My Holidays, quietly sitting in the corner where she usually sits, she comes to the meeting because she was invited years ago and keeps turning up, or because someone from her department has to be represented even though they have no contribution to make. If only she thought to save her own time and spend it more wisely by not attending a meeting in which she has neither interest nor any contribution to make.
Do you recognise any of these people? Do you have your own? We know what makes an effective meeting and a good use of people’s time. There is plenty of support for people wanting to know how to chair a meeting well. Our core professional leadership programmes will concentrate on some of these skills. But we might all start first with critically reviewing our own behaviour at meetings and the contribution we make. My pledge is to watch my own behaviour, be conscious of other people’s time, be more thoughtful and only attend meetings where I have a genuine contribution to make. What’s yours?
The NHS Leadership Academy pledges that our core programmes will give future leaders of the NHS the skills and behaviours to make real improvements to patient care. Discover more about NHS change day.