In every meeting there ever was, a room is occupied by a spectrum of talents, ambitions, insights and energy. There will often be literally decades of experience and learning, fabulous achievements and perceptions unique to every individual. It is a rich tapestry of ingenuity, concern, courage and trepidation. It is almost certainly a repository of know-how to assess every possible option and its opportunity.

And yet meetings are often the most turgid, under-prepared and passive-aggressive experiences of office life. If not the predominant behaviour, the unexplained empty chair, the failure to engage because phones are open and emails are being sent/answered and the unwillingness to venture an opinion even when asked, are still uncomfortably detectable.

The worst of meetings however did not happen by design and the caricature should not be dismissed because it exaggerates our reality. The trap we fall into is failing to see that we drift towards dysfunction rather than inventing it cold.

Small things killing us slowly will happen in plain sight because we close our minds for a quiet life.

If the room is full of talent and wisdom let’s use it, let us be present, purposeful and generous with how we listen and thoughtful in what we say. Surely the gift of this time together is worth more than the sweaty fug of exhaled carbon dioxide we leave clinging in the air for those coming next into the room?

Next time you are in a meeting don’t close your mind for a quiet life, but work hard to access all the insight and energy assembled to make the best possible collective contribution we can.

You might think a dull meeting isn’t the worst example of office dysfunction, but who is to say it isn’t? How should we value the contribution of great ideas that are never heard because we could not be arsed to think just a little differently?

Take care. Paul