These days, people are so afraid of making a decision which might offend some person or group that they have become mired in turning to groups and committees to “study” the concept or suggestion.

Almost no matter what decision or action a leader, company, or politician makes, someone or some group will be offended. Instead of pushing back and insisting that the offended party is being too sensitive and ought to strive to have “thicker skin” to permit innovation to move forward, cowardly leaders and politicians will defer to a committee and a study group. Because such committees and research/study groups have become largely unproductive and are more anchor than an accelerator for progress, whether in politics or in business, you may be better off to avoid associating with some of them.

On the other side of the proverbial coin, if you are applying for a job, or a promotion, one of your own checking questions that will help you to determine the power base of the manager, leader, politician, or company/organization itself is to study the types and contributions of its past committees, and the mandates of its current committees. If those committees have been struck to mitigate potential backlash to determine degrees of resistance, rather than to enhance the hypothesis underlying the innovation itself, then you have a weak leader or organisation and you may want to add that weakness to your list of considerations prior to accepting the promotion or the job.

For those of you who are asked to attend meetings, or are assigned to committees, here is a list of potential productivity enhancing strategies you might be able to use to protect your own label/brand within your company or organisation. :

  1. Grow a set of balls. Assertively challenge requests for you to attend meetings and committees, assuming you have productive commitments on which to better spend your precious time. In other words, unless you will get into trouble or wreck your career progress, avoid them whenever it makes sense to do so.
  2. Screen requests to attend meetings carefully. Don’t let your attendance at wasteful meetings weaken your label/brand. [See Nugget by clicking here:  REPAIR YOUR NEGATIVE LABEL   ]
  3. Avoid any meeting or committee that has a history of lacking progress, lacking tough-minded decision making, and lacking a strong focus on problem resolution and implementation. Hint: if a meeting theme is “regularly scheduled” or recurring over too long a period, it is likely a dud and likely its decision-making membership is also impotent.
  4. Avoid window-dressing meetings or committees.  The checking question to help screen this? “Is the committee being struck to determine if anyone will be offended?”
  5. Attend meetings or committees focused on problem resolutions. Sometimes it does take a committee to move an innovative idea forward, faster and, in those instances, it may be impossible to create change or take action unless a group does work on the many intricacies and complex interactions caused by the innovation itself. Good meetings and committees are focused intensively on such questions as the following. Note that none of these questions asks about who is gong to be offended.
    • How can we make this idea work?
    • How can we fund this idea?
    • What systems and process must we change to remove barriers?
  6. Avoid, skip, any meeting that you don’t absolutely need to attend. Is the meeting a forum for a particular person to demonstrate that, because of rank or power, he or she is able to bring multiple parties together on a regular basis? If very little, or worse, if nothing gets accomplished from these meetings ,avoid them.
  7. What’s the reputation of the chair and co-chair of these meetings? If the chair or co-chair have a history of convening meetings and a personality that prefers to make decisions by-committee, find something better to do with your time.
  8. If you absolutely must attend a meeting, test the waters to be certain that it absolutely must be you in person and not a delegate. Otherwise, enlist the services of someone else, whom you trust and who is loyal to you, to attend in your place and then to report back the salient points, if any.
  9. Before heading for any meeting, insist on having an agenda and insist upon knowing the goals of each agenda item or agenda speaker.
  10. Before heading for any meeting, can you influence meeting duration, processes, progress, and especially the priorities or agenda items? If so, do so. If not, be assertive at the meeting, not abusive, assertive, to push agenda items along faster and to insist on more items being resolved on a first-call basis, rather than being “studied to death”.
  11. When you absolutely must attend meetings, for career or other reasons, then be somewhat assertive in defending your label/brand by defending your time allotment for the meeting. Don’t waste time. Inform committee chairs and fellow colleagues, in advance, that you have a strict time limit that precludes you from spending hours and hours in attendance. Then, depending on the protocol within your company or organisation, mention this at the meeting, as a reminder. You want to be polite in all matters, but assertive when it comes to protecting your own time from the time wasters forced upon you by others.
  12. Determine the likely quality of the meeting or committee. If you are likely to learn something of value to you, your career, to implementing the innovation, or to your company, then attend. If you are likely to receive no measurable, or important/relevant benefit, then you might decide it is not useful to attend.
  13. Check the WHO list. Who is going to be there, and why are they there? What is the role of each participant? Are there too many “resume padders”?
  14. When you are at a meeting, listen carefully for the do-ers and separate them from the procrastinators and weak decision makers. Readily support and encourage positive actions, positive suggestions, and those attendees who strive to move the action items forward to resolution.
  15. When you made a wrong decision and find yourself in a non-productive, loosely-organised, meeting of little benefit to you, be sufficiently bold as to make an exit. Don’t expect to make that exit without ruffling some feathers. So don’t let fear of offending the chairs or participants hold you back from leaving. Of course, try to be as polite as possible, but be assertive when it comes to defending how you use your valuable time.

Meetings and committees ought to be a tool for progress, not a shield to hide behind.