When Managers Dominate

Managers don’t have to chair meetings. To assume that they should is to fundamentally misunderstand how meetings work. Chairing a meeting is not a way of demonstrating power and authority, it is the management of a dynamic process that is designed to achieve the goals set out in the agenda. Each meeting is a separate event and the authority of that event resides in that agenda. The agenda identifies the chair and the chair then is the embodiment of that authority.

It all sounds a bit heavy, but it does make sense. So of course there are, therefore, problems with meetings that do not have proper agendas. They just can’t be meetings: briefings perhaps but not meetings. The manager with his or her inherent authority can certainly deliver those briefings on staffing issues, office organisation or productivity. Others with the manager’s delegated authority can deliver briefings too, but managers cannot and should not delegate or discharge their authority through a meeting. They just need to enable the creation of a well thought out agenda and let it do its job.

So just how does the agenda achieve this weighty task? Well easily, in fact. A good agenda will not only dictate the content of the meeting, but the process too. Much better that, for example, item 4 doesn’t just identify the subject of sales, but the presentation of monthly sales figures and a discussion about their implication for the business. The chair is now empowered address the issue of sales, and specifically enable those results to be presented to the meeting and to enable a discussion to take place about what they might mean.

For such an objective on the agenda to be met successfully will require chairs to use their delegated power skilfully and sensitively as they seek to ensure that the potential of all of those people at the meeting to play their part, is used to its maximum. More easily said than done, probably…

“Stay tuned for the next instalment.”