Case Study of a Failed Meeting

Posted on July 23, 2010


Team Leadership, photo from

Through my leadership journey, I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through numerous failed meetings. Some were downright unproductive, some were agonizingly long, and most yielded no decent results. Here we shall discuss a particular instance of a failed meeting which many may identify with, and may we all draw precious insights from this valuable leadership lesson.

Margaret, the head of the security department in a departmental store, was the chairperson for the meeting. While the meeting was set to start at three in the afternoon, Margaret was still talking on the phone outside of the meeting room at half past three, and the meeting finally started at quarter to four.

The meeting covered numerous points, most of which, however, were exact replication of the previous week’s meeting. Margaret reiterated the points anyway, thinking that the team needed more explanation to move on. Falling short of delegating the tasks, Margaret went on to the next point.

Many times throughout the meeting, the topic drifted towards irrelevant issues such as the best Turkish diner in town, or the rock bands that will be holding their concerts in the coming month. In fact, it was rather apparent that Margaret came unprepared for the meeting. By seven, most of the members appeared blatantly disinterested, and were starving, yet Margaret seemed oblivious to this.

By eight, Margaret was the only one left talking. Everyone else made it a point to hold their opinion, as they were certain that if they were to speak, it would surely trigger an hour long response from Margaret. Seeing how everyone was quiet, Margaret took it to be a sign of agreement, and she went on rambling on further.

The meeting finally ended close to ten at night. Everyone came out of the meeting, wondering what went on for the past half a day. What’s more, they were left totally hungry and grumpy, as it was way past their dinner time.

From this case study, we may, perhaps, identify with many of the features of the meeting with ones that we have attended. It is also worthy to reflect if as leaders and managers, any of the meetings that we chair bear similar characteristics. Perhaps people always turn out exhausted after meetings. Perhaps people never speak during meetings. Perhaps nothing ever seems to get done meetings after meetings. Having these insights, we may then move on to examine how we may tweak our own meetings to become as productive and as interesting as possible.

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