How do you take your tea? Making meetings work

Dragonfly Ink - making meetings workWe’ve all had that one person in our working life who has made a real impact on us… whose words have stayed with us and influenced us over the years. For dragonflyologist Sandra Makaresz, it was her first boss.


My first boss ran a small business, but the things he taught me were universal. I’ll always remember his words ‘other places run on meetings, we run on cups of tea’.


Now I know you’re not about to give up the weekly WIP meeting for happy hour at the Bushells factory, but it’s the psychology behind it that counts – no matter what size your organization.


Meetings can mean agendas, minutes, conference calls, e-forums, notes, dissent, backward-and-forward, coffee, personality clashes, drooping eyelids, more coffee, must… stay….. awake. 


Stop. It’s time to put the cup of tea back into your meetings.


You see, cups of tea are informal things that require conversation. A reflective time, where people calmly share ideas on an equal footing and everyone is heard. It’s an atmosphere not often seen in a business meeting, but one that’s important to the people in those meetings.


Here are some tea-time philosophies to consider:

  • No-one enjoys cold tea – Sometimes it’s not to your advantage to push on when people become tired or distracted. Take a break, or work out who really needs to be there for which parts, and allow others the freedom to get on with their real work if it doesn’t involve them
  • Not everyone takes their tea the same way – So why make them take their meetings the same way? Good preparation allows you to distribute agendas and relevant information beforehand, so that people can come prepared. People can think about it if they need to, make notes, even submit their thoughts back to you to be included in the meeting and achieve better outcomes sooner
  • Tea is a civilized drink – ‘Civilized’ might sound old fashioned, but doesn’t everything come back into vogue eventually? If meetings turn into competitive battle-grounds, they begin to serve the purpose of individuals rather than the business. You hired each person on their merits, because you thought they had something to offer. As the meeting convener, it’s up to you to find a way to let them show you.

Even if you don’t change anything about your meetings, the ‘cup of tea’ is a helpful image to keep in mind. It means you want to know what your people think, because it’s these people who can improve the way you do business.


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