Developer Tea

Meetings Can Trick Your Emotions

Episode Summary

How can we avoid the false sense of positivity that can occur after meetings and how can we engage in the right kinds of meetings?

Episode Notes

Meetings are often times the only chance to have a face-to-face conversations with your co-workers and can occasionally end in good feelings that only fade as the week goes on. In today's episode, we're talking about the value of meetings, understanding the work and what needs to be done in order to keep the work moving forward.

How can we avoid the false sense of positivity that can occur after meetings and how can we engage in the right kinds of meetings?

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Episode Transcription

Have you ever walked away from a meeting feeling really good? Feel positive about what was said in the meeting. You feel good about the people who were in the meeting, the types of things that they had to offer, both to you and the things that they requested from you. You feel like it was productive and then you move forward and very little changes. In fact, much of the value that you felt from that meeting, it seems to disappear after a day or two. In today's episode, we're going to talk about why that might be the case and what you can do about it. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea, my goal on the show is to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. Meetings can actually help with all three of these things, clarity, perspective, and purpose, depending on what the goal of the meeting is. As it turns out, many meetings are set without a real goal. They're check-in meetings. They are determined to be important because of something that was said in another meeting. This chain of reactions that follow one meeting after another, it's not lost on most people. Most people have experienced this in their jobs. What's strange is that we often don't feel, as we said in the intro, that these meetings are bad. Sometimes we might feel like they've drawn on a little bit and one meeting may be more valuable than another, but overall, we keep on having them because we feel like they're valuable. There may be people in the meeting who feel the opposite way, but most of the time, they don't really have a solution to offer that provides the same perceived value that a meeting does. What does it exactly that makes us feel good about these meetings? When we roll down the track a little ways, if we go to the next day on the calendar, a lot of that good feeling has faded and we're not really sure what was valuable in the first place. Well, as you've been listening to this, you might have a different narrative in your head, where you believe that meetings are very much unproductive. This tends to be true for the people who have to go and actually implement the work. And for the people who are in management, they feel like they need meetings to stay in the loop about what's going on and where the work is. And so we end up in this back and forth where meetings seem to be taking away from what we all care about, but at the same time, they feel this important void in day to day business. And that is the void of understanding the work, understanding what we need to do and what we've already done. What are we getting ready to do? And what is my part to play in all of this? Have some things gone wrong? Do we need to talk about those things so we can understand them thoroughly and avoid them in the future? Do we expect something to go wrong in the future? Or are we excited about something that went well in the past and we want to keep it going? We want to retain that momentum. At the most basic level, meetings fill the void of communication to understand the work. And the good feeling that you might feel after a meeting, the feeling that seems to fade after a day or so, might simply be because meetings are often the only time that we communicate at a human to human level. We communicate in Slack, but that's much lower resolution, not as much information can be conveyed. But when we have meetings, we tend to have them until there's some feeling amongst the group of resolution. And that feeling of resolution can feel like a reward, a mental reward. But this can be misleading because if we have a short-term resolution that doesn't necessarily mean that we're improving our work or that we're moving more towards understanding, or that the resolution has an any impact on our success as a team moving forward. The resolution may be as simple as, while we're going to put that off and deal with it later. So how can we avoid this false sense of positivity that can happen during meetings? And then also how can we engage in the right kinds of meetings? That's what we're going to talk about right after we talk about today's sponsor, Abstract. Support for today's episode of Developer Teacomes from Abstract. Abstract is design workflow management for digital design teams using Sketch and, coming soon, Adobe XD. Today designers spend a frustrating amount of hours searching for files, consolidating feedback from multiple sources, and never really knowing what changes have been incorporated and approved. That's why the former Twitter principal designer Josh Brewer co-founded Abstract. It's kind of like GitHub, but for designers. Abstract is your team's version controlled source of truth for design work. This brings all design workflows into a single unified place for designers, developers, and stakeholders to collaborate and keep work moving forward. Companies like Microsoft, Spotify, Cisco, and thousands of others across 75 countries today rely on Abstract to improve their design workflows and increase collaboration. With Abstract, you can version your design files, present the work, request reviews, collect feedback, and give developers direct access to all specs all from one place that's single source of truth for your design. Spend less time searching for files and tracking down feedback, and instead spend that time doing more valuable things like focusing on innovation and collaboration. Sign your team up today for a free 14-day trial by heading over to Thanks again to Abstract for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. We've talked about this topic in previous episodes of Developer Tea, so some of what we're saying in today's episode is reiterating what we said in the past about having effective meetings. Part of the reason for this is because meetings are such a big part of pretty much everyone's day in the average business. This is true from startups all the way to Fortune 500 companies that have been around for a hundred years. Part of the reason for this is because there is a fundamental need for collaborative communication. But what we end up doing is scheduling meetings, thinking that the meeting will solve the problem at hand rather than scheduling meetings more tactically. Here's the change that you can make. You can do this whether you're an individual contributor or if you are a manager, it's especially your responsibility to seek this clarity for your direct reports for every meeting. For every meeting, outline the reason for that meeting. And more specifically, outline what this will change about the future. If the reason for the meeting is simply to check in with one another to see how everyone's doing, this can have a positive effect on morale. So put that in the meeting notes, put it in the agenda. If the meeting is instead to size some stories in a backlog, put that in the agenda. And the whole point of this is to move towards having meetings that have a clear and straightforward focus. It's set some boundaries and kind of some ground rules for what the meeting will be about. But it also means that everyone in the meeting has the responsibility and the license to keep the meeting on track and focusing on that primary goal. Once a meeting has been called and agreed upon, the reason for the meeting shouldn't change. It shouldn't grow and it probably shouldn't shrink, although it's probably better if it shrinks than grows. This is what we have in the past termed functional meetings. What is the output of this meeting? Hopefully most of the time the output will actually be a tangible thing that you can look at, like meeting notes, but sometimes the output is less tangible. In any case, at the beginning of every meeting, the fundamental purpose, the top priority for that meeting should be stated at the beginning of the meeting. And if anyone is unclear about the purpose for that meeting, they should feel the responsibility to bring up the lack of clarity. Now the critical takeaway here is that at the end of the meeting, we shouldn't just settle for feeling resolved. Instead, we should compare what we know now, the new information or the new plan that we might have against the functional purpose of the meeting. In other words, go back and bring up that agenda and make sure that the agenda item, the functional purpose for the meeting has been met. If it hasn't been met, but people still feel resolved, well, the meeting may not have been very valuable. It may just be giving us that dopamine release that we feel when we're in connection with one another. But connection is not enough if your goal went beyond connection. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope these thoughts on how to make meetings more effective and meaningful will resound with you. And I'd love for you to send me notes on what you're trying to make meetings better wherever you are. Another huge thank you to support for today's episode from Abstract, have her to That's to get a 14 day trial today for your team. Thanks again for listening to today's episode. Today's episode is a part of the SPEC network, as is every other episode of Developer Tea. Go and check it out, Today's episode was also produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. And until next time, enjoy your tea.