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Why Have Meetings?

A majority of groups and organizations couldn't function without meetings. Interacting face to face with other people is the best way to communicate when what YOU say depends on what OTHER PEOPLE say. You can react immediately to others' ideas; you can come up with new alternatives and problem solutions; you can discuss the repercussions of actions a group or organization is considering—all of which you can't do sitting alone at your desk. Of course, there's electronic mail at your desk, which eases the process of communication, but email lacks the visual and vocal elements of communication necessary for perception of meaning.

A group meeting together becomes more than the sum of its parts. Groups are comprised of people with knowledge and experiences that vary—they bring different resources to discussions. Especially in today's culture, problems extend beyond the boundaries of set disciplines or knowledge bases, so it is becoming increasingly important that people with varying backgrounds and viewpoints be brought together to discuss and decide.

An additional impetus for having meetings is that of implementing decisions. When people have the chance to present "their side" of an issue and when they can participate in making decisions on the issue, they are far more ready to implement a group decision, even though the decision may not be what they originally wanted. Sharing information, creating alternatives, and considering the potential aftermath of decisions are powerful ways to change people's minds and motivate them to change behavior. Learning to lead this process is essential for managers.

Part of the need for meetings concerns psychological needs of people. We need to feel we are part of an organization or a member of a team. We also need a sense of togetherness, belonging, and trust, we need help with responsibilities, and we need a renewed sense of commitment to our work groups and the organization. Meetings foster these needs. They are intensive ways of involving others in solving problems and making decisions. When people meet together for long periods of time or deal intensively for shorter periods, they often feel a sense of comradery with other group members. The time spent sharing experiences, stating personal views, and cooperating with others to find the best solution for all concerned creates a feeling of connectedness, a sense of community. Groups of people meeting together are potentially powerful. Leading efficient and effective meetings is important for managers!

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