The next time you run a meeting

The train conductor gave us a no-nonsense warning as we approached New Haven, Ct. We were early, he said, so it was permissible to step off the train.

“But,” he warned, “you’ve only got 6 minutes. We’ll be leaving for NYC at 9:41 a.m. And that’s 9:41 my time.”

I admired the repetition of 9:41. And also the “THAT’S MY TIME” part, which showed a take-charge attitude, spiked perhaps with just a dollop of insanity.

When was the last time you missed a train? Or a plane? Rarely happens, right. On the other hand, people are late for meetings all the time. More about that in a sec.


Back to the train, I did get off because I’m one of those people who worry every time I read the latest research about excessive sitting.

(“How did he die?” I imagine someone asking about me. “Oh, he took a train from Boston to NYC and never got up. Not once. And then, of course, he couldn’t get up. For the main reason, he was dead.”)

So I stepped off and did a few stretches, but I didn’t stray far because this was a train that could leave, really, at any second, based on the conductor deciding, purely on whim, “Off we go, it’s 9:41—MY TIME!”

The next time you run a meeting, BE THE CONDUCTOR.

What does that mean? Well, for one thing, be clear about when the meeting starts, and when the break ends, and then—here’s the tough part—stick to those times.

Sure, you may feel uncomfortable starting or resuming a meeting when people are missing. But that’s what a conductor would do.

BE THE CONDUCTOR means to demonstrate command, to assert leadership.

Because when you’re leading a meeting, sometimes you need to focus more on getting the train to the station on time, and less on getting all the passengers to love you.


p.s. If your meeting exceeds an hour (most meetings shouldn’t), you definitely need a break. Unless you want half your room to keel over from excessive sitting.

© Copyright 2015 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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