Meeting Effectiveness Taking a Hit During the Holidays? Here’s How to Turn It Around

Written by Paul Marchildon, on November 18, 2014.

Meeting Effectiveness On the fifth day of Christmas my lame boss gave to me, five pointless meetings, four cups of coffee (that I had to pay for), three client meetings, two urgent projects, and a nasty tension headache.

Bet you can’t wait to see what he comes up with for the sixth day, huh? I kid. I love both Christmas and meetings. But during the holiday season, it’s easy to lose focus on work while visions of gift-giving, tree-decorating, and winter wonderlands dance in our heads. Can you revel in the Christmas spirit and still hold productive meetings?

No. Absolutely not. Again, I kid. Of course you can. The real question is “How?”

Let Someone Else Do It

Each week, have a different team member chair the meeting. Attendees will be treated to a different style, attitude, direction, and flair. When holidays and other events roll around, the structure allows the current chair to plug in seasonal elements. They can incorporate elements of Canada Day, Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Random Monday in March When Everyone Needs a Fun Break, in whatever way they see fit.

Organic Diversity

Besides giving people ownership of the meetings – which increases the likelihood that they’ll pay attention – rotating the chair role allows teams to celebrate diversity. Whoever owns the meetings in November and December can bring their own twist to the table. It’s a great way to organically incorporate Christmas, Kwanza, Chanukah, winter solstice, and any number of other cultural celebrations – or even personal, individual traditions that people choose to share.

If we’re honest, we admit to wondering, “How do other people celebrate this season?” It’s interesting. It’s enriching. Two things meetings should be! This is an ideal time to share culture through food, through storytelling, through all kinds of mediums that can integrate seasonal celebration and work.

When this happens, those “pointless” meetings become gatherings people look forward to because of the efforts of the chairs, their peers.

But there’s more to it than even that: in Canada, we have an incredibly diverse marketplace. It is critically important for businesses to know and appreciate various cultures and traditions. When they make a point of hiring for diversity and celebrating it, it allows them to gain insight into their consumer base. Opportunities to weave diversity into the workplace through leisure are not only golden – they’re free training!

Secret Santa: Why Not?

Another cultural piece you can include is Secret Santa. Why not? For $10 -$20, people can connect with coworkers, spread the joy, and feel good. We did all kinds of variations, including the horribly cruel, soul-crushing version in which you get a sweet charging station for your devices, and then someone switches with you for a box of chocolates. Ok. But then someone else switches with you for a pair of socks. Ok. But then someone else switches with you for an old stapler from their desk. It’s fun!

But leisureology isn’t all fun and games: gift giving actually has powerful effects on the cohesiveness of teams and their ability – and desire – to work together. Research shows that spending as little as $5 on someone else increases the givers’ happiness more than spending money on themselves.

More evidence of the power of giving: Drs. Lalin Anik and Jordi Quoidbach conducted a study in which employees were given cash and asked to spend it on each other. What happened? The coworkers indulged in boxes of chocolate or had a bottle of wine together. One team bought a piñata and smashed it gleefully, together.

Prosocial giving changed the way teams thought of their interactions, and the employees chose gifts that encouraged and enhanced shared experiences. Not surprisingly Anik and Quoidbach found these teams performed better. I’m all about measuring ROI: for every $10 spent on prosocial giving, companies gained $52. (If you’re looking for good alternatives to large holiday bonuses, smaller prosocial bonuses can give you a much bigger return.)

The Holiday Spirit – All the Time

One of the tenants of leisureology is that you don’t reserve fun for the weekend or 5:01 PM. Or that you don’t separate work from life. The same holds true for holidays. Why celebrate, say, the spirit of giving for one day, or one month, only? Instead, it can be a way to live, to work, and to be. The holidays do, though, present an opportunity to highlight positive behaviours and attitudes. You have a chance to put some creative spin on the season so you can leverage it for greater joy – and for enhanced meeting effectiveness and better overall workplace results.

When you take a leisureology approach to the holidays, and to work in general, your people will be singing a much different – more positive! – tune. You don’t have to sacrifice fun and festivity for productivity. In fact, you’ll enjoy more of it all by incorporating and celebrating the Christmas spirit.

Paul Marchildon

Paul Marchildon

A self-proclaimed Leisureologist and Motivational Speaker, Paul Marchildon applies his vast expertise in human engagement to help leaders create more productive, effective organizations. Building on an influential career as a pioneer in employee incentive and loyalty programs, strategic creative communications, social media and mobile marketing, Paul provides insight into the advantages of incorporating a leisure culture in the "work" place. He is past president of Society of Incentive and Travel Executives’ (Site) Canadian Chapter and founder of Atlantis Creative Group (now part of Maritz Canada). He is one of a select group of Canadians who have received the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation.