Meetings are the Heart of the Future of Work

covermeetingI was recently interviewed about Making Meetings Matter by Dr. Jac Fitz-Enz (“Interviewing Jim Ware”). In the course of our conversation he asked me why I had moved from my long-term focus on the future of work to something as “mundane” as corporate meetings.

Dr. Jac’s question caught me a bit off guard, but it made me think. Here’s his question and my response:

Dr. Jac:

Jim what took you from the lofty heights of futuring to the more mundane issues around meetings? There’s no question that we all suffer from meetingitis, but what drew you to it?


Frankly, the evolution happened naturally, yet I haven’t given up my interest in the way work itself is changing and will continue to change. I’ve always been focused on what knowledge-based organizations have to do to thrive in the future, and I am convinced that, as Alan Webber pointed out way back in 1993, conversation is at the heart of the so-called “new economy.”

Meetings are the place where knowledge workers learn, exchange ideas, share insights, solve problems, and make decisions. Even though technology has transformed the way we exchange written words the way we talk to each other hasn’t changed much at all.

There are now about 15 million meetings every day in the United States. Many of us complain about how useless most of them are. We could put an end to the low levels of employee engagement if we could figure out how to make meetings more productive – hence more popular.

The problem isn’t our meeting leadership skillset; it’s our mindset that needs to change. The essence of that mind shift has to be the recognition that in this age of networked knowledge, leadership has to evolve from telling and directing to collaborating and listening. A leader’s job today is to leverage the talents, experiences, and insights of the team. It’s much like an orchestra conductor who coordinates the music produced by a diverse, talented group of musicians.

To come back to your question, I realized that until leaders understand their role as orchestrators and collaborators, it’s pointless to focus on the future and how great it’s going to be. We all create the future, together, one day and one meeting at a time. So let’s make those 15 million meetings matter a whole lot more by making them both functional and fun.

[To see the full conversation, go to

Conversations are the way we learn about each other, understand what’s going on, and make sense of the world we live in. Yes, we also read newspapers and books and we write letters, post on Facebook, send out tweets, and use other social media – but there is little question that we are also talking with (and at) each other more than ever (conference calls, Skype, coffee houses, pubs, networking events, and so on).

I am particularly focused on the most important conversations we engage in at work:  the real-time, verbal communications that take place every day in many different physical and social settings. For me, the quality and tone of those conversations is what makes organizational experiences either upbeat and energizing, or depressing and draining.Those conversations are all around us, all the time, but we rarely stop to examine them or to acknowledge just how central they are to our individual effectiveness and to our values, views, and organizational experience.change-management meeting

And since the 2013 Gallup report “The State of the American Workplace” clearly showed that only about 30% of employees are actively engaged and energized by their work, I have to conclude that most corporate conversations are not going well.

Have you participated in a recent meeting or conversation that was open, candid, and constructive? How did that come about?

I’m deeply interested in collecting and reporting stories about conversations that do go well. Building a better understanding of what makes conversations work will go a long way towards repairing the broken state of organizational life. Contact me today if you have a story to share!

Note: Making Meetings Matter is available for purchase on in both print and Kindle formats (at and from Apple as an iBook (at

Contact me today for a free 30-minute strategic conversation about how you can make all your meetings and other corporate conversations both productive and popular. Please download this brief overview of my new service offering for making meetings matter to explore what’s possible.