Yes, it’s true. The meeting after the meeting does exist. It’s not an urban legend.
In fact, the meeting after the meeting (or let’s call it the MATM for short) can actually be more important than the original meeting. Many people think it’s really a big gripe session about the meeting. But a true MATM is very important – it often provides insight into the people and discussions that you can’t get during the meeting itself.
And as a business pro, you want to be included in the MATM. Here are a few dynamics to watch for:
The Purpose. Typically, the MATM is part venting and part strategy. Usually, people are frustrated about something that happened at the meeting (the venting part) and the conversation turns toward brainstorming ways to fix the situation (the strategy party). A MATM of only griping? Well that’s just a gripe session. And a meeting where you discuss strategies to fix something…that’s called a “real” meeting.
The Attendees. From an office politics perspective, these folks are the players where this particular matter is concerned. The players can change from issue to issue. Also, try to notice who initiates the MATM. Figure out if they are the person who ultimately is accountable for this issue (and it appears they’re soliciting feedback) OR are they trying to influence the person who is ultimately accountable?
The Location. Often, but not always, the MATM takes a more casual tone. So it might be a mid-morning coffee run, lunch or drinks after work. I’ve seen a lot of people shrug off the MATM because it looked social. That was unfortunate because they didn’t recognize the signs. I’ve also seen organizers of the MATM intentionally choose a venue knowing certain people wouldn’t attend.
This one is a toughie. I can’t tell you the right decision. I can say don’t be naive and believe business only happens in office buildings and boardrooms. It happens everywhere – on golf courses, playing Words with Friends, at coffee shops and during happy hour.
The Discussion. I mentioned earlier that the MATM can often be a gripe session. If you’re at a MATM, listen carefully to the complaints. Try to understand the frustrations and also why that frustration may or may not have been addressed during the meeting.
The other conversation that happens during a MATM is strategy. What people plan to do next as a result of the meeting. This can offer valuable insight into what happens behind the scenes in the organization. It can also tell you a lot about the individuals involved and their comfort zones, spheres of influence and workplace power.
The Commitment. There’s an over-quoted line from the movie “Fight Club” – “The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.” Same goes here. What people share in the MATM must be respected. People let their guard down in the MATM. They talk about what challenges them and they might share something they plan to do. Unless your role is to go forewarn someone, then you have to #KnowTheCode of meetings after meetings.
Instead of trying to eradicate the meeting after the meeting, figure out if you can play a positive role in them. I’ve often found that, when I was being invited to the MATM, it was to be a sounding board or ask a tough question. Bottom line, you can’t help unless you build the reputation and relationships necessary to get a seat at the meeting after the meeting.
Image courtesy of Robert Smith6