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  • Writer's picturePeter McKenzie

Want more efficient and energized team meetings? Here´s how...

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

As a new Finance manager way back in the early nineties, I clearly remember my first team meetings. They were quite frankly, terrible! All five of us would sit in a meeting room and spend the hour complaining. The conversation followed a similar pattern week after week:

“We should have more people”

“The systems shouldn´t fail as often as they do”

“The deadlines should be relaxed a few days to give us a chance to analyze the figures better”

“We should be paid to work overtime”

“That other area should have sent the information earlier”

The meetings spiraled into a long moaning session time and time again. They were completely ineffective. Worse still, I became part of the dynamic and I was the boss (at least in theory!)

The team’s challenges always seemed to be due to external factors. Things should have worked better, but it seemed we were not given the tools needed to do the job.

However, as leader of this small team, I was allowing excuses to get in the way of the solutions. I eventually realized that we had to eliminate one small word from our conversations, perhaps one of the most disempowering words in the English language…


I wasn´t the first person to have figured this out. My favorite group of philosophers, the ancient Stoics, came to the same conclusion over 2000 years ago. They had a word for the process of eliminating the word “should” that they called acquiescence.

Acquiescence means accepting what you cannot control and focusing on what you can do right now. In other words, letting go of the idea that life isn´t fair or circumstances should be different and getting on with the task at hand.

The action-driven Stoics had three fundamental problems with the word “should”:

1) It focuses on problems caused by things that are outside of our control. Worst still when we use the past tense “should have”, what we are implying is that we want to change the past. Not much use when we have a problem right now.

2) It creates a victim mentality. Complaining about circumstances may feel good, but it doesn’t solve anything.

3) It leads to passivity, an attitude of “well, there is nothing I can do anyway”.

So, in my team meetings I introduced two rules:

a) whenever someone said a sentence with the word should, we would immediately replace it with the phrase “What can I do right now to solve this?”

b) anyone who said the word should had to pay one pound into the group fund or kitty.

The results were immediate:

People began listing solutions instead of problems

The team became more energized

The team meetings were a lot more fun

The meetings became shorter

We fixed things!

However, I have to be honest. Everyone refused to pay the one-pound fine (there would have been a huge kitty), but at least they had got the message!

So, take my advice and the advice of the Stoics. If you want more energized and efficient meetings as well as improving the way your team works, ban the word “should” from your team meetings.

You know you should give it a try! (I couldn´t resist that!)

If you would like help in optimizing your team performance and dynamics, book a call with me.

<a href=''>Team discussion photo created by DCStudio -</a>

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1 Comment

Gordon Tredgold
Gordon Tredgold
Mar 09, 2022

Love this, i have been a stoic and a fan of stoicism for a long time

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