Today, a million meetings will start late for a million reasons—but here’s the main one: no consequences.

A consequence is what happens after a behavior.  Suppose, for example, you go outside without a coat.  The consequence, according to my mother, years ago, is that, unless it’s a sizzling hot summer day, you’ll definitely freeze to death.

Next time—if there is a next time—maybe you’ll wear a coat.  Unless, of course, you happen to be one of my children who, when living at home, would never wear a coat; they rejected the very concept of the coat.

Consequences are so powerful that you can train pigeons to play the piano, as psychologist B.F. Skinner demonstrated.  He shaped their behavior using nothing more complicated than food pellets.

Then he trained pigeons to play ping-pong, just in case, I suppose, they found themselves with idle time between piano gigs.

Ok, back to meetings.

Suppose you’re on time—what are the consequences?  Often, they’re bad.  It’s like arriving first at a party.  Where is everyone?  You feel like a complete idiot.

What are the consequences for being late?  Often, they’re good.  The meeting doesn’t start till you arrive, or else the meeting, having already started, now stops and the leader feels compelled to review every single thing that’s ever been said, just for your benefit.  You feel important.

Let’s reverse the consequences.

If you’re on time:  Good things happen.  There are tasty things to eat—chocolate donuts, warm blueberry muffins, juicy fresh fruit.  But after a few minutes, all this food gets whisked away by armed security guards.

Or, you get a raffle ticket and, every so often during the year, the company raffles off something interesting (maybe a piano, or a ping-pong table—or a pigeon!). Plus, the meeting is productive.

If you’re late:  Bad things happen.  You have to pay a penalty.  Some companies use a penalty called the buck bucket:  for every minute you’re late, you owe $1; for every excuse you give about why you’re late, you owe $10.

And you get nothing to eat, except perhaps some disgusting food pellets.

Tip #1:  If you’re trying to change behavior, whether it’s about meetings or anything else, start with the consequences.

Tip #2: This is for a select few (you know who you are):  It’s still March; wear a coat.

© Copyright 2018 Paul Hellman.  All rights reserved.

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