𝗠𝗲𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀: 𝗔 𝗦𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗴𝗴𝗹𝗲 𝗔𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁 𝗚𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗘𝘃𝗶𝗹
Updated: Jan 28
“Meetings are by definition a
concession to deficient organization.
One either meets or one works.”
– Peter Drucker
While this quote is an exaggeration, for many people, meetings top the list of things they hate about work. The same leaders running the meetings may emphatically hate them, too. The words “waste of time” and “meeting” often sandwich together easier than a PB & J.
A growing company needs group meetings to convey information. However, the benefits are only realized if you design productive meetings that encourage brainstorming ideas, sharing insights, and fostering innovation. When meetings allow you to efficiently resolve complex problems and creatively explore new directions, they can be valuable and motivating.
Do We Need to Meet?
Question whether you need to bring a bunch of people together in a room. Review every meeting at least quarterly including its value, frequency, and attendees.
There are various meeting types, from the company-wide update, brainstorming sessions, team and project meetings, and training sessions. Some are tactical, some are meant to share information, and some build strategy. You must decide which are important and when.
Sometimes, a meeting is unnecessary; your team may appreciate receiving information in another way and be more productive during what would have been the meeting time. For instance, using meetings solely for accountability may not be optimal. Instead of gathering people together, utilize a tracking tool, dashboard, or shared resource to measure progress. Some managers are tempted to call out individuals in a group session; instead, reach out to them individually and discuss the reasons for delays.
Instead of group meetings, rely on 1:1s to check on individual development and mental health. While it may be expedient for a manager to ask everyone for updates in one meeting, this tactic wastes time for everyone else.
Other ways to meet less:
Schedule meetings for 30 or 45 minutes instead of an hour. As humans, we’re always tempted to fill up the time allotted.
Block off time weekly during which no one has meetings. The team will appreciate the time for deep work.
Watch recordings of the meeting at high speed if you need to know what was shared.
Pro tip: Meetings are not always necessary for productivity. Determine if other ways to convey information yield the same results while saving people time—using shared documents, reporting dashboards, and mixing up live and asynchronous progress updates, for example.
More Effective Meetings
Attendees can review and spend the full meeting participating instead of processing information. A leader who values others’ time communicates that they believe in business growth and personal respect. Attendees should participate fully. Here’s how to set expectations:
Before the Meeting
Be clear on the purpose for getting together. The more you push on this point, the more productive is your time together.
Decide who is facilitating. Often, the most senior leader will be the facilitator by default, but there are many amazing leaders whose strengths do not include running meetings.
Know your audience. A room full of accountants may expect to visualize and discuss information differently than an audience of designers.
Share information—such as any content or presentation—one to two business days beforehand, and always send an agenda one business day beforehand.
Charge every attendee with adding something to the dialogue. Ensure everyone has a chance to contribute. You may encourage people to send questions beforehand and recommendations afterward if they prefer not to speak to the group.
If you have a deck, limit the number of slides: It’s better to emphasize a few topics and make progress than to gloss over many topics. Incorporate visuals to keep the presentation appealing.
During the Meeting
Begin the meeting by repeating your purpose and what you hope to accomplish by the end.
Start and finish on time. Setting that expectation means attendees are ready to go and know they’ll get to leave when planned.
If you have new attendees, introduce them and ask them to share one fun fact.
Ask the facilitator to keep the discussion moving.
Encourage the facilitator to stay neutral, and not predetermine the decisions.
“Your job as a leader is to be right at the end
of the meeting, not at the beginning.”
– David M. Cote
If it’s a recurring meeting, consider allowing a different teammate to share one positive and one negative story each week.
Sometimes burning issues must be addressed unexpectedly. Prioritize topics and tackle the most important ones first.
Have someone own the timing. That may be the facilitator or someone else. Be nice to that person because it’s a tough role.
Someone should take notes and share them afterward. You may rotate this responsibility among several people. Usually, it’s best if the main speaker or facilitator does not take notes because they’re already focused on running the meeting.
Create a little conflict. If a major decision has no dissent, demand reasons why it will not work. Also, you may designate one person as “devil’s advocate” to make a strong case against an uncontested idea.
If there is too much tension, reframe the discussion around solving problems. Any comments should relate to solving the problem. If helpful, revert to the company’s values and goals to evaluate ideas. Otherwise, stop the discussion and find a way to continue it later.
For a major project, consider forming a smaller task group to handle the project and report progress continuously. That keeps the discussion moving forward.
Save time at the end for repeating the objectives and determining the next steps. For each next step, assign only one owner—so responsibility is clear—and a deadline for when to share the next update.
If you find that meetings are running stale, consider changing one aspect. You may introduce humor or stories, encourage guest speakers from other teams, present more visuals and video clips, or ask attendees to take turns sharing information and even facilitating. A small changeup can make a significant difference.
After the Meeting
Every attendee should add value or receive value. If that does not happen, decide if that person needs to contribute more next time or if they should not join again.
Acknowledge any attendees who contributed significantly. Depending on the individual, this recognition may be better served briefly in a public setting or via private message.
Whether via a quick survey or asking questions live, check with attendees on how to make the meetings more useful. For example, ask, “What’s one way our time could have been used better?”
Share notes and seek any clarification needed on new thoughts. If someone seemed less engaged and you wanted them to contribute more, send a direct message asking specific follow-up questions to encourage participation going forward.
If there are immediate next steps, send updates. Much of the value from meetings comes in the follow-up execution afterwards.
Types of Meetings
In Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni, the author talks about the purpose of four distinct kinds of meetings:
Daily Check-in: Each participant takes up to five minutes to share their daily plans and actions.
Weekly: For an hour, participants cover their main initiatives, progress, and any challenges.
Monthly: Over two to four hours, participants review ideas, larger issues, and long-term projects.
Quarterly: For one or two days, participants dive into strategic plans, team changes, and industry trends.
Each type of meeting has its own purpose designed to facilitate communication. One major distinction is between tactical and strategic topics. By recognizing meeting types, you can address the right issues in the right meeting.
The tips above in “More Effective Meetings” may apply to any of these types.
Almost paradoxically, the more meetings you have, the more efficient you may become at sharing information and encouraging productivity as the burden of meetings shifts to a constructive exercise. Scaling companies know how to formalize and encourage knowledge sharing to expedite progress and prevent problems.
Key Takeaway: Productive meetings can reinforce collaboration, encourage innovation, and resolve crises. Meetings are necessary to scale, so approach them as a catalyst for growth.
Scale: Reach Your Peak has over 130 independent topics across 500 pages including leadership, growth, sales, marketing, operations, finance, and teams. Each topic takes five minutes to gain invaluable insights, best practices, and practical options like this one.