About Your Next Meeting

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I’ve been thinking a lot about meetings recently. Seth’s post on annual company events inspired me to begin formulating this post. As a person with a business of one employee, I’ve got to be absolutely careful of how many meetings I attend that are non-revenue generating.

Each day, I am invited to a meeting – typically a cup of coffee or a lunch. Much of the time, they’re professional relationships or even leads so it’s non-revenue generating today, but tomorrow it may lead to something. These meetings are incredibly exciting… typically brainstorming or strategizing about a company, their marketing, or a technology on the rise.

That’s quite different from when I used to work at large companies that held meetings daily, though. Meetings at companies are expensive, interrupt productivity, and are often an absolute waste of time. Here’s the kind of meetings that damage the culture of a business:

  • Meetings held to find consensus. Chances are that you’ve hired someone who is responsible to get the job done. If you’re holding a meeting to decide for them… or worse… to take the decision away from them, you’re making a mistake. If you don’t trust the person to do the job, then fire them.
  • Meetings to spread consensus. This is a little bit different… typically held by the decision-maker. He or she isn’t confident in their decision and scared about the repercussions. By holding a meeting and getting consensus from the team, they are trying to spread the blame and reduce their accountability.
  • Meetings to have meetings. There’s nothing worse than interrupting someone’s day for the daily, weekly, or monthly meeting where there’s no agenda and nothing happens. These meetings are incredibly expensive to a company, often costing thousands of dollars.

Every meeting should have a goal that can’t be met independently… perhaps brainstorming, communicating an important message, or breaking down a project and assigning tasks. Every company should make a rule – a meeting without a goal and agenda should be denied by the invitee.

Many years ago, I went through a leadership class where they taught us how to have meetings. That may sound funny, but the expense of meetings to large organizations is significant. By optimizing every meeting, you saved money, time, and built up your teams instead of hurting them.

Team meetings had a leader, a scribe (to take notes), a time-keeper (to ensure the meeting was on time), and a gate-keeper (to keep on topic). The time-keeper and gate-keeper switched each meeting and had full authority to change topics or put an end to a session.

The last 10 minutes or so of every meeting were used to develop an Action Plan. The Action Plan had 3 columns – Who, What, and When. Defined in each action was who would do the work, what the measurable deliverables were, and when they would have it by. It was the leaders’ job to hold people accountable on the agreed upon deliverables. By instituting these rules for meetings, we were able to switch meetings from being interruptive and began to make them productive.

I’d challenge you to think about each meeting you’re having, whether it’s revenue generating, whether it’s productive, and how you’re managing them. I utilize Calendly to schedule my meetings and often wonder how many meetings that I would actually have if you had to pay a fee by credit card to schedule it! If you had to pay for your next meeting out of your salary, would you still have it?


  1. 1

    Doug, I would like to schedule a meeting with you to discuss this more. 🙂

    I once heard a comedian say that meetings would go a heckuva lot faster in corporate America if the organizer just started the meeting by asking everyone to raise their hand if they are still working on whatever the heck they were working on yesterday.

  2. 2

    Awesome post! The “all meetings are optional” philosophy is actually a guidepost of a ROWE, which my company has been enjoying for a couple of years now. So many of us place value on the wrong things, like “face time”, or filling a chair at a preset time. Meetings and face time are great and have value in the right context but we should not allow these things to give us the illusion of productivity when it doesn’t make sense.

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