How do we build better meetings?

Ten reasons why useless meetings suck:

  1. They waste our limited time.
  2. They waste our limited mental focus.
  3. They don’t move projects forward. (And might move them backward.)
  4. They put us in bad moods — before, during, and after.
  5. People are more likely to lash out during the meeting b/c they are so FRUSTRATED.
  6. We leave feeling mentally and physically drained.
  7. We leave with absolutely NO idea what the next steps are.
  8. We’ll need to have the SAME meeting AGAIN.
  9. We feel the negative effects the rest of the day and maybe even longer.
  10. We KNOW meetings don’t HAVE to suck.


First, let’s take a step back.

Define your WHAT and your WHY when it comes to fixing meetings. What outcome do you want? Why do you want it?

Example WHAT’s might include:

  • I want to cut my weekly meeting time from 5 hours/week to 2 hours/week.
  • I want to change my all-hands meetings from a 2-hour weekly meeting to 10-minute daily meetings.
  • I want to leave EVERY meeting knowing EXACTLY what me and my team need to do.
  • I want to say “NO” to meetings more often.

Example WHY’s might include:

  • Because it’ll give me more time to spend on important long-term projects.
  • Because it’ll increase my team’s day-to-day focus.
  • Because it’ll increase the chances that I’ll leave work on time.
  • Because I’ll be less stressed and happier. And so will my team.

Now it’s time to move to the HOW. How do we add value to the meeting process?

It’s an important question. Even if — especially if — one of your “WHAT’s” is about reducing time spent in meetings, we need to focus on value. You can’t just clip 2 hours out of your weekly meetings willy-nilly b/c you risk cutting out the valuable stuff.

And fixing meetings is a multi-step, iterative process that’s going to vary based on YOUR context. But here are the BASICS.


***Announce The Agenda 
Even if it’s not YOUR meeting, make sure the agenda is announced. If the meeting starts and the agenda has not been announced, ask!

***Attack The Agenda Benevolently
Make it your mission — even if it’s not your meeting — to get through the entire agenda in the allotted time. Force people to stay on track — but don’t be a pompous dictator. Be respectful and firm.

***Allow Agenda Deviations Mindfully
Sometimes agenda deviations can lead to groundbreaking innovations. Be mindful of when deviations might be leading you to greatness and when they are leading you nowhere. Allow deviations when you sense the former. Shut them down when it’s the later.

**Assign Next Actions
Everyone at the meeting should know his/her action steps BEFORE they leave the meeting. If they haven’t been assigned, ask!

Give the 4 A’s a try! What have you got to lose?

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