13 Things I Learned From “Meetings Suck”

How to shake up your next meeting…

Every Wednesday we have a weekly rhythm where we meet as a team and try to hammer out all in person meetings that have to happen for us. It’s a good time and we usually get a lot done. However, as with any meeting it can get a little bit monotonous. So we are all reading this book, or skimming it really to learn a bit about some ways to make our meetings better.

“A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.” Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek

These are my 10 findings slash learnings from the book that stuck out to me:

#1 We Suck At Running Meetings

Here’s the thing, and I agree with the author here, it’s not really meetings that are the problem, it’s us. And if meetings were such a terrible idea why on earth would we have ever created them or insisted on having them more often?

They are a good thing and the key to having a good meeting is being prepared, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Just showing up and then expecting to get ‘caught up’ during the meeting is really a poor way to approach it.

You get out what you put in a meeting, so if you are well rested, fed and prepared and have done some of your own thinking going into the meeting you are 10x more likely to leave with clarity and excitement moving forward, I mean unless it’s an accounting meeting… ;)

#2 When our meetings aren’t run properly, it’s a waste of money.

I’m not a math major, but I can do the math of having a few people get together in a room together for an hour or two and how much that costs a company to execute.

Even if it’s only 3 or 4 people, that’s likely a cost of $500+ for just a simple meeting. So if you are having a meeting about finance and savings just remember how much that meeting costs you to have.

Again, preparation is key.

#3 You gain value from being present, and you give value by speaking up.

I can’t stand a social interaction when the person with whom I spending time can’t focus for a bit of time on what we are doing without consulting their virtual life. (Obviously there are exceptions that are ok here)

But being present has to be the best hack of any meeting ever. You are way way way way more likely to get a lot out of a meeting by being present and being there and attentive then not.

If you are paying attention and speaking up, you are far more likely to get a lot out of it and have way better clarity moving forward after the meeting, which hint, is actually the reason we have them.

#4 Prepare an Agenda

The importance of agenda’s is discussed in the book but I have another though to go with it. Not only should you prepare an agenda and send it out beforehand, but you should put an estimated time limit on each agenda item. Here’s why.

Parkinson’s law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

So if we just have a bunch of items we need to get through but no time limit on each one it’s likely we’ll make it through the first few and then be out of time.

It’s totally justifiable if you get to your time limit on a particular topic that you extend because it is super valuable to continue that conversation, but if it didn’t really spark anything don’t drag it out to your limit either.

#5 Weekly Action Review or WAR Meetings

This is what we most often do, and I’ll just copy straight from the book here as to their purpose:

The WAR meeting is a ninety-minute meeting that each business area holds for its team. The purpose is for the team members to update one another about what they’re working on and to keep everyone on the same page. It forces people to hold one another accountable, while allowing for teammates to share experiences and to help each other out of challenging situations. These meetings build and unify teams and help to prevent divisions.

#6 Leaders Should Be Leaders

It is ultimately the leaders responsibility to make sure that the meetings are held in an effective and efficient manner. They are responsible for everything.

HOWEVER, employees that have a sour attitude or don’t prepare don’t really add to the company culture in a positive manner and should be held accountable.

Most leaders that I have ever met, are desperately concerned about helping their people grow, growing profits and making sure everyone is using their time wisely. That’s why we are having meetings so everyone knows what to do to row together in unison.

Leaders — the CEO, other C-suite officers, executives — have profit-and-loss responsibilities with three resources at their disposal to achieve their goals: people, time, and money. They apply these resources as carefully as if they were held at gunpoint, so as to ensure that everything is spent wisely and nothing is wasted.

#7 Meetings Are A Chance To Stand Out

If you aren’t a C-Level manager or owner of a company meetings are still a really good thing for you. Here’s why:

For frontline staff, it’s good to go into meetings recognizing the chance to stand out among their peers. Especially within larger organizations, it’s easy to feel like a number and to blend into the crowd. The meeting can be a fish bowl, or a stage, for their career. It can show they’re dialed in or buttoned up. It can show they’re respectful or unable to listen and work with people. The meeting is their chance to show they can “lead up” in the organization. Really, it’s their chance to show their stuff to the people that can help their career trajectory. If you treat the meeting like a job interview, you will stand out in front of your peers, leaders, and those who directly report to you.

#8 Meetings Help Grow And Develop Future Leaders

This is similar to the last point but it merits its own bullet point. Having meetings aligns your vision and purpose as a company. Having good companies propels forward your growth as a company. Propelling your growth allows you to hire more people. Hiring more people and expanding your team not only helps you grow more but lets you offload more things to people who can handle them. Which then allows this:

There’s another crucial reason to grow future leaders, one that’s practical and makes common sense. When subordinates can successfully manage meetings, then CEOs, their C-suite officers, and other leaders in the company will have the time and freedom to focus on higher-level initiatives. This is crucial. Time and freedom to hone in on the highest-priority tasks isn’t a mere luxury; it’s a necessity if a business is to expand and fulfill its potential.

#9 Recognize The Type Of People In Your Meetings

from “Meetings Suck” by Cameron Herold

Dominant: These individuals are extroverts, assertive, verbose, forceful, strong, type-A, and driven personalities. They will say what they mean, argue for it, and act forcefully. They believe so strongly in their opinions that they will push for them. Often, these people will argue for the sake of being right rather than for having the better solution.

Expressive: These individuals are also extroverts, plus they are animated, talk with their hands, and think out loud. They tend to get excitable and emotional, and they eagerly jump in to speak.

Analytical: These people will literally think through their answers before speaking and tend to be introverts. Typically they think through their answers for so long that Dominant and Expressive people feel they’re too slow, or not really thinking. This doesn’t mean that Analytical people don’t have the right answers; it means they have a different thinking process.

Amiable: These individuals avoid conflict and tend to get along in a passive manner. Amiables will say things like, “Well, whatever,” or “Whatever you’d like,” or “That’s fine,” or “I’m okay too.” Truthfully, they mean it most of the time. However, when they walk away, they often feel as if no one really cared how they feel. Or they will leave a meeting thinking they didn’t add value or didn’t have anything to say, or no one asked them anything, so they should have stayed at their desks. Sometimes these personalities can be passive-aggressive, but more often passive.

#10 Hold Your Responsibility Like A Navy Seal

If you haven’t read “Extreme Ownership” by Jacko Willing, you should read it and this will make even more sense, but Cameron is exactly right with this point:

Another way to look at this is in the way the Navy Seals conduct field missions. My job on the mission is to look left, your job is to look right, Charlie’s job is to focus straight ahead, and Steve’s job is to look behind. But if I were to look anywhere but left, then I would put all of our lives at risk. I need to trust that you and the rest of our team is doing the job they were assigned, and you need to trust that I’m doing mine. In any mission, the Seals don’t send more men than necessary, nor do they send too few. Each person on the team is there because he provides value. And there’s an expectation that accompanies everyone on a mission: that they will do their job right. The same concept holds in a meeting.

#11 “No Agenda, No Attenda”

This is so perfectly explained, and couldn’t be better. If there isn’t a plan for why we are having the meeting and what we are going to go over, I don’t want to be there.

In fact, setting the agenda during the first part of the meeting sorta seems like a little bit of a waste for that meeting. If we want more productive better meetings we most definitely need to sacrifice a bit of time before to prepare!

I love that he included the purpose, the outcomes and time limits with each agenda item. Plus if something else insanely valuable comes up because of it, all the better!

#12 Start On Time, End Early

Punctuality is not so much a virtue, which suggests it’s in some way above and beyond what’s required. Rather, it reflects a larger philosophy of showing respect. “Sorry, I’m late” translates in business as “Screw you, I don’t respect you.”

We have all been late, and have all been early. Which one gives you a better state of mind for the meeting you are entering? Early is always great, and I’m sure there are arguments and reasons for being late, but it does send the wrong message to those with whom you are meeting.

And no one was ever mad that a meeting ended on time or even early, so why not try to get through it more quickly?

#13 We Should Ban Devices..?

This is just brilliance and well said:

Regarding devices, I don’t see them as a problem in the same way that I don’t see guns as a problem, per se. Both require people to act inappropriately before these things become problematic. Personally, I prefer not to use devices during a meeting. However, some people find them helpful. I know many people who take notes on a laptop. But checking email is distracting. I subscribe to the rule that, if you’re on your device, I can call you out for checking email or doing something irrelevant in the meeting. If you’re guilty, then you buy the group lunch. But if I call you out and I’m wrong, then I buy everyone lunch.

There is for sure more, and this will likely be edited to include more thoughts and ideas as I continue to go to meetings, but this hopefully has been a helpful brief overview of the value of the book. You should buy it and read through it, it’s short and awesome! Thanks Cameron for writing it.

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