Why Most Meetings Still Suck

Leading people and conducting meetings go hand-in-hand. Yes, you can use email, blogs, Twitter, Basecamp, or any number of additional tools. But at the end of the day, you will still need to schedule and lead meetings.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/TadejZupancic, Image #5896614

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/TadejZupancic

As long as you have to have meetings, you might as well do them well. Before you plan another meeting (and suffer the rest of us to sit through them), make a commitment to do the following:

  1. Define the outcome. I can’t over-emphasize this. If you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish, how will you or others know if you have succeeded? State the outcome at the beginning of the meeting. Here are some real-world examples:
    • “We are here to cast a vision for our international business.”
    • “We want to inspire people to run the half marathon.”
    • “We need to make a decision on when to launch the new Web site.”
    • “We need to review the survey results from the All Employee Meeting and then plan next quarter’s meeting.”
    • “We want to report on the progress of our new royalty system implementation.”
  2. Create a written agenda. People’s time is valuable. A meeting without an agenda is like a ship without a rudder. If you won’t take time to prepare an agenda, why should people take time to attend your meeting.
  3. Focus your attention. Demand that others focus theirs. Stay in the conversation. No laptops. No Blackberries. No side conversations. All of these things make meetings longer and less productive.
  4. Start and stop on time. As the leader you have to set the pace. Start the meeting on time whether everyone is there or not. End the meeting on time, whether you are done or not. If you create these “hard edges” on your meetings, you are more likely to achieve your outcomes.
Question: What other things can you do to improve your meetings, even if you are not the leader?
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  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    Full disclosure: I have been guilty of violating all of these suggestions at one time or another. I sometimes still lapse into bad behavior. As much as anything, I am preaching to myself in this post. However, if you are sitting in one of my meetings, and I violate one of these behaviors, you have my permission to call me on it. I want to get better at this, too!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    Full disclosure: I have been guilty of violating all of these suggestions at one time or another. I sometimes still lapse into bad behavior. As much as anything, I am preaching to myself in this post. However, if you are sitting in one of my meetings, and I violate one of these behaviors, you have my permission to call me on it. I want to get better at this, too!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    Full disclosure: I have been guilty of violating all of these suggestions at one time or another. I sometimes still lapse into bad behavior. As much as anything, I am preaching to myself in this post. However, if you are sitting in one of my meetings, and I violate one of these behaviors, you have my permission to call me on it. I want to get better at this, too!

  • http://pierg.wordpress.com PierG

    Michael,
    well said!
    I’ve written something recently on my blog: it might help in the discussion http://pierg.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/do-we-need-meetings/

    PierG

  • http://michaeldmiller.wordpress.com/ mike miller

    Mike I agree. Death to meaningless meetings!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    Full disclosure: I have been guilty of violating all of these suggestions at one time or another. I sometimes still lapse into bad behavior. As much as anything, I am preaching to myself in this post. However, if you are sitting in one of my meetings, and I violate one of these behaviors, you have my permission to call me on it. I want to get better at this, too!

  • http://michaeldmiller.wordpress.com mike miller

    Mike I agree. Death to meaningless meetings!

  • http://pierg.wordpress.com/ PierG

    Michael,
    well said!
    I've written something recently on my blog: it might help in the discussion http://pierg.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/do-we-need-

    PierG

  • http://www.thewritingspa.com/ Mary DeMuth

    When we church-planted in France, we made it a point to start and end on time during our planning sessions. It showed courtesy to our fellow church planters.

    I have been in many useless meetings where the only thing I get done are my own personal notes to self and maybe a plot thread or two figured out. How many of those meetings became useless depended on the excessive pride of the person leading the meeting. Some folks just want to lead meetings! Or want to hear themselves talk. Those are the most boring of them all.

  • http://www.thewritingspa.com/ Mary DeMuth

    When we church-planted in France, we made it a point to start and end on time during our planning sessions. It showed courtesy to our fellow church planters.

    I have been in many useless meetings where the only thing I get done are my own personal notes to self and maybe a plot thread or two figured out. How many of those meetings became useless depended on the excessive pride of the person leading the meeting. Some folks just want to lead meetings! Or want to hear themselves talk. Those are the most boring of them all.

  • http://www.thewritingspa.com Mary DeMuth

    When we church-planted in France, we made it a point to start and end on time during our planning sessions. It showed courtesy to our fellow church planters.

    I have been in many useless meetings where the only thing I get done are my own personal notes to self and maybe a plot thread or two figured out. How many of those meetings became useless depended on the excessive pride of the person leading the meeting. Some folks just want to lead meetings! Or want to hear themselves talk. Those are the most boring of them all.

  • http://www.thomasnelson.com/ Lindsey

    I think we all need to leave our Blackberries and iPhones behind when we go into meetings. They are so distracting for everyone! When I see someone checking theirs, my addiction kicks in and I NEED to check mine.

  • http://www.thomasnelson.com/ Lindsey

    I think we all need to leave our Blackberries and iPhones behind when we go into meetings. They are so distracting for everyone! When I see someone checking theirs, my addiction kicks in and I NEED to check mine.

  • http://www.thomasnelson.com Lindsey

    I think we all need to leave our Blackberries and iPhones behind when we go into meetings. They are so distracting for everyone! When I see someone checking theirs, my addiction kicks in and I NEED to check mine.

  • http://emuelle1.typepad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

    The best point I could add to answer the question “What other things can you do to improve your meetings, even if you are not the leader?” is to have the courage to speak up, ask for some topics to be taken offline, or remind people that other attendees of the meeting have other work to do.

    In my last job we had a weekly status meeting that was always the most painful 2 hours of my week. The meeting was created for our department head to get a feel for what is going on. He was very talented at extracting useful tidbits of information from people that would not normally be revealed, but would help him to keep up with what is going on. After he left, the meetings continued, but got worse. The meeting had no agenda. Technically, everything discussed was already on the weekly report which was also read during the meeting anyway. Some people took advantage of the chance to describe in excruciating detail what they did the past week. Sidebar discussions would develop that could last 15 minutes or longer. It was incredibly unproductive. Though I did enjoy the job, when I found a new job, I seriously contemplated bringing a bottle of Champagne to my last weekly status meeting and popping the cork when it ended.

  • http://emuelle1.typepad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

    The best point I could add to answer the question “What other things can you do to improve your meetings, even if you are not the leader?” is to have the courage to speak up, ask for some topics to be taken offline, or remind people that other attendees of the meeting have other work to do.

    In my last job we had a weekly status meeting that was always the most painful 2 hours of my week. The meeting was created for our department head to get a feel for what is going on. He was very talented at extracting useful tidbits of information from people that would not normally be revealed, but would help him to keep up with what is going on. After he left, the meetings continued, but got worse. The meeting had no agenda. Technically, everything discussed was already on the weekly report which was also read during the meeting anyway. Some people took advantage of the chance to describe in excruciating detail what they did the past week. Sidebar discussions would develop that could last 15 minutes or longer. It was incredibly unproductive. Though I did enjoy the job, when I found a new job, I seriously contemplated bringing a bottle of Champagne to my last weekly status meeting and popping the cork when it ended.

  • http://emuelle1.typepad.com Eric S. Mueller

    The best point I could add to answer the question “What other things can you do to improve your meetings, even if you are not the leader?” is to have the courage to speak up, ask for some topics to be taken offline, or remind people that other attendees of the meeting have other work to do.

    In my last job we had a weekly status meeting that was always the most painful 2 hours of my week. The meeting was created for our department head to get a feel for what is going on. He was very talented at extracting useful tidbits of information from people that would not normally be revealed, but would help him to keep up with what is going on. After he left, the meetings continued, but got worse. The meeting had no agenda. Technically, everything discussed was already on the weekly report which was also read during the meeting anyway. Some people took advantage of the chance to describe in excruciating detail what they did the past week. Sidebar discussions would develop that could last 15 minutes or longer. It was incredibly unproductive. Though I did enjoy the job, when I found a new job, I seriously contemplated bringing a bottle of Champagne to my last weekly status meeting and popping the cork when it ended.

  • http://littlehoffman.blogspot.com/ Tymm

    Leader or not the leader – I think one of the key things that can be done is to LISTEN.

    Fight the urge to speak. Instead of tuning everybody out and formulating what you’re going to say in your head – just LISTEN.

    Give powerful, meaningful input – but listen most of the time.

  • http://littlehoffman.blogspot.com/ Tymm

    Leader or not the leader – I think one of the key things that can be done is to LISTEN.

    Fight the urge to speak. Instead of tuning everybody out and formulating what you’re going to say in your head – just LISTEN.

    Give powerful, meaningful input – but listen most of the time.

  • http://littlehoffman.blogspot.com Tymm

    Leader or not the leader – I think one of the key things that can be done is to LISTEN.

    Fight the urge to speak. Instead of tuning everybody out and formulating what you’re going to say in your head – just LISTEN.

    Give powerful, meaningful input – but listen most of the time.

  • http://michaeldmiller.wordpress.com/ mike miller

    Mike I agree. Death to meaningless meetings!

  • http://www.danieldecker.net/ daniel d

    I think the “Define the Outcome” should also be prefaced with “Have a Purpose.” Seems to me that too often leaders seem to schedule meetings for the sake of feeling like they need to have a meeting when in reality they don’t have anything of substance to say. That wastes everyone’s time. Meet if there is something to meet about. Be brief as possible, communicate the essentials, give action steps, and move on.

    I also find that meeting in irregular meeting environments works well (depending on the peopel size of the meeting).

  • http://www.danieldecker.net/ daniel d

    I think the “Define the Outcome” should also be prefaced with “Have a Purpose.” Seems to me that too often leaders seem to schedule meetings for the sake of feeling like they need to have a meeting when in reality they don’t have anything of substance to say. That wastes everyone’s time. Meet if there is something to meet about. Be brief as possible, communicate the essentials, give action steps, and move on.

    I also find that meeting in irregular meeting environments works well (depending on the peopel size of the meeting).

  • http://www.danieldecker.net daniel d

    I think the “Define the Outcome” should also be prefaced with “Have a Purpose.” Seems to me that too often leaders seem to schedule meetings for the sake of feeling like they need to have a meeting when in reality they don’t have anything of substance to say. That wastes everyone’s time. Meet if there is something to meet about. Be brief as possible, communicate the essentials, give action steps, and move on.

    I also find that meeting in irregular meeting environments works well (depending on the peopel size of the meeting).

  • http://thecapranica.com/ Bret Capranica

    Michael, your blog is always a help to me and my ministry. I just finished reading (audio books) Patrick Lencioni’s two books, “Death By Meeting” and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” He has some interesting takes on meetings, especially on weekly strategic meetings and having a fluid agenda that develops after a lightening round report from the team members. I am sure you have read these books. Any thoughts on Lencioni’s approach to meetings and teams? Have you adopted or adapted any of his concepts with your team? If so or if not, I would love to hear how.

  • http://thecapranica.com/ Bret Capranica

    Michael, your blog is always a help to me and my ministry. I just finished reading (audio books) Patrick Lencioni’s two books, “Death By Meeting” and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” He has some interesting takes on meetings, especially on weekly strategic meetings and having a fluid agenda that develops after a lightening round report from the team members. I am sure you have read these books. Any thoughts on Lencioni’s approach to meetings and teams? Have you adopted or adapted any of his concepts with your team? If so or if not, I would love to hear how.

  • http://thecapranica.com Bret Capranica

    Michael, your blog is always a help to me and my ministry. I just finished reading (audio books) Patrick Lencioni’s two books, “Death By Meeting” and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” He has some interesting takes on meetings, especially on weekly strategic meetings and having a fluid agenda that develops after a lightening round report from the team members. I am sure you have read these books. Any thoughts on Lencioni’s approach to meetings and teams? Have you adopted or adapted any of his concepts with your team? If so or if not, I would love to hear how.

  • http://www.thewritingspa.com/ Mary DeMuth

    When we church-planted in France, we made it a point to start and end on time during our planning sessions. It showed courtesy to our fellow church planters.

    I have been in many useless meetings where the only thing I get done are my own personal notes to self and maybe a plot thread or two figured out. How many of those meetings became useless depended on the excessive pride of the person leading the meeting. Some folks just want to lead meetings! Or want to hear themselves talk. Those are the most boring of them all.

  • http://www.thomasnelson.com/ Lindsey

    I think we all need to leave our Blackberries and iPhones behind when we go into meetings. They are so distracting for everyone! When I see someone checking theirs, my addiction kicks in and I NEED to check mine.

  • http://emuelle1.typepad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

    The best point I could add to answer the question "What other things can you do to improve your meetings, even if you are not the leader?" is to have the courage to speak up, ask for some topics to be taken offline, or remind people that other attendees of the meeting have other work to do.

    In my last job we had a weekly status meeting that was always the most painful 2 hours of my week. The meeting was created for our department head to get a feel for what is going on. He was very talented at extracting useful tidbits of information from people that would not normally be revealed, but would help him to keep up with what is going on. After he left, the meetings continued, but got worse. The meeting had no agenda. Technically, everything discussed was already on the weekly report which was also read during the meeting anyway. Some people took advantage of the chance to describe in excruciating detail what they did the past week. Sidebar discussions would develop that could last 15 minutes or longer. It was incredibly unproductive. Though I did enjoy the job, when I found a new job, I seriously contemplated bringing a bottle of Champagne to my last weekly status meeting and popping the cork when it ended.

  • http://littlehoffman.blogspot.com/ Tymm

    Leader or not the leader – I think one of the key things that can be done is to LISTEN.

    Fight the urge to speak. Instead of tuning everybody out and formulating what you're going to say in your head – just LISTEN.

    Give powerful, meaningful input – but listen most of the time.

  • Richard

    In my last job there was a weekly status meeting (20+ people) that lasted over 3hrs every Tuesday morning. I changed that to 15min every other week! Same results, same communications. You have to re-evaluate the “how”. I still spent 3 jours every Tuesday, but the other 20 people were stucked in the meeting only 15 minutes to 20 at most, every 2 weeks. Productivity increased! But you have to make rules mine were: 1- bring your datebook with you so we can schedule things now, 2- be on time, if you are late you’re out ! 3- I put several mini clocks on the table so everyone could see the time fly (Hard edges… that works!) 4- People arriving on time would get a treat: usually candy or chocolate or designer coffees, tht also works great! 5- Always a written agenda trasnmitted the day before if possible so people can have the time to think about topics while NOT in the meeting.

    It does work, I guarantee.

  • Richard

    In my last job there was a weekly status meeting (20+ people) that lasted over 3hrs every Tuesday morning. I changed that to 15min every other week! Same results, same communications. You have to re-evaluate the “how”. I still spent 3 jours every Tuesday, but the other 20 people were stucked in the meeting only 15 minutes to 20 at most, every 2 weeks. Productivity increased! But you have to make rules mine were: 1- bring your datebook with you so we can schedule things now, 2- be on time, if you are late you’re out ! 3- I put several mini clocks on the table so everyone could see the time fly (Hard edges… that works!) 4- People arriving on time would get a treat: usually candy or chocolate or designer coffees, tht also works great! 5- Always a written agenda trasnmitted the day before if possible so people can have the time to think about topics while NOT in the meeting.

    It does work, I guarantee.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net/ daniel d

    I think the "Define the Outcome" should also be prefaced with "Have a Purpose." Seems to me that too often leaders seem to schedule meetings for the sake of feeling like they need to have a meeting when in reality they don't have anything of substance to say. That wastes everyone's time. Meet if there is something to meet about. Be brief as possible, communicate the essentials, give action steps, and move on.

    I also find that meeting in irregular meeting environments works well (depending on the peopel size of the meeting).

  • Richard

    In my last job there was a weekly status meeting (20+ people) that lasted over 3hrs every Tuesday morning. I changed that to 15min every other week! Same results, same communications. You have to re-evaluate the “how”. I still spent 3 jours every Tuesday, but the other 20 people were stucked in the meeting only 15 minutes to 20 at most, every 2 weeks. Productivity increased! But you have to make rules mine were: 1- bring your datebook with you so we can schedule things now, 2- be on time, if you are late you’re out ! 3- I put several mini clocks on the table so everyone could see the time fly (Hard edges… that works!) 4- People arriving on time would get a treat: usually candy or chocolate or designer coffees, tht also works great! 5- Always a written agenda trasnmitted the day before if possible so people can have the time to think about topics while NOT in the meeting.

    It does work, I guarantee.

  • http://thecapranica.com/ Bret Capranica

    Michael, your blog is always a help to me and my ministry. I just finished reading (audio books) Patrick Lencioni's two books, "Death By Meeting" and "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team." He has some interesting takes on meetings, especially on weekly strategic meetings and having a fluid agenda that develops after a lightening round report from the team members. I am sure you have read these books. Any thoughts on Lencioni's approach to meetings and teams? Have you adopted or adapted any of his concepts with your team? If so or if not, I would love to hear how.

  • Richard

    In my last job there was a weekly status meeting (20+ people) that lasted over 3hrs every Tuesday morning. I changed that to 15min every other week! Same results, same communications. You have to re-evaluate the "how". I still spent 3 jours every Tuesday, but the other 20 people were stucked in the meeting only 15 minutes to 20 at most, every 2 weeks. Productivity increased! But you have to make rules mine were: 1- bring your datebook with you so we can schedule things now, 2- be on time, if you are late you're out ! 3- I put several mini clocks on the table so everyone could see the time fly (Hard edges… that works!) 4- People arriving on time would get a treat: usually candy or chocolate or designer coffees, tht also works great! 5- Always a written agenda trasnmitted the day before if possible so people can have the time to think about topics while NOT in the meeting.

    It does work, I guarantee.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @Bret: I found Lencioni’s book, Death by Meeting, particularly helpful. In fact, I had my whole executive team read it.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @Bret: I found Lencioni’s book, Death by Meeting, particularly helpful. In fact, I had my whole executive team read it.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @Bret: I found Lencioni’s book, Death by Meeting, particularly helpful. In fact, I had my whole executive team read it.

  • Kyle Olund

    It’s important to put the starting and ending times at the top of the agenda so everyone is reminded throughout the meeting how much time you have to accomplish what is necessary.

    As for e-mails, I was guilty of sending one out during a meeting this morning, but it was done to find an answer to a question someone raised. So hopefully I was granted forgiveness.

  • Kyle Olund

    It’s important to put the starting and ending times at the top of the agenda so everyone is reminded throughout the meeting how much time you have to accomplish what is necessary.

    As for e-mails, I was guilty of sending one out during a meeting this morning, but it was done to find an answer to a question someone raised. So hopefully I was granted forgiveness.

  • Kyle Olund

    It’s important to put the starting and ending times at the top of the agenda so everyone is reminded throughout the meeting how much time you have to accomplish what is necessary.

    As for e-mails, I was guilty of sending one out during a meeting this morning, but it was done to find an answer to a question someone raised. So hopefully I was granted forgiveness.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @Bret: I found Lencioni's book, Death by Meeting, particularly helpful. In fact, I had my whole executive team read it.

  • Kyle Olund

    It's important to put the starting and ending times at the top of the agenda so everyone is reminded throughout the meeting how much time you have to accomplish what is necessary.

    As for e-mails, I was guilty of sending one out during a meeting this morning, but it was done to find an answer to a question someone raised. So hopefully I was granted forgiveness.

  • http://www.emergingintofaith.blogspot.com/ Dr. David Frisbie

    Should I die outside the grace of God (heaven forbid) then I will spend eternity in meetings.

    Dante missed a circle.

  • http://www.emergingintofaith.blogspot.com Dr. David Frisbie

    Should I die outside the grace of God (heaven forbid) then I will spend eternity in meetings.

    Dante missed a circle.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @David: Now that is funny!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @David: Now that is funny!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @David: Now that is funny!

  • http://www.emergingintofaith.blogspot.com/ Dr. David Frisbie

    Should I die outside the grace of God (heaven forbid) then I will spend eternity in meetings.

    Dante missed a circle.

  • http://www.emergingintofaith.blogspot.com/ Dr. David Frisbie

    Should I die outside the grace of God (heaven forbid) then I will spend eternity in meetings.

    Dante missed a circle.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @David: Now that is funny!

  • http://garridon.wordpress.com/ Linda

    << What other things can you do to improve your meetings, even if you are not the leader? <<

    Be prepared. If you know what the subject of the meeting is in advance, there’s no reason not to be prepared.

    Show up a few minutes early. If you are presenting material using a computer, show up early enough to be able to set things up.

    If materials are being shown at the meeting, make sure they get out in advance–not five minutes before the meeting is about to happen.

  • http://garridon.wordpress.com/ Linda

    << What other things can you do to improve your meetings, even if you are not the leader? <<

    Be prepared. If you know what the subject of the meeting is in advance, there's no reason not to be prepared.

    Show up a few minutes early. If you are presenting material using a computer, show up early enough to be able to set things up.

    If materials are being shown at the meeting, make sure they get out in advance–not five minutes before the meeting is about to happen.

  • http://garridon.wordpress.com/ Linda

    << What other things can you do to improve your meetings, even if you are not the leader? <<

    Be prepared. If you know what the subject of the meeting is in advance, there's no reason not to be prepared.

    Show up a few minutes early. If you are presenting material using a computer, show up early enough to be able to set things up.

    If materials are being shown at the meeting, make sure they get out in advance–not five minutes before the meeting is about to happen.

  • http://true-small-caps.blogspot.com/ Derek Scottisman

    What other things can you do to improve your meetings

    The lazy man’s guide to success: Just surround yourself with people who are very, very good at what they do. Including being good at staying on topic.

  • http://true-small-caps.blogspot.com/ Derek Scottisman

    What other things can you do to improve your meetings

    The lazy man's guide to success: Just surround yourself with people who are very, very good at what they do. Including being good at staying on topic.

  • http://true-small-caps.blogspot.com/ Derek Scottisman

    What other things can you do to improve your meetings

    The lazy man's guide to success: Just surround yourself with people who are very, very good at what they do. Including being good at staying on topic.

  • http://www.paulwallis.net/ Paul Wallis

    Hi Mike,
    Amen to what you’ve shared here. When applied thoughtfully all these points apply to church-gathering too.

    In any meeting where conversation and decisions are involved our group also follows the advice of St Benedict in his C6th “Little Rule for Beginners”, Chapter Three – “concerning the calling of the brethren to council”.

    Benedict’s main points are that the leader’s role is to facilitate a conversation in which:

    1) every person is heard, even the most junior

    2) the matter must be clarified,

    3) everyone to seek first to understand the matter in hand

    4) each one speaks to the group’s purpose not out of a purely personal agenda

    5)the leader facilitates the drawing of a conclusion and the putting forward of a proposal for the group to own and act upon

    6) the right of the leader is reserved to ‘lead from the front’ and act on his own judgment. However Benedict’s strong advice is always to seek counsel before making a decision and as rarely as possible to act outside of the group’s conclusions. Benedict takes this as a tool for safeguarding God’s timing in important matters.

    We find all this still incredibly relevant. It may be relevant even to team meetings at ThomasNelson?!

    Thanks Again,

    Paul Wallis

  • http://www.paulwallis.net/ Paul Wallis

    Hi Mike,
    Amen to what you’ve shared here. When applied thoughtfully all these points apply to church-gathering too.

    In any meeting where conversation and decisions are involved our group also follows the advice of St Benedict in his C6th “Little Rule for Beginners”, Chapter Three – “concerning the calling of the brethren to council”.

    Benedict’s main points are that the leader’s role is to facilitate a conversation in which:

    1) every person is heard, even the most junior

    2) the matter must be clarified,

    3) everyone to seek first to understand the matter in hand

    4) each one speaks to the group’s purpose not out of a purely personal agenda

    5)the leader facilitates the drawing of a conclusion and the putting forward of a proposal for the group to own and act upon

    6) the right of the leader is reserved to ‘lead from the front’ and act on his own judgment. However Benedict’s strong advice is always to seek counsel before making a decision and as rarely as possible to act outside of the group’s conclusions. Benedict takes this as a tool for safeguarding God’s timing in important matters.

    We find all this still incredibly relevant. It may be relevant even to team meetings at ThomasNelson?!

    Thanks Again,

    Paul Wallis

  • http://www.paulwallis.net Paul Wallis

    Hi Mike,
    Amen to what you’ve shared here. When applied thoughtfully all these points apply to church-gathering too.

    In any meeting where conversation and decisions are involved our group also follows the advice of St Benedict in his C6th “Little Rule for Beginners”, Chapter Three – “concerning the calling of the brethren to council”.

    Benedict’s main points are that the leader’s role is to facilitate a conversation in which:

    1) every person is heard, even the most junior

    2) the matter must be clarified,

    3) everyone to seek first to understand the matter in hand

    4) each one speaks to the group’s purpose not out of a purely personal agenda

    5)the leader facilitates the drawing of a conclusion and the putting forward of a proposal for the group to own and act upon

    6) the right of the leader is reserved to ‘lead from the front’ and act on his own judgment. However Benedict’s strong advice is always to seek counsel before making a decision and as rarely as possible to act outside of the group’s conclusions. Benedict takes this as a tool for safeguarding God’s timing in important matters.

    We find all this still incredibly relevant. It may be relevant even to team meetings at ThomasNelson?!

    Thanks Again,

    Paul Wallis

  • http://www.paulwallis.net/ Paul Wallis

    Hi Mike,
    Amen to what you've shared here. When applied thoughtfully all these points apply to church-gathering too.

    In any meeting where conversation and decisions are involved our group also follows the advice of St Benedict in his C6th "Little Rule for Beginners", Chapter Three – "concerning the calling of the brethren to council".

    Benedict's main points are that the leader's role is to facilitate a conversation in which:

    1) every person is heard, even the most junior

    2) the matter must be clarified,

    3) everyone to seek first to understand the matter in hand

    4) each one speaks to the group's purpose not out of a purely personal agenda

    5)the leader facilitates the drawing of a conclusion and the putting forward of a proposal for the group to own and act upon

    6) the right of the leader is reserved to 'lead from the front' and act on his own judgment. However Benedict's strong advice is always to seek counsel before making a decision and as rarely as possible to act outside of the group's conclusions. Benedict takes this as a tool for safeguarding God's timing in important matters.

    We find all this still incredibly relevant. It may be relevant even to team meetings at ThomasNelson?!

    Thanks Again,

    Paul Wallis

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/petenikolai Pete Nikolai

    Would it be productive to establish the following Meeting Mandates here at Nelson?

    1) an explicit outcome/purpose in the Meeting Request

    2) an agenda at least 24 hours prior to the meeting with clear indication of who is responsible for taking and forwarding the notes within 24 hours after the meeting

    The consequence of violating either of these Mandates could be as simple as people declining the Meeting Request.

    From my perspective, the only valid purposes for meetings are to debate (and possibly then to make a decision), to brainstorm, to celebrate positive accomplishments, and to acknowledge major negative developments and brainstorm course corrections. Meetings should never be used just to communicate information or build relationships.

    Most workers can quickly identify their co-workers who seem to think that nothing can get done without discussing it in a meeting first. While there are legitimate reasons for gathering people together (as stated above), far too often the little that is actually accomplished in a meeting could have been done in more efficient ways. Information could be communicated via email. Relationships could be built over lunch or a round of golf. Socializing could happen at more appropriate times in more appropriate places.

    The other dysfunctional aspect of many meetings is the strange manifestation known as the “presentation.” Any vital information (other than surprise announcements) contained in a presentation should be sent in an email at least 24 hours in advance so that participants have time to review and research prior to the meeting. Then the meeting should consist of a quick debate or brainstorming session by informed participants. Vital information can be put on screen, but there is no need for that information to be presented—people need to be trusted to have done their homework.

    Perhaps the most frustrating thing about meetings is that many of the people involved know they could be using that time to get their prioritized Tasks done so that they can have more time for other important things (at work or elsewhere). If the organization clearly supports best practices such as those outlined above, workers should be able to reclaim considerable time to do just that.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/petenikolai Pete Nikolai

    Would it be productive to establish the following Meeting Mandates here at Nelson?

    1) an explicit outcome/purpose in the Meeting Request

    2) an agenda at least 24 hours prior to the meeting with clear indication of who is responsible for taking and forwarding the notes within 24 hours after the meeting

    The consequence of violating either of these Mandates could be as simple as people declining the Meeting Request.

    From my perspective, the only valid purposes for meetings are to debate (and possibly then to make a decision), to brainstorm, to celebrate positive accomplishments, and to acknowledge major negative developments and brainstorm course corrections. Meetings should never be used just to communicate information or build relationships.

    Most workers can quickly identify their co-workers who seem to think that nothing can get done without discussing it in a meeting first. While there are legitimate reasons for gathering people together (as stated above), far too often the little that is actually accomplished in a meeting could have been done in more efficient ways. Information could be communicated via email. Relationships could be built over lunch or a round of golf. Socializing could happen at more appropriate times in more appropriate places.

    The other dysfunctional aspect of many meetings is the strange manifestation known as the “presentation.” Any vital information (other than surprise announcements) contained in a presentation should be sent in an email at least 24 hours in advance so that participants have time to review and research prior to the meeting. Then the meeting should consist of a quick debate or brainstorming session by informed participants. Vital information can be put on screen, but there is no need for that information to be presented—people need to be trusted to have done their homework.

    Perhaps the most frustrating thing about meetings is that many of the people involved know they could be using that time to get their prioritized Tasks done so that they can have more time for other important things (at work or elsewhere). If the organization clearly supports best practices such as those outlined above, workers should be able to reclaim considerable time to do just that.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/petenikolai Pete Nikolai

    Would it be productive to establish the following Meeting Mandates here at Nelson?

    1) an explicit outcome/purpose in the Meeting Request

    2) an agenda at least 24 hours prior to the meeting with clear indication of who is responsible for taking and forwarding the notes within 24 hours after the meeting

    The consequence of violating either of these Mandates could be as simple as people declining the Meeting Request.

    From my perspective, the only valid purposes for meetings are to debate (and possibly then to make a decision), to brainstorm, to celebrate positive accomplishments, and to acknowledge major negative developments and brainstorm course corrections. Meetings should never be used just to communicate information or build relationships.

    Most workers can quickly identify their co-workers who seem to think that nothing can get done without discussing it in a meeting first. While there are legitimate reasons for gathering people together (as stated above), far too often the little that is actually accomplished in a meeting could have been done in more efficient ways. Information could be communicated via email. Relationships could be built over lunch or a round of golf. Socializing could happen at more appropriate times in more appropriate places.

    The other dysfunctional aspect of many meetings is the strange manifestation known as the “presentation.” Any vital information (other than surprise announcements) contained in a presentation should be sent in an email at least 24 hours in advance so that participants have time to review and research prior to the meeting. Then the meeting should consist of a quick debate or brainstorming session by informed participants. Vital information can be put on screen, but there is no need for that information to be presented—people need to be trusted to have done their homework.

    Perhaps the most frustrating thing about meetings is that many of the people involved know they could be using that time to get their prioritized Tasks done so that they can have more time for other important things (at work or elsewhere). If the organization clearly supports best practices such as those outlined above, workers should be able to reclaim considerable time to do just that.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/petenikolai Pete Nikolai

    Would it be productive to establish the following Meeting Mandates here at Nelson?

    1) an explicit outcome/purpose in the Meeting Request

    2) an agenda at least 24 hours prior to the meeting with clear indication of who is responsible for taking and forwarding the notes within 24 hours after the meeting

    The consequence of violating either of these Mandates could be as simple as people declining the Meeting Request.

    From my perspective, the only valid purposes for meetings are to debate (and possibly then to make a decision), to brainstorm, to celebrate positive accomplishments, and to acknowledge major negative developments and brainstorm course corrections. Meetings should never be used just to communicate information or build relationships.

    Most workers can quickly identify their co-workers who seem to think that nothing can get done without discussing it in a meeting first. While there are legitimate reasons for gathering people together (as stated above), far too often the little that is actually accomplished in a meeting could have been done in more efficient ways. Information could be communicated via email. Relationships could be built over lunch or a round of golf. Socializing could happen at more appropriate times in more appropriate places.

    The other dysfunctional aspect of many meetings is the strange manifestation known as the “presentation.” Any vital information (other than surprise announcements) contained in a presentation should be sent in an email at least 24 hours in advance so that participants have time to review and research prior to the meeting. Then the meeting should consist of a quick debate or brainstorming session by informed participants. Vital information can be put on screen, but there is no need for that information to be presented—people need to be trusted to have done their homework.

    Perhaps the most frustrating thing about meetings is that many of the people involved know they could be using that time to get their prioritized Tasks done so that they can have more time for other important things (at work or elsewhere). If the organization clearly supports best practices such as those outlined above, workers should be able to reclaim considerable time to do just that.

  • http://www.john-gallagher.blogspot.com/ John Gallagher

    Not enough just to focus. It is important to PARTICIPATE.

  • http://www.john-gallagher.blogspot.com/ John Gallagher

    Not enough just to focus. It is important to PARTICIPATE.

  • http://www.john-gallagher.blogspot.com John Gallagher

    Not enough just to focus. It is important to PARTICIPATE.

  • http://www.john-gallagher.blogspot.com/ John Gallagher

    Not enough just to focus. It is important to PARTICIPATE.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/klolund Kyle Olund

    Good thoughts, Pete. What is necessary is better discernment to know when an e-mail should be sent instead of a meeting request, and when a meeting should be called to avoid an onslaught of e-mails on one topic/problem (that happened yesterday, and if we were all in the same building we could have met instead of seen 40+ e-mails exchange between different people–a least that’s how many ended up in my in- or cc-box).

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/klolund Kyle Olund

    Good thoughts, Pete. What is necessary is better discernment to know when an e-mail should be sent instead of a meeting request, and when a meeting should be called to avoid an onslaught of e-mails on one topic/problem (that happened yesterday, and if we were all in the same building we could have met instead of seen 40+ e-mails exchange between different people–a least that’s how many ended up in my in- or cc-box).

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/klolund Kyle Olund

    Good thoughts, Pete. What is necessary is better discernment to know when an e-mail should be sent instead of a meeting request, and when a meeting should be called to avoid an onslaught of e-mails on one topic/problem (that happened yesterday, and if we were all in the same building we could have met instead of seen 40+ e-mails exchange between different people–a least that’s how many ended up in my in- or cc-box).

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/klolund Kyle Olund

    Good thoughts, Pete. What is necessary is better discernment to know when an e-mail should be sent instead of a meeting request, and when a meeting should be called to avoid an onslaught of e-mails on one topic/problem (that happened yesterday, and if we were all in the same building we could have met instead of seen 40+ e-mails exchange between different people–a least that's how many ended up in my in- or cc-box).

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  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org/ jeff

    Nice post, Michael – looks like an oldie, but a goodie. Not to sound contradictory, but my experience has been showed me that sometimes, meetings that even meet these parameters can still suck. They can be dull or predictable. They can become rote or meaningless.

    For me, a remarkable meeting shows respect to all of the attendees (a non-negotiable), but it also goes beyond that. It's creative, interactive, and, in some cases, leaderless. Most meetings are monologues or uncreative in their use of technology and media. I like having an predefined outcome/goal, but sometimes that can be as simple as saying, "We're going to discover X" in this meeting.

    For me, a meeting is a success if people want to come back to the next one. We do evaluations at the end of each meeting, and this keeps my humble. Some are great; some, not so much. I experiment with giving the floor to different speakers/facilitators, and we're learning together how to makes these times more valuable.

    Other than Lencioni, who else would you recommend?

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org/ jeff

    Nice post, Michael – looks like an oldie, but a goodie. Not to sound contradictory, but my experience has been showed me that sometimes, meetings that even meet these parameters can still suck. They can be dull or predictable. They can become rote or meaningless.

    For me, a remarkable meeting shows respect to all of the attendees (a non-negotiable), but it also goes beyond that. It's creative, interactive, and, in some cases, leaderless. Most meetings are monologues or uncreative in their use of technology and media. I like having an predefined outcome/goal, but sometimes that can be as simple as saying, "We're going to discover X" in this meeting.

    For me, a meeting is a success if people want to come back to the next one. We do evaluations at the end of each meeting, and this keeps my humble. Some are great; some, not so much. I experiment with giving the floor to different speakers/facilitators, and we're learning together how to makes these times more valuable.

    Other than Lencioni, who else would you recommend?

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org jeff

    Nice post, Michael – looks like an oldie, but a goodie. Not to sound contradictory, but my experience has been showed me that sometimes, meetings that even meet these parameters can still suck. They can be dull or predictable. They can become rote or meaningless.

    For me, a remarkable meeting shows respect to all of the attendees (a non-negotiable), but it also goes beyond that. It's creative, interactive, and, in some cases, leaderless. Most meetings are monologues or uncreative in their use of technology and media. I like having an predefined outcome/goal, but sometimes that can be as simple as saying, "We're going to discover X" in this meeting.

    For me, a meeting is a success if people want to come back to the next one. We do evaluations at the end of each meeting, and this keeps my humble. Some are great; some, not so much. I experiment with giving the floor to different speakers/facilitators, and we're learning together how to makes these times more valuable.

    Other than Lencioni, who else would you recommend?

  • D Shick

    While I understand the motive behind the no blackberry/no laptop rule, I have begun using Microsoft One Note to input my personal meeting notes. I've also found it helpful to look back on the notes from previous meetings using the programs valuable search tool. So I'm not ready to subscribe to that rule just yet and wonder how others feel? Good topic.

  • D Shick

    While I understand the motive behind the no blackberry/no laptop rule, I have begun using Microsoft One Note to input my personal meeting notes. I've also found it helpful to look back on the notes from previous meetings using the programs valuable search tool. So I'm not ready to subscribe to that rule just yet and wonder how others feel? Good topic.

  • D Shick

    While I understand the motive behind the no blackberry/no laptop rule, I have begun using Microsoft One Note to input my personal meeting notes. I've also found it helpful to look back on the notes from previous meetings using the programs valuable search tool. So I'm not ready to subscribe to that rule just yet and wonder how others feel? Good topic.

  • D Shick

    While I understand the motive behind the no blackberry/no laptop rule, I have begun using Microsoft One Note to input my personal meeting notes. I've also found it helpful to look back on the notes from previous meetings using the programs valuable search tool. So I'm not ready to subscribe to that rule just yet and wonder how others feel? Good topic.

  • http://amothersangst.blogspot.com Fran

    These are good suggestions. I don't enforce a "no electronics" rule – I find that by having the agenda published in advance, starting on time, moving quickly through the topics and soliciting input (i.e. "Michael, what are your thoughts on this?") people tend to stay engaged. The only other suggestion I might add is to publish minutes.
    My recent post Bo's Cafe – a Book Review

  • http://amothersangst.blogspot.com/ Fran

    These are good suggestions. I don't enforce a "no electronics" rule – I find that by having the agenda published in advance, starting on time, moving quickly through the topics and soliciting input (i.e. "Michael, what are your thoughts on this?") people tend to stay engaged. The only other suggestion I might add is to publish minutes.
    My recent post Bo's Cafe – a Book Review

  • http://amothersangst.blogspot.com/ Fran

    These are good suggestions. I don't enforce a "no electronics" rule – I find that by having the agenda published in advance, starting on time, moving quickly through the topics and soliciting input (i.e. "Michael, what are your thoughts on this?") people tend to stay engaged. The only other suggestion I might add is to publish minutes.
    My recent post Bo's Cafe – a Book Review

  • http://amothersangst.blogspot.com/ Fran

    These are good suggestions. I don't enforce a "no electronics" rule – I find that by having the agenda published in advance, starting on time, moving quickly through the topics and soliciting input (i.e. "Michael, what are your thoughts on this?") people tend to stay engaged. The only other suggestion I might add is to publish minutes.
    My recent post Bo's Cafe – a Book Review

  • http://twitter.com/RichardJett @RichardJett

    Is giving money or a treat to those who answer/interact inappropriate? Kidding…kind of. Great article.

  • http://twitter.com/RichardJett @RichardJett

    Is giving money or a treat to those who answer/interact inappropriate? Kidding…kind of. Great article.

  • http://twitter.com/RichardJett @RichardJett

    Is giving money or a treat to those who answer/interact inappropriate? Kidding…kind of. Great article.

  • http://twitter.com/RichardJett @RichardJett

    Is giving money or a treat to those who answer/interact inappropriate? Kidding…kind of. Great article.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/yaplefive yaplefive

    If the leader of the meeting isn't taking the time to listen to everyone's thoughts, make sure it happens.

    It may seem obvious, but if everyone was invited to the meeting for a reason…take the time to make sure everyone is listened to.

  • http://bradleyaharmon.com Brad Harmon

    I’ve found it helpful to do #1 & #2 and send it to the meeting participants ahead of time. Let them know what there part in the meeting will be. Not only will this keep their attention knowing you may call on them at any point to fulfill that expectation, but they’re more likely to contribute some valuable ideas.

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  • Thomas Stanley

    a great way to make the meeting matter afterward is to have meeting agreements with deadlines and review them at the end of each meeting.

  • Chadwardwm

    Love the post!
    1. Let others have thier moment in the spot light. Let others lead portions of it.
    2. Provide hot beverages and “brain food.”
    3. Never start an important meeting about strategic topics after 3PM!
    4. Don’t meet once a quarter and instead do something that is fun team building.

  • http://twitter.com/NewEnglandHiker Roy Wallen

    Once again, great insight. The only thing I can offer is the suggestion that these four items be written in advance. Provide the objective and agenda in writing and in advance. Tell, in writing, people to leave laptops and BlackBerry devices (is it BlackBerries?) behind — including your boss(es) — in the interest of courtesy and productivity. Don’t wait for stragglers to start the meeting and don’t let the meeting run over — and tell people that’s how meetings will run.

  • http://twitter.com/lovinglyyoursG Georgiana

    Meetings are necessary to keep everyone informed and on the same page of what’s going on. Definitely timing is important with a set beginning and end as nothing will ever be accomplished by just talking. By keeping with a detailed itinerary people know what to expect. Follow up is essential too as the action and results of the participants is what’s really the telling sign of a meeting’s effectiveness.

  • Ashley Musick

    I found this very helpful. I’m just now working in a position where I lead meetings every once in a while. These tips can keep me on track.

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  • http://twitter.com/john_gallagher john_gallagher

    Mike, I just love seeing some of these things pop up from your previous posts and how the timeing is impeccable. I have a 3-day meeting to facilitate with the Senior Management Team of a large organization coming up and all of these points are important. For meetings of this size, I do like to do a few other things: 1) set ground rules – you may cover this on your #3 above, but it may be bigger than these. Such as “one person talking at a time”, or “stay on topic”. For important topics outside of scope of meeting, I have a “Parking Lot” flip chart so the idea doesn’t get lost and can be discussed in the future. Then, I do a +/- at end of day. What went well, what didn’t go so well. Thanks for the idea spark! John Gallagher

  • Pmpope68

    Limit rabbit trails and leave time if possible for open discussion.

  • John Mark Harris

    5. Only have a meeting if you have a good reason, not just “it’s meeting time”

    • Anonymous

      Someone where I worked just cancelled a meeting because there wasn’t a lot of participation, although he would still like to see the information covered in another venue involving key players.  I suggested we just add an agenda item to an already existing meeting rather than create yet another meeting.  I think they’re going to take me up on that idea.  

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        You made a great suggestion. It is always best to ask, “How can we incorporate this into something we are already doing.”

        • Anonymous

          Thanks.  The idea is still being “discussed”, so it’s yet to be seen what will actually happen.  

  • http://twitter.com/JobCoachHQ Douglas Andrews

    Absolutely bringing this to our next meeting.  Great points.  I think the most important comment is that time is valuable.  You should definitely leave a meeting with a clear understanding of what was just accomplished.  You better be “better off” than you were before you came in to the meeting.
    Thanks!

  • Bert

    Right on! Pat Lencioni’s book “Death By Meeting” is also great to try to modify this poorly used resource. If only the government could use a few of these principles in their meetings. Including cutting the number of meetings in half. (I’d add that to your list MH.)

  • Jptwin2

    Have attended way too many meetings that do not have a purpose, a goal. This leads to longer meetings and disgruntled employees who do not want to participate in or attend the next meeting!!

  • Pritchett4

    “no laptops” … ipads – I am responsible for chairing a number of meetings. I have noticed that a couple of folks are bringing their ipads with the agenda on them and taking notes. I have started taking a small (11.6 screen) computer with the agenda in Evernote and checking off items and taking notes in Evernote as well. Trying to get rid of paper (working toward the paperless office – thanks for your help). I know that it would be possible to write in a notebook, then scan as you have suggested, but it seems like that is an extra step. Can this “rule” be modified to work toward paperless (both for ecology as well as economy) in meetings? If so, what guidelines would you suggest? Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think so. I nee to update this post. iPads in particular have changed everything.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    I have been to a lot of very bad meetings, and the good ones definitely have the elements listed in this post. The more I prepared in advance for meetings, such as by making a list of questions I had, also made a big difference. Also, when people do what they say they will do between meetings, a lot of progress is made. Otherwise, the meetings are the same every time with little to no progress made and projects taking a lot longer than they should.

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  • http://strengths.jimseybert.com Jim Seybert

    Do meetings get a bad rap? Have we all gotten to a point where we walk into a meeting with lowered expectations? When the meeting invitation pops up on email, do we grown and curse? It’s no wonder meetings suck – we automatically assume they will.

    Attitude has a lot to do with behavior. If we’re predisposed to the negative, chances are good we’ll get what we expect. Not all meetings are bad and not all meeting hosts are unprepared, time-wasting morons.

    In 11 years as an independent consultant working with corporate teams, I’ve been frustrated many times by what can only be seen as arrogance and pride when it comes to attitudes regarding the dreaded meeting. “I don’t have time on MY calendar for HIS meeting . . . ” Note: It’s not your calendar, it’s the company’s.

  • Eric Dingler

    Make sure only the people who need to be in the meeting are there so you aren’t wasting anyone’s time. I prefer to develop the agenda then invite team members that absolutely need to be there. The exception is brainstorming meetings where I want many view points.

  • Bill Cochran

    When I was “leading” large staff meetings… I implemented a “standing meeting” policy for all but the most necessarily lengthy planning sessions. Standing keeps everyone “on their toes,” literally and figuratively.

  • Fiona

    follow up with quick and meaningful action points/notes so that everyone walks away knowing what needs to be done before your next productive and amazing meeting ;)

  • http://salescoachdew.com/about/ SalesCoachDew

    So often I am working w/ my clients on this basic outline. Thank you for reminding us all to follow it.

  • Steve Walker

    Re: #4–“start and stop on time”: I’d modify to: “stop on time or before.” A meeting should quit when its purpose has been fulfilled, even if there’s 15 minutes remaining. When we do so (which is rarely), everyone is both shocked and pleased.