in Management & Leadership

Workplace meetings are contradictions.

On one hand, they are fundamental components of interaction, collaboration and problem-solving.

On the other hand, it is difficult to manage their abundance, frequency, duration, planning and execution.

Because time and energy are scarce, and opportunities are so high, I have a few personal guidelines for the incredible investment we often disregard as “meetings”:

  • The default should be to avoid meetings, given their frequency and abundance of invites.
  • Invest in meetings to connect and collaborate with others, particularly when tackling strategic, creative or technical problems.
  • Status updates are a waste of valuable meeting time, and should prompt abrupt meeting endings.
  • When a meeting is necessary, the default duration should be 25 minutes — enough time to state the meeting purpose, engage in small talk to establish social position, and  tackle one to three issues, preferably decisions.
  • If a meeting includes formal interaction, discovery or problem-solving — like a business lunch or brainstorm — then the meeting can go for one hour (the limit of most people’s mental stamina).
  • The meeting organizer should always facilitate necessary preparation, including an agenda (thanks for the reminder, Pauline Ores) and venue, and communicate expectations of participants and outcome.
  • Meetings are valuable interactions, and should be respected by arriving alert, and fully engaging and focusing (no devices) throughout. And no Powerpoint (thank you for the reminder, Jay Bryant.)
  • The organizer should articulate the meeting conclusion and necessary actions.
  • Closing a meeting means completing your notes and leaving your physical or virtual meeting area in as good — or better — shape than you found it.
  • Conducting effective meetings is a craft, and leaders should always be searching for ways to improve their craft.

How do you make your meetings matter more?

Photo: Nathan Jones

  1. Second to last bullet point should say “shape than you found it”

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