Inefficient Meetings at your Startup?


According to research,

  • 65% of managers say meetings keep them from work and deep thinking
  • 30-40% of the hours we spend in meetings aren’t productive

Are there ways to improve meetings?

The HBR article “Why Your Meetings Stink – And What To Do About It.” by Steven Rogelberg goes into detail about how to make meetings better.

Some of the takeaways:

  • Apparently, only about 20% of leaders receive any training on meetings.
  • The training that’s typically done tends to be very superficial e.g. “always have an agenda to guide your meeting”.
  • There’s no feedback or accountability, and it’s not clear who owns meetings – there is no CMO (Chief Meeting Officer).
  • Sometimes there are too many people in the meeting, they run too long, or people are coming in from back to back meetings, and attendees have no clue what was decided.

How can we deal with inefficient meetings?

Experimenting with different meeting formats can be beneficial. As a leader, you have to be able to evaluate your meetings periodically and ask for feedback.

  • Have a highly compelling agenda
  • The right attendees
  • Make the meeting highly engaging, everyone has to be involved
  • Eliminate multitasking (attendees looking at their phones, or typing away at their laptops while others are speaking).
    • The President Obama Strategy refers to meetings where he didn’t allow people to multitask, and all phones had to go in a basket. While effective, this means that the meeting has to be on the shorter side or you need to build in a break.

Dominance Dynamics

Matthew Syed has a book called Rebel Ideas that touches upon other issues that can contribute to ineffective meetings, such as dominance dynamics:

How do you avoid dominance dynamics?

  • Talk about this dynamic directly with the team – everyone has to be brave enough to share ideas
  • Get the most junior team members to share ideas first
  • Don’t let assertive CEOs squash out the diversity in the room
  • Work on breaking free from echo chambers by focusing on diversity

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