ATD Blog

Why All These Meetings?

Monday, March 16, 2015

“We can meet or we can work. We can’t do both.”
—Dan Altobello, Business Leader 

Researchers estimate that senior executives spend 50 to 75 percent of their time in meetings with each other. In my work, I hear good people say, “I see our top managers maybe two or three times a year, in the lobby of our building.” This is why 70 percent of our people do not feel fully engaged, why morale is generally low. 

Best Practices 

In middle management, there are simply too many meetings—and often those in the meetings wish they weren’t. Here are some ideas for making the most of your meetings. 

Have purpose. Meetings are often not driven with a purpose. Let everyone know in advance the specific objective(s) and discussion items so they can see the need for the meeting and come prepared. In fact, it is important—though seldom done—to give everyone the agenda three days in advance. This will enable all meeting attendees, and especially those who may be introverts, to come ready to contribute ideas. 

Engage introverts. A very good read about the depth and potential important contributions of introverts is the book Quiet. Without an advanced agenda, quiet thinkers may not participate in a meeting discussion. This is unfortunate, as they might well have the most to contribute. Introverts dive deeply into topics; they don’t just offer quick thoughts. 


End with a call to action. It is important to end meetings with assignments and time lines, and distribute minutes afterwards. This underlines the likely outcomes of the meeting and keeps everyone on track. 

Schedule wisely. Companies tend to schedule management meetings “every Monday at 9” or “every Friday at 10.” Typically, no one feels in a position to challenge these times, nor do they understand why they need to meet so frequently. Wouldn’t it be wiser to invest our time with our clients, both external and internal? 

Alternative “Meetings” 

Our internal clients are our team members and other co-workers. What if we went to the break room and spent 10 minutes talking with the people doing the work of the company? Many of the successful people I work with do this and tell me they hear excellent ideas and suggestions. Remember, the best ideas are bottom-up ideas! 


People are way too scheduled to find time for these conversations that matter deeply. Talking informally with our internal clients is the way to improve morale and energize people. Reducing our time spent in meetings will help tremendously. 

First, we must reduce the frequency of meetings, pare them down to essentials. This should be discussed by those who attend the meetings, and this does not have to be a top down directive. 

Second, we can save time by scheduling crisp 20-minute meetings. Most are scheduled for an hour, because that fits the calendar. But hour-long meetings do not fit our people. 

Let’s remember that our top priorities are our people and our financial results. They are equally important! Reducing our time in meetings will give us time to be with our people. The operative words are “give” and “with.” To be a truly great leader, we must give our time and attention to our people. We must be with them, not above them. 

About the Author

John Keyser is the founder and principal of Common Sense Leadership. He works with executives, helping them to develop organizational cultures that will produce outstanding financial results year after year, as well as ongoing employee and organizational improvement; [email protected].

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