How to Quickly End Useless Meetings

More lying happens in meetings than any other place in your organization, most are lies of silence.

In meetings, silence isn’t consent, its cowardice, self-interest, manipulation, or political expediency. Honesty, more than anything else, transforms meetings. 

Truth-telling ends useless meetings.

When there’s more honesty in the “meeting after the meeting,” excellence is a myth.

Meetings apart from honesty are:

  1. Driven by personal agendas.
  2. Scripted frustration.
  3. Fake affirmations of weak leadership.

Robert Herbold, former C.O.O of Microsoft, told me, “Many meetings are useless religious ceremonies controlled by highly organized, meaningless ritual after meaningless ritual.” I wrote, “Polite Meetings Are a Waste of Time” after our conversation.

Great agendas, apart from honest participation, are well oiled exercises in futility.

Jay Elliot, former Sr. V.P. of Apple, shocked me when he said they had lots of meetings at Apple and they were useful. I’ve come to appreciate well run meetings, even if they are rare.

New Beginnings:

Great organizations have great meetings.

  1. Honest participation begins with leaders. They won’t be honest if you aren’t. Point out elephants in the room. Share your missteps. Seek real solutions. Challenge the status quo.
  2. Honor honesty. The next time a thorny issue is raised, thank the person who raises it. If you punish them, everyone learns the expediency of silence.
  3. Success depends on chairpersons who keep everyone focused and who move conversations toward action items.
  4. Agree on and define problems before discussing solutions.
  5. Invite participation with short agendas. Long agendas silence discussion.
  6. Identify imperfect next steps. Forget perfect solutions. Small steps are better than no steps. Excellence is never a destination.
  7. Assign responsibility and establish deadlines. “Who does what by when?”

Bonus: The goal of all meetings is doing what’s best for the entire organization, not simply your division.

What do effective chairpersons do?

How are useful agendas created?