A typical meeting tends to go one of two ways: Either the person who called the meeting dominates the room and makes everyone feel like a spectator.  Or nobody is prepared, so everything goes off the rails and nothing gets accomplished.  However, there is a better way to make meetings matter and accomplish more by doing less. Here’s how to do it:

The Shot Clock is Running

If you anticipate a meeting requiring 15-20 minutes to accomplish what you need, don’t schedule everyone from 9-9:30 just because it appeals to our idea of a normal schedule.  You never want to run out of time during a meeting, but you also don’t want to block out too much of your day and everyone else’s if it’s unwarranted.  A study found managers have a 52-minute attention span during meetings, while the average meeting lasts one hour and 19 minutes. That’s 27 minutes lost from your day and likely more for the others in the room.

Sending an invite for a 52-minute meeting will seem odd at first, but it sends a message that topics needs to be attacked fully in that time instead of wasting time with chit-chat or debating which donut you want this week.

Let Your Point Guard Run the Next Play

You probably know what needs to be accomplished at your next meeting.  Or perhaps you’ve been running back to back and haven’t had time to prepare for the next meeting.  Instead of running into your next meeting unprepared, let your team run the show.  Send an email several days before the meeting to solicit thoughts about expected topics. Take strong talking points and perspectives from each response, ask those employees to discuss their points at the meeting, and build your agenda around those expected to lead discussions.  Better yet, ask a high performing team member or one who has potential but needs grooming, to run the meeting.  Coach them on soliciting feedback for the agenda items and have them keep the meeting on track.

This encourages employees to step into the room more prepared and engaged, while taking the burden of leading and facilitating the entire meeting off your plate.

Keep Your Eye on the Goal

A major derailer for meetings is not having a clear goal for the meeting itself. Just as it’s true that if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there; so is it true that if you don’t have a clear goal for your meeting then any agenda will take you there!  But success is not built off of “any agenda.”  Make sure you keep your meeting on track by clearly defining the objectives for the meeting. Be sure that this is set at the beginning of the meeting, possibly even before the agenda is laid out.  The agenda then can be rightly viewed as a tool to support the goals.  And get specific!  Your goals for a meeting should be as specific as your SMART goals set for longer term achievements.

There are several ways to conduct team meetings, and if it works for you, by all means — continue.  However, if your team’s huddles aren’t yielding the desired results, try something new!  As someone once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Time is a precious commodity. So, go get back those 27 wasted minutes.


Interested in learning how to develop leadership skills such as deciding when to step up and lead or step back and let your team lead?  Or, one might say, when to step up and own the meeting agenda or when to let your team lead the play. “Step up or Step back” is a critical question to today’s leader.  Come explore this idea in depth at our Apollo Leadership Experience!