6 Ways to Avoid Meaningless Meetings

6 Ways to Avoid Meaningless Meetings

You likely devote hours each week in meetings to receiving updates about staff members, sharing information about residents and brainstorming ideas. When I was an administrator there were many days I bounced from meeting to meeting and didn’t begin my non-meeting work until 4 p.m. Many of those meetings were essential. Some were not. Attending meaningless meetings can result in no work getting done and can cause “meetingitis.” Here are six ways to run an effective meeting that will help not only you but your entire team to be more creative and more productive:

  1. Have a specific and stated purpose. State the clearly defined need for the meeting and make sure all the attendees know the reason. Be clear about the desired outcome, too. Do you want to make a decision, Generate ideas, or Communicate plans? At the end of this meeting, the group will…
  2. Consider the reason for each attendee. Focusing on the purpose of the meeting will help you determine who needs to be there for it to be successful. Unless it’s a large gathering of team members to talk openly, keep the attendees to a minimum. Depending on the point of the meeting, you might be better off with some non-supervisory staff attending than a room full of department heads. They will share a different perspective and undoubtedly be more engaged in their work when their feedback is welcomed. This is especially true for meetings about topics that directly impact staff members.
  3. Start with a positive tone. People sitting around the table will mirror your mood and tone so be sure to be upbeat and engaged. Start with a positive story or an encouraging outcome the organization has recently achieved. Alternatively, ask everyone to answer an optimistic question such as, “What is one thing you are looking forward to this week?”
  4. Share what happens. While all these meetings might be dragging you down, others are likely craving more information. When we conduct focus group one of the comments we frequently hear from non-supervisory staff is, “I wish I knew what happened in that secret meeting they have every morning.” One best practice is to have someone jot down quick bullets and have them posted right after the meeting in a high-traffic employee area, such as the breakroom or time clock station, or are used for talking points with team members during department, unit, or shift to shift reports.
  5. Develop concrete action items that support the big picture. Ever attend a meeting where you leave and think, “Did we accomplish anything?” Banish that feeling by ensuring that there is agreement on what’s happening next and a list of follow-up tasks. Every action item that comes out of the meeting must have one responsible person. Others can help, but ultimately just one person is responsible to make sure the action item is completed.
  6. End on a positive note. Get people excited about following up on the items that came out of the meeting by ending on a high note! Psychologist Daniel Kahneman found in his research on the “peak-end rule” that how an experience ends is responsible for how we remember it. Restauranteur Danny Meyer calls it “writing a last great chapter,” so the story has a satisfying conclusion for both staff and customers. We always ask our clients, “What’s the most valuable piece of information you are taking away from this meeting?” The answers always differ, but the impact is the same. They leave excited to tackle the opportunities that they have uncovered!

Bonus tip: Yes, and…. To keep the ideas flowing and the conversation upbeat make sure you’re not squashing people’s ideas by saying things like, “but” or “we can’t because.” Instead try using some improvisational comedy! Say, “yes, and….” Practicing this protocol makes us less married to our own idea that we instinctively defend, aloud or in our head, as the best idea. While it won’t work every time, try it and be amazed at how people respond when you give their ideas credence.

Remember “meetingitis” can be avoided if you simply inspire employees to take action and stay engaged.

This article was written by Drive President, Denise Boudreau-Scott. 

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