This week I was sitting with an impressive client – she has a resume a mile long and is one of the most sought after experts in her field. Despite the credentials she had hanging behind her, her body language was one of defeat. Lately she had been feeling like a failure, her workload was the same yet she was pushing back deadlines and working though weekends. After a quick task analysis, we found the majority of her time was being spent in meetings – ones with a lot of players and no clear goal. We had identified her time drain – she perked up and exclaimed; “I can’t sit through another shitty meeting!”

However, due to her immense knowledge, the meetings were not going away; so how could we make them work for her?

We hear this problem from our clients across the board. Meetings are important but for whatever reason unproductive. They spend hour after hour in unproductive meetings; with no agenda, limited participation, a fear of heated debate, and few decisions being made. Little time is taken to step back and analyze why the meeting exists, what success looks like, how to allocate time to agenda items and, most importantly, discuss what has been committed to at the end of the meeting.

Meetings are costly. In fact, a hidden cost that impacts culture, innovation and profitability. When meetings aren’t effective it magnifies the feeling of disengagement; nothing is going to change, nothing is getting done, “same old, same old!” When different perspectives are not listened to, when there is a fear of challenging the perceived consensus, innovation and creativity suffers. When there is not sufficient time put in to prepare for meetings, poor decisions are made, information or stakeholders are missing and profitability is negatively impacted.

There are some simple ways to get meetings back on track:

  • Make sure the purpose of every meeting is clearly defined.
    • Why is it important that this meeting takes place?
  • Define clear success criteria for each meeting.
    • What are the key desired outcomes?
  • Seek to understand how any decisions being made affect the company in the short and long-term.
    • Are the stakeholders affected by the decisions present?
  • Spend time thinking thru the creation of the agenda and get it out to participants well in advance of the meeting.
    • What types of personalities dominant the group that is meeting? Introverts need to feel prepared (need time to think) ahead of time.
  • Assign someone to facilitate the meeting so it stays on track and on topic.
    • Who is making sure the process moves along?
  • End all meetings asking three questions:
    • Did we reach our desired outcomes?
    • Who will do what by when?
    • What did we do to further trust among the group members?


At Soundboard, we are always available to audit your meetings and provide recommendations for turning a shitty meeting into a productive experience.