Everyone knows meetings are generally a huge waste of time. In fact, a recent survey by Harvard Business Review found that a single weekly executive meeting eats up a whopping 300,000 hours a year.
We've all suffered through rambling executive monologues, cheesy presentation slides and stretches of painful silence instead of lively brainstorming. Bust out of bad meeting purgatory and into productivity paradise with meeting tips from these 8 elite CEOs.
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1. Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn: Start With Wins
Before delving right into the business at hand, Weiner asks everyone to share one personal victory and one professional achievement from the last week. He says it gives meetings a positive energy from the start; otherwise they can all too easily dissolve into massive complaining sessions. If you're intent on keeping meetings as short as possible, start off by sharing a bit of good news or applauding a recent company success.
2. Ed Catmull of Pixar: Candor Is Essential to Collaborative Meetings
In order for creative brainstorming or problem solving to work, you have to make it clear that people are not their ideas. Meetings need to be safe places where people can freely offer suggestions without feeling embarrassed or judged. Catmull is adamant about one thing: first ideas suck. It’s their nature.
Your job is not to strike gold on the first try, but rather to take a lackluster idea with potential and buff it until it shines. That's why creating an open atmosphere where people can share those ugly first takes and improve them as a team is imperative to success — and a healthy team dynamic.
3. Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!: Back Decisions Up With Data
Most meetings are held to make a decision, a process that usually involves discussion. Debating options, arguing your point of view, and finding a way to come to a consensus — often arbitrarily or based on a simple majority. Mayer cuts that time by requiring anyone who proposes a new idea to provide data to back it up. That way decisions can quickly be made based solely on numbers, not opinions or office politics.
Basing decisions on hard data also cuts down the number of poor assumptions, preventing a slew of follow-up meetings when you discover a previous belief was wrong (not to mention wasted time and resources).
4. Larry Page of Google: Don't Let Meetings Bottleneck Your Work
One of the first things Page did after taking the reins at Google was send a company-wide memo retooling their meetings. His rules for efficiency: no more than 10 people in a meeting; every meeting needs a decision maker in the room, and no decisions should wait for a meeting to happen.
You shouldn't need approval from an entire committee to make every decision, or you'll constantly be calling meetings or be stuck waiting for everyone's schedules to align before you can move forward. And by having a decision maker in every meeting, choices can be made right away and movement can begin immediately.
5. Gary Vaynerchuk, Serial Entrepreneur: Cut Meeting Times in Half
As Vaynerchuk points out, most of what happens in a meeting doesn't actually matter. If you schedule a 1-hour meeting, you’ll inevitably fill that time. If you plan a 15-minute meeting, you’ll find a way to get the important stuff done. Force yourself to be efficient by keeping every meeting short and focused.
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6. Steve Jobs of Apple: Keep It Small
Only include people who are absolutely necessary to participate in the meeting, nobody else — regardless of their status. Jobs believed too many people and voices were counterproductive. In fact, he famously excluded himself from a meeting of tech leaders held by President Obama because he believed the guest list was too long and he wasn't needed. So keep your invite list in the single digits whenever possible.
7. Jeff Bezos of Amazon: Fight Hasty Consensus
Bezos famously despises the tendency for a group to quickly reach consensus solely because it’s the easiest and most comfortable solution. He actively encourages leadership to challenge each other and argue before reaching a decision.
Don't needlessly draw out meetings for the sake of pointless debate, but don't let the group simply choose the path of least resistance, either. Keep people engaged in the discussion by directly asking them what they think about a proposal or topic, or ask two people to play devil's advocate when debating the pros and cons of a big decision.
8. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook: Set an Agenda & Stick to It
Sandberg takes a notebook with her to every meeting, with a detailed list of discussion points and action items. She crosses them off as the meeting progresses, and as soon as every item is completed, she rips the page off and the meeting's over. Even if it's only 15 minutes into an hour-long meeting. If you can't distill the objectives for the meeting into a handful of clear-cut points, then what exactly is the reason for meeting in the first place?