How to Make Meetings Work for You, the Leader

Perhaps the most frequent, and universal, task performed by leaders is holding meetings. On average, employees spend at least six hours a week in meetings while the act of preparing for and conducting meetings can take up as much as 75 percent of a manager’s time.[1]

Despite their importance, however, meetings are often held with little planning or thought. It’s no wonder that found that too many meetings was considered the number one time waster at work![2]

It makes sense that, to immediately boost employee engagement and productivity, leaders should attempt to make their meetings better. Thankfully, a newly published book, The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance, summarizes years of research and provides important tips on how to conduct higher-quality meetings.[3] Here’s a glance:

  1. Make meetings as small and reasonable as possible. In addition to limiting the time employees spend in meetings, smaller meetings help reduce social loafing as it is more difficult to hide among the crowd. But be careful: when people are not invited to a meeting, they can become worried they are being excluded. To combat this, identify individuals who are not necessary for the meeting but may feel connected to it. For instance, you may consider asking for their input on the agenda and sharing minutes at the end.
  2. Set (and stick to) the shortest possible meeting time. Feel free to be unconventional with your meetings’ times. Don’t default to one-hour or thirty-minute meetings because that is the norm; instead, make them as short as possible (even if it is only five minutes) to help create a sense of urgency.
  3. Mix it up. When appropriate, try a different type of meeting to reinvigorate your followers. For example, consider various brainstorming activities, such as pairing people up or having them come up with individual ideas on their own before the meeting. Utilize quizzes and polling methods to enhance participation. And when meetings are small and no technology is required, try a walking meeting—research has shown these increase satisfaction and creativity.
  4. Start the meeting well. You are the host—make all meeting members feel appreciated and welcomed. This includes greeting others, introducing those who do not know each other and even bringing snacks (one of the best predictors of meeting satisfaction across the world).

To effortlessly incorporate these tips, embrace a stewardship mindset: You, as a leader, are a steward of others’ time. When planning and conducting meetings, seek to continuously honor and respect that time.


[1] Van Vree, W . (1999). Meetings, manners and civilization: The development of modern meeting behaviour. London, United Kingdom: Leicester University Press.


[3] Rogelberg, S. G. (2018). The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance. London, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.