How to Run a Meeting Like a Leader: Lessons from Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook
6 June 2021
Meetings are a crucial part of all our workdays. Whether that’s an official team meeting or an impromptu conversation in the hallway, we have important conversations on a daily basis. A study has averaged that we have more than 20 conversations or meetings per day! That’s a lot of time we’re investing in communication, relationships and collaboration. So, how do we run an effective meeting?
In fact, researchers estimate that companies in the US alone waste at least 37 billion every year in lost productivity due to poorly organized meetings.
Today, we’ll look at how the leaders from some of the largest companies in the world like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon or Facebook run a meeting? If you always wanted to know how to run a meeting like leader, it’s time to discover how.
It pays to study and learn from the meeting styles of successful business leaders because they take back-to-back meetings on a daily basis. So, how do they minimize their inefficiency because if they can’t afford it, neither can we!
And there are several reasons for this inefficiency.
Meetings become inefficient when:
1. The team is unaligned or unsure as to why you are meeting
2. Without a strong agenda or a reason for meeting, it’s likely that attendees won’t be able to prepare for the meeting, which leads to useless discussion and a risk of going off tangent. This also means that attendees are unable to prioritize the reason for meeting and tend to view the meeting as an interruption to their day rather than as a useful tool.
3. You don’t keep to time or to topic
4. While an agenda can help solve this issue, it’s also crucial that each attendee understands the scope and topic being discussed. This ensures that the team is well-aligned, the discussion is relevant and each topic is given due consideration. Nominating a meeting chair or facilitator can also help your meetings start and end on time, and stay on topic.
5. Your meetings don’t have any ground rules
6. All meetings need ground rules. The same way you have a dress code at work, there needs to be a code of etiquette when it comes to meetings. These rules don’t have to be extensive. Start small with a rule to “turn up to every meeting at least 5 minutes before kick-off” or make it a rule to ‘parking lot’ any topic or question that’s not immediately relevant to the discussion at hand. You’ll save yourself lots of distractive comments, discussions and useless whiffle-waffle.
7. Another great rule is to encourage attendees to “make your coffee at least 10 minutes before the meeting” or you could move your coffee machine to your meeting room!
9. Coffee is whispered with reverence in most workplaces and everyone has their vice, but a recent study on the effects of caffeine on meetings revealed an interesting gender difference. During periods of stress, women who drank coffee performed better than men in the same situation. While we’re not throwing out the coffee just yet, the difference is said to lie in your instinctive response to caffeine. While women on caffeine generally tend to take on a collaborative, teamwork style, which is ideal for the meeting space, whereas men generally react in a practical or active style.
10. The point of a meeting is not to talk
11. Perhaps this is where the collaborative, teamwork approach makes the most sense. It’s how we define the point of a meeting. The point of a meeting is to listen and collaborate. The whole reason you’re together in a room is to benefit from one another’s viewpoints and perspectives to drive better outcomes for your team and clients.
12. It’s about the tasks not the time
13. If your meeting is set for 60 minutes, you don’t have to discuss for 60 minutes. This is where a strong agenda comes in handy. Focus on the tasks and points at hand rather than the time. Fortune reported that Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg keeps a list of discussion points and action items handy in her meetings so that once she’s done with her points, she can quickly move on to the next meeting and topics at hand!
14. Disruptions and unengaged team
15. With a huge multi-national company like Amazon, it’s easy for an unsupervised meeting to grow to exponential hands. You shouldn’t have to rent a convention center just to meet. Amazon’s funky 2-pizza rule is: every meeting should be sufficiently catered by 2 pepperoni pizzas. Only invite the relevant people to your meetings because this will help avoid repeat opinions, it prioritizes the time people dedicate to the meeting, allows for quicker decisions and it’s easier to communicate!
It’s not just how we meet, it’s what comes after that creates inefficiency. A good meeting can save dozens of follow-up emails, prevent major miscommunication, and even give birth to moments of creative magic.
Top workflow management tools from leading entrepreneurs
Talk less. Listen more
This is actually 2 of Satya Nadella’s, Microsoft CEO, 3-step meeting method. Apart from being able to listen better when you talk less, this also creates a nurturing atmosphere that encourages collaboration when you run a meeting.
There are several ways to ensure you are listening:
Ask specific questions;
Be concise and to-the-point;
Approach each problem as a team;
Give everyone time to share;
Keep to the time.
The worst meeting I’ve ever attended was on where a senior member of the team talked for 20 extra minutes at the end of the meeting on a tangential point. The whole team was equally inattentive and just done listening, but nobody had the courage to speak up.
This doesn’t mean that you call for a mutiny, overthrow the facilitator and reclaim the meeting room as new land. Being decisive means that you know when to step into the conversation and if you run a meeting, how to keep things moving forward. While it is important to listen more, at the end of the day, you need to assign tasks, keep the conversation on point and ensure follow through for better outcomes.
Know your game
You’re in the meeting for a reason and hopefully, it’s not a ‘Dinner for Schmucks’ situation. So, if you’re presenting, get passionate about your idea! No one else will champion your views, topics or expertise, so if you want things moving in a certain way, fight for them!
Of course we all want respectful workplaces, but what we mean here is don’t compromise on things you believe in. It’s also not enough to know what’s important, but you have to be able to articulate why it’s important and then convince the rest of your team.
The way Google does this is with data. Every suggestion or point is backed up by numbers so they can validate and quantify everything they do and it’s been working well for them!
When you run a meeting, you’re making meaning.
This means that before you run a meeting the right priorities are defined.
“We’re doing this because we have a passion about it…because we really care about the higher educational process. Not because we want to make a buck.” Steve Jobs
This also means that you don’t need to wait for a meeting to make a decision. Have a mico-meeting to avoid senior decision makers becoming a blocker for the rest of the team.
But it’s not always the ongoing meeting that derives value, how you end your meetings also matter.
At Notiv, we understand how intimidating it can be to visualize the long road ahead of us. That’s why we end our meetings with some inspiration. It’s important to us to take some time to look back at what we’ve accomplished and to use that as motivation for the road ahead. Apple celebrated their 90th day of business, when was the last time you celebrated how far you’ve come?
While Google backs their decisions up with data, Amazon relies on the power of storytelling instead. While on one-hand this can prompt attendees to craft detailed meeting memos, it can also leave your team directionless before the meeting. Amazon prizes memos because they give the organizers a chance to better communicate the concepts to be discussed. Attendees can also read, collaborate and improve the work ahead of time, creating team alignment and focus.
We’ve all rocked up to that important meeting where, despite your best intentions, you’re simply not well-prepared. Perhaps you just got off a flight, had a big night out or watched the final season of Game of Thrones.
As a meeting organizer, it’s inevitable to have attendees who simply aren’t ready. But instead of punishing these members, or risk them ‘faking it till they make it’, Amazon instead has instated a mandatory review of the meeting memo at the start of the meeting.
This method not only assures the undivided attention of the team, it helps discussion or team leads prepare a final time. It’s also great team practice because it values and places importance on the time, expertise and effort required to put those memos or agendas together.
Review is also important after a meeting. What was said, what was discussed and what needs to be followed-up on immediately?
Assigning a note-taker can help with the review process but this is often a major source of inefficiency. With human note-takers, your team is subjecting itself to the biases and limitations of that one person. If they missed a crucial point, the whole team collectively shares in that loss. If everyone is taking their own notes, the team risks misalignment, miscommunication and lots of time spent after the meeting decoding notes and chasing up information.
Why take the L?
By using an AI meeting assistant, you remove that dependency and inefficiency relating to human jobs.
We all have many jobs to be done in our lives:
Some are little like making coffee in the morning;
Some are big like creating a human being;
Some surface unpredictably like a spare outfit at work because you got drenched in the morning;
Some regularly like packing healthy school lunches for your kids.
However, the menial post-meeting tasks shouldn’t be something we have to contend with anymore. There are tools, like Notiv, available for the discerning professional. Tasks like taking detailed notes while engaging in the conversation, or organizing and disseminating meeting minutes can take hours, when they should only take minutes.
Tools like Notiv help users:
Capture the full conversation, context and rich detail;
Transcribe the conversation for clarity;
Analyze the meeting to highlight important moments;
Segment the data for a quick review of the information;
And support collaboration and dissemination of the meeting notes!
If you want to Meet Better, it’s not hard to implement some of these life hacks into your workflow. Head over to our recent article to learn more about the benefits of having AI as your meeting assistant.
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