Sadly, most companies and most leaders view poor meetings as inevitable, like living with rain in London. But, unlike the weather, meetings can be improved.
We’ve found that improving just one meeting a day yields tremendous benefits not only for the organization but for the person responsible. Here are some ways to counteract the most common ways that meetings fail.
Recognize that you may be the problem. We are poor judges of our own meeting leadership skills. My team’s research, published in 2011 in the journal Group Dynamics, shows that one person usually leaves a meeting feeling good about it: the leader. In a 1998 Verizon survey of more than 1,300 company managers, 79% of them reported that the meetings they initiated were extremely or very productive, but only 56% said the same about meetings initiated by others. Clearly those running meetings and attending them are not aligned.
Keep it small. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is known for instituting a “two-pizza rule”—if you need more than two pizzas to feed everyone, the meeting is too large. A 2010 study conducted by consultants Bain & Company found that for each additional person over seven members in a decision-making group, decision effectiveness is reduced by approximately 10%. A 2011 study of 97 work teams by three Canadian researchers found more counterproductive behavior and interpersonal aggression in larger groups.