The Surprising Science of Meetings | Steven G. Rogelberg

Summary of: The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance
By: Steven G. Rogelberg


Do you ever feel like the vast number of meetings you attend is eating away at your productivity? The Surprising Science of Meetings dives into the intricacies of why meetings often feel like they’re not worth the time and money invested. Based on research by Steven G. Rogelberg, this book summary explores how we lead meetings, how the right mindset can benefit the meeting experience, the effects of time constraints, and the usefulness of specific agendas. Furthermore, the summary highlights the impact of limiting the number of attendees, the importance of eliciting unique information and ideas from participants, and strategies for cultivating a positive atmosphere during meetings.

The Costly Inefficiency of Meetings

Meetings are becoming increasingly more frequent and expensive while being unproductive, costing companies large sums of money, and workers their time.

Meetings have become a central part of the workplace environment, but they’re often synonymous with inefficiency, unproductiveness, and waste. In the United States alone, over 55 million workplace meetings take place every day, resulting in a colossal loss of time and money for companies. Non-managerial staff now meet an average of eight times weekly, and managerial staff even more at 12 times a week. Moreover, senior leaders like Executive Officers are devoting most of their time to meetings. CEOs in Italy are spending 60 percent of their working day in meetings.

All this meeting time adds up to a considerable expense. For instance, for Xerox, meetings with their 24,000 person development team cost over $100 million annually. Moreover, the US spends $1.4 trillion on meetings a year, which accounts for around 8 percent of the country’s annual GDP. Unfortunately, research suggests that most employees find meetings unproductive. A survey conducted by Microsoft revealed that 69 percent of the 40,000 global workers surveyed found their meetings unproductive. Additionally, a Clarizen survey of two thousand American workers illustrated that 50 percent would instead perform any other disagreeable work activity than attend their weekly team update meeting.

The question now becomes: how can we make meetings more productive? Instead of focusing on the number of meetings, it’s time to flip the script and emphasize on the quality of meetings. There’s a pressing need for transformational leadership in meetings. Leaders can make meetings productive and cost-effective by hiring efficient facilitators, ensuring that the meetings’ agendas are order, and attendee participation is adequate. In conclusion, shifting our perception and approach to workplace meetings can result in a more productive and efficient use of our time, and undoubtedly improve our workplaces.

Leading Meetings Effectively

Learn about how servant leadership and user feedback can transform ordinary meetings into productive sessions.

Leading meetings can be challenging, and most people tend to overestimate their abilities in this area. In the author’s research, those leading the meeting tend to rate it more positively than the attendees. To get a more realistic picture of your meeting skills, it’s important to ask for feedback from attendees. Weight Watchers, for example, collects anonymous feedback from employees using touchscreen devices placed near meeting rooms. Based on this feedback, the company implements changes to improve meeting satisfaction levels.

Leaders can adopt a servant leadership mindset to take meetings to the next level. Servant leadership focuses on meeting the needs of the team by unlocking each member’s true potential. Servant leaders have the responsibility of ensuring meetings are effective. They exercise excellent time management skills and keep conversations on track. Moreover, they listen to attendees to detect any latent concerns and introduce them into the discussion. Lastly, the servant leader creates an environment in which attendees feel comfortable enough to express their opinions and engage in constructive debate.

Overall, by embracing servant leadership and continuously seeking user feedback, meetings can become productive and enjoyable for everyone involved.

The Power of Short Meetings

Meetings don’t have to be an hour long – shortening them can actually help you get more done.

Meetings can be a huge drain on productivity, but they don’t have to be. The universal one-hour time slot for meetings is actually due to a phenomenon known as Parkinson’s Law, which states that tasks will expand or contract to fit the time allotted for them. In other words, if you schedule an hour for a meeting, it’s likely to take the entire hour even if you don’t really need that much time.

So how can you break free from this cycle? Start by reflecting on your goals, the number of attendees, and your past meetings to gauge how long you actually need to meet. Do you really need to meet for a full hour, or could you cut it down to 45 minutes or even 30?

You could also take inspiration from others and try starting your meetings at an unusual time to intrigue attendees and discourage lateness. Or, adopt the practice of “huddles,” which are short, focused meetings typically lasting just 15 minutes. The Obama administration used daily huddles with great success, and tech companies like Apple and Dell are also fans. Even Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, insists that all her meetings last no longer than 10 minutes.

By shortening your meetings, you’ll not only save time but increase productivity, boost team morale, and ensure that everyone stays engaged and focused. So the next time you’re scheduling a meeting, think twice before defaulting to the one-hour time slot.

The Truth About Meeting Agendas

Discover how to create a valuable meeting tool with specific items that matter to attendees.

In today’s world, many companies believe that meeting agendas alone will improve the quality of their meetings. However, the presence of an agenda is not enough to guarantee excellent results. According to studies, there is no direct association between the presence of an agenda and meeting quality as perceived by attendees.

The Economist revealed in its 2003 research that many organizations either use the same agenda repeatedly or create a random, last-minute agenda. Therefore, it is crucial to understand what goes into the agenda to make it an effective tool that adds value to meetings. Leaders must get specific about the essential items to be included on the agenda.

One of the most critical items on any agenda should be the ones suggested by the attendees themselves. Research demonstrates that employees who contribute to the meetings are more committed to the team and the company. Leaders should take the time to email attendees days before the meeting to find out what topics matter to them.

The order in which topics are discussed is equally crucial. Research conducted by Middle Tennessee State University revealed that items discussed earlier in the meeting received more attention, regardless of their complexity. Therefore, leaders should rank the agenda items based on importance, with the most critical topics being discussed first.

In a nutshell, meeting agendas are valuable when planned and executed effectively. They provide a common goal and direction for attendees. But, simply having an agenda doesn’t work like magic. The key is to ensure that the items on the agenda genuinely matter to attendees and are ranked based on importance. Doing this makes it possible to leverage meeting agendas as a valuable tool that drives productivity and achieves results.

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