“Listen more, talk less and be decisive when the time comes” – how Microsoft do meetings

Don’t be alarmed, but there’s an epidemic taking over offices across the UK…

Unproductive meeting-itis.

With 36% of all meetings considered unproductive, and 77% of them lacking organisation, this is a dangerous situation for businesses.

But for one company, meetings are less of a problem. In fact, they’re as productive as productive can be. That company is Microsoft, who seem to have found a cure for the epidemic in the form of Satya Nadella.

“Listen more, talk less and be decisive when the time comes”

Nadella’s above quote is at the heart of how Microsoft does meetings. A few rules are in place to make meetings more productive and more efficient. One Friday a month, Nadella has an 8 hour meeting with executives, whilst every other Friday they meet for a much snappier 4 hours.

When meetings are so long, how can you keep them productive? How do you keep the attendees attentive?

To keep people alert throughout such long meetings (or any meeting for that matter), you have to keep everyone active. You need to lead the meeting and act as a moderator, encouraging every attendee to be vocal, whilst you listen and add when needed.

This may seem easier said than done, but it all comes from the right preparations prior to the meeting. Make sure you let every attendee know exactly what the meeting is about well in advance. Focus on clearing up what its primary goal is, reducing unneeded noise. This way, attendees will have time to collect their thoughts and work on what they want to say when the meeting comes.

This has a second benefit also, and it brings us right back to Nadella. If you let attendees know exactly what the goal of any meeting is in advance, it allows attendees to do one thing…

Skip meetings if you need to

Nadella lets employees skip meetings if they don’t deem them productive or necessary. If spending 1 hour, 2 hours or 8 hours in a meeting is not the most productive use of your time, don’t do it. If you want to discuss a topic and help make a difference to a certain issue, take a seat!

This provides 3 large benefits:

1. Employees remain productive, whatever decision they take. This may seem obvious, but it’s so important, it’s certainly worth repeating.

2. Meetings are more productive, as every attendee is ready to be active, ready to play a part, ready to listen and ready to talk. No seat is wasted.

3. Employees will feel an extra sense of responsibility. When attending a meeting becomes their choice, they feel more responsibility for the time they spend either in it, or not in it.

Even though it may seem that Nadella is risking wasting a lot of time by having so many long meetings, thanks to having the right structure in place, he makes sure that they stay productive. And it all comes down to pre-meeting preparations, and allowing people to not go in the first place!

If you’re looking for more advice on how to make meetings more valuable and more productive, we have plenty of other tips, from knowing when not to have one, to knowing how to make better key decisions.

Photo courtesy of LeWeb / Heisenberg Media

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