can we do meetings better?

How many hours a week do you spend in meetings? Do you feel that it is time well spent?

Reading Brene Brown’s book ‘Dare To Lead’ has made me reflect on the effectiveness of meetings, how and where they are held, what is recorded in the minutes, and whether we are getting them all wrong.

What I liked about Brene’s advice is it is written from experience of meetings with her team; and how expectations and time pressures are different for each member of her team. It took some honest feedback from her team to make the change.

Governing board meeting minutes serve a specific purpose and it is useful if they are in specified format for consistency, recorded by an independently trained clerk who knows all the essential items that need to be covered. But the same doesn’t necessarily apply to creative, planning and idea generating meetings, they need to be open and honest and to capture everyone’s great ideas. If the purpose is not to discuss, if a decision has already been made, what is the point in having the meeting.

I am sure we have all experienced leading a meeting that isn’t going well, for example, a change management idea hasn’t gone down well or there is a distraction. If this happened again, could we try a different way, could we make it ok to agree that anyone in the meeting can say “this isn’t going well” and suggest another time to get back together.

Why do we look to the person who has arranged the meeting to call the shots?

Can’t we all be brave?

Don’t we all have a voice?

Aren’t all views equally valid?

Meetings can go badly for so many reasons, you see knowing looks flickering around the room, if someone’s head isn’t in the meeting because just before they came in they were having IT problems, or they need time to reflect and form an opinion on the topic. We aren’t really going to get the best outcomes by carrying on regardless. A break, allowing time to think, reflect, form opinion can ensure a much more productive discussion takes place.


Does every set of meeting minutes need to be a word for word narrative of the meeting? It is very unlikely that it needs to be for most meetings.

How easy is it to give a definitive and confident approval to minutes that are being reviewed a week, a month or a several months later? I am sure we have all sat in meetings where we haven’t had time to read them in full but have nodded in agreement when asked if we they are a true account of the meeting.

Being told that you are going to be taking the minutes can feel (a) demotivating or demoralising that you have been invited to minute rather than contribute (b) an added task because of the time it will take to write or review them (if you type them during the meeting) and distribute them.

Is everyone taking their own notes and writing down ideas? If someone isn’t making notes is it because they have a good memory, they think it doesn’t apply to them or they will wait for the minutes to be sent to them?

I love the idea of meeting minutes having shared ownership and to capture important actions and decisions during the meeting. Why not have a shared document or piece of paper that everyone contributes to? Could you try finishing meetings 5 minutes earlier, in order to reflect on what has been captured and be clear on the actions? All we really need to capture are decisions, actions to be taken, timescales and task owners.

How? Where? When?

Where do you have meetings? Standard meeting rooms? Communal areas? Same time? Same place? Do you get the same responses from the same people? What if those times were amalgamated into a half day or full away day style meeting at a more inspiring location? Are you inviting creativity? Are you broadening thinking?

Sometimes in office-based roles we spend too much time sitting down. Could you try having interactive meetings with opportunity to move around?

Could team time be well spent reading thought pieces? Books? Blogs? Articles? Asking challenging or thought-provoking questions? Suggesting pre-meeting research amongst colleagues, peers or customers?

Meetings take up precious time and therefore it is worthwhile taking a moment to think about their structure, format and regularity. These are just a few of my reflections inspired by reading Brene’s book. I hope this has helped you to reflect on the meetings you attend or lead – what does an effective and efficient meeting look like to you? What could you change to make them better? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

If you would like to read more of my writing, the School Business Manager’s Handbook is available in paperback and Kindle format: