Three Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting

“This is so stupid–they asked for my opinion and then ignored it. I don’t know why I even bother! From now on, I’m going to just shut my mouth and do my work.”

“Arghhh. We keep rehashing the same conversations. Why can’t we make a simple @#%*&% decision?”

“I don’t know why we even try! We make a decision and by the time we get back together, no one has done anything we agreed to.”

Sound familiar?

I’ve heard these words so frequently, in focus groups, in one-on-ones, and even behind closed doors with seasoned managers. If you’ve been working in organizations for any period of time, you may have said them too.

Everyone hates bad meetings. And bad meetings are everywhere.

If you want to be a great manager, build a reputation of running great meetings, and watch for an immediate improvement in who shows up and what they contribute.

Three Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting

  1. Communicate a clear objective for the meeting.
    Be clear up front.  Determine if this a “Where are we going?” discussion, or a “How will we get there?” conversation.  If you’re not clear, you don’t have a fighting chance of an organized dialog. Yes. You can have both conversations in the same meeting, but not at the same time. Put it on the agenda. Reinforce it in your opening remarks. Heck, put it in the meeting invite: “By the end of this meeting, we will have decided __________.”People want to know that something will be accomplished with their time. Make that “something” perfectly clear.  One of our Winning Well clients has started including this message in their Outlook invites

    This meeting’s goal is to reach a decision on xxxx, and to begin to define how we will achieve this, we need your best thinking on _______.

  2. Be clear on how decisions will be made.
    Nothing is more frustrating to people than asking for their opinion and ignoring it. Be clear up front as to how the decision will be made.“I need to make this decision, but I would love your input”

    or “We’re going to decide by consensus”

    or “After 30 minutes of discussion, we’re going to take a vote.”Of course, the most important part of this approach is to make a plan and stick to it. If you say the decision will be by consensus, and then hate where the conversation is going and just make the call yourself, you would have been better off making the decision in the shower and communicating it well.

  3. Establish accountability for every decision.
    For every next step stop and ask “Who will do what, by when and how will we know?””Joe’s got this” is not sufficient.” “Joe will talk to Sue and make a decision about X by Friday and send us an email with what they came up with,” works better.

Very few managers run meetings well. Can you imagine the possibilities if you were known as the go-to for holding a great meeting?

Posted in Results & Execution, Winning Well and tagged , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. This reminds me of an experience I had two years ago as a member of a jury. After listening to testimony for five days, we had three days to deliberate. We went into the juror room after testimony was over, voted on a presiding juror (I ended up as the foreman), and began to deliberate. The structure was not clear at the start, but my goal was that everyone voice their opinion at least once as we reviewed each of the issues in front of us. I communicated the goal, “everyone will be able to share their viewpoint” as we looked at each component of the trial. Then we attacked the components – not to have a final decision, but to simply see where everyone stood on the issue. It was a good methodology to ensure that everyone have a voice.

    I feel in many meetings, the goal is to share knowledge. While this is necessary for some meetings, the end goal should be to accomplish something that cannot be accomplished in a group email. As you point out above, decisions, action, assignment … define these at the onset and commit to making decisions by the end.

    And like the jury example, commit to having everyone in the meeting contribute. Much more satisfying and more informed decisions can be made that way!

    • David, Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation wtih your excellent example. Always great to hear your insights. Thanks for being an important part of the Let’s Grow Leaders community.

  2. I love this post, Karin and it really hits home! I am going to be running part of a retreat in a few weeks and I am working so hard to get the organization to be clear on the purpose of the meeting and what they hope to accomplish. Otherwise it is such a waste of time.

    Your points are all terrific!

  3. I am incoming President of a large Association, My goal is be a leader that can learn from it’s members, and not be afraid to ask for help when needed. Mutual respect is key.

    Yolanda Webb
    Association of Health Underwriters

    • Hi Yolanda, So great to see you here. We do a lot of works with associations and its awesome to see your desire to learn and listen to your membership– so vital!

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