They're the great conundrum of businesses, large and small. We groan when we think about bad meetings--boring, unproductive, and devouring precious time that we'll never see again. But meetings done right can be the birthplace of great ideas and a wonderful platform to receive vital, real-time feedback.
Recently I came across the following interview, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaking to The Wall Street Journal about a variety of topics. I'm a fan of what Nadella has done with Microsoft since taking the reins in 2014, and I especially appreciated the wisdom he drops regarding running meetings. (You can find the video at the end of this post; Nadella addresses meetings at the 1:04 mark.)
Listen more. Talk less. And be decisive when the time comes.
You may not find this method earth-shattering, but the brilliance is in its conciseness.
Let's break down why it's so effective.
The ability to listen well has become increasingly rare, especially with so many distractions from technology. Much too often those leading meetings aren't listening actively--many times due to a lack of preparation or focus.
The job of a chairman or moderator is to guide a meeting to its most productive outcome--and he or she can't do that without listening carefully to everyone involved.
Talking less should obviously lead to greater opportunities for listening, but there's more to it than that.
As the leader of a meeting, learning to bite your tongue accomplishes the following:
As a wise friend once told me: No one ever learned anything while speaking.
Less talking and more listening is great, but it doesn't mean anything if you can't make solid decisions by the end of the meeting. And remember: If no one is assigned ownership of a task, it's not going to get done.
Accomplishing the first two steps will better equip you to carry out this final step.
Don't worry about making a bad decision--even the best are guilty of those at times. By maintaining a bias for action, you can learn from mistakes and keep things moving.
(And if you enjoyed this advice, check out what you can learn from how Steve Jobs used to run his legendary meetings.)
Putting It into practice.
With major strategic changes including the recent acquisition of LinkedIn, Nadella seems to really be shaking things up at Microsoft--and infusing some much needed inspiration to a company that had lost its reputation as an innovator.
Take this advice to heart and increase the value of your meetings, and you'll keep your business moving in the right direction.