“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favour of holding meetings.”

Thomas Sowell

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, revealed his simple three-rule method for running better meetings.

1. Listen more.
2. Talk less.
3. Be decisive when the time comes.

1. Listen More

When you listen, you learn. Listening skills are a vital part of any meeting. You need to be able to hear other perspectives and interpret them. A leader should always listen to their team and be approachable if anyone has an idea or issue.

2. Talk Less

Nadella isn’t saying “don’t talk”, but talk less. You can achieve this by being concise, asking questions and encouraging introverted team members to speak.

If you think you might be guilty of speaking too much, ask yourself these three key questions.

  • Does this need to be said?
  • Does this need to be said by me?
  • Does this need to be said by me, now?

If you answer yes to all three questions, then, of course, you should speak. But if it’s no, then not speaking may allow for a better and more productive meeting.

3. Be Decisive

After you’ve listened to your team’s thoughts and ideas, it’s time to move things forward and start assigning tasks to team members.

Related: Assigning tasks in Tameday

As a leader, not every decision you make will please everyone, but it’s important to get buy-in from everyone.

Amazon’s Two Pizza Rule

Two pizza rule

Amazon is a very successful organisation. A large part of its success is down to its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos. Bezos has an interesting rule when it comes to keeping meetings productive and it involves pizza!

Bezos will only hold meetings where two pizzas will feed all attendees. He feels if there are too many employees attending, it’s a productivity killer.

Bezos believes that small teams are more productive. The larger the group, the greater the amount of coordination and management required.

And he’s not alone in this belief!

Steve Jobs also insisted that meetings should only contain small groups of smart people — often telling people when they weren’t needed.

Harvard psychologist, J Richard Hackman also agrees with this principle. He feels that big teams usually wind up just wasting everyone’s time and for this reason doesn’t allow more than six students in a team.

6 Principles to Run Productive Meetings

First off, we think that most meetings are a waste of time and unnecessary. And we’re not alone.

In a recent study, professionals reported that 50% of their meetings are unproductive and 25% of most meeting time is wasted discussing irrelevant issues.

However, meetings can be a productive and effective tool where important work gets done.

Running great meetings isn’t easy but here are six invaluable tips for you to implement:

  1. Have a clear purpose or outcome for your meeting. Ask yourself, “what do I need to accomplish in this meeting?”.
  2. Only invite those people who are needed to accomplish the outcome.
  3. Create an agenda to give the meeting structure and avoid drifting into unproductive territory. Ideally, the agenda should be circulated to attendees in advance and have some flexibility.
  4. Avoid using PowerPoint.
  5. Ensure all voices in the room get heard. A team at Microsoft uses a rubber chicken called “Ralph” to toss around the room to whoever is speaking at that moment.
  6. At the end of the meeting, recap accomplishments, review next steps.

How Long Should a Meeting Last?

We’ve all been in meetings that have dragged on too long. You just sit there bored, watching the clock or checking your phone.

Research shows that we have a short attention span of 10-18 minutes. TED talks are usually around 15 minutes and can be very powerful.

Related: Check out the best TED talks for leaders.

Overall, it will depend on the meeting but our advice is to keep it short and definitely no longer than an hour. One engineer at Facebook found that holding meetings standing up, cuts its duration by up to 25%.

Final Thoughts

The next time you’re running a meeting, remember Nadella’s three principles to keep you balanced and productive.

  • Listen more.
  • Talk less.
  • Be decisive when it counts.
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Related: 7 Reasons Why Your Team Needs Online Collaboration Software