How to Run a Meeting Like Google
Ask an average manager in Corporate America.
What is the single most important thing you do at work?
Chances are they’ll say it’s attending meetings.
What was your first reaction to this? Perhaps you recall the painful and unproductive meetings you’ve been in. Many people dread meetings. Is meetings really the necessary evil of organizational life?
Google’s Chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt outlines 8 key principles on how meetings should work. If you’ve thought meeting was a great waste of time, here’s a series of rules on how to run your meeting like Google.
1. Meetings should have a single decision-maker/owner.
The forum for decision-making is almost always a meeting. There must be a clear decision-maker at every point in the process – someone whose butt is on the line. When you have a two group of equals, the outcome isn’t usually favorable as it results in a compromise. In that case, include someone more senior as the decision-maker.
2. The decision-maker should be hands on.
The decision-maker should call the meeting, ensure that the content is prepared, set the objectives, determine the participants, and share the agenda at least 24 hours in advance. Once the meeting is over, the decision-maker (and no one else) should highlight and summarize decisions taken and action items by email to at least every participant – in addition to any other who need to know – within 40 hours.
3. Even if a meeting is not a decision-making meeting – for example it’s designed to share information or brainstorm solutions – it should have a clear owner.
The owner, again, should ensure that the right people are invited to the meeting, that there’s a clear agenda, that the necessary work has been done in advance, and that action items are circulated promptly.
4. Meetings are not like government agencies – they should be easy to kill.
Every meeting should have a crystal clear purpose and if that purpose isn’t well defined or if the meeting fails to achieve that purpose, maybe the meeting should go away. The decision-maker needs to ask the hard questions: Is the meeting still useful? Is it too frequent/ not frequent enough? Do people get the information they need?
5. Meetings should be manageable in size.
Schmidt says “no more than eight people, ten at a stretch.” If more people need to know what transpired in the meeting, the decision-maker needs to create a process for communicating it rather than bringing every relevant stakeholder in as an observer, which lowers the quality of the meeting and people’s ability to talk openly.
6. Attendance at meetings is not a badge of importance.
If you’re not needed, it’s better to excuse yourself ahead of time. This is particularly true of meetings with customers or partners. Schmidt says that he has often walked into an “intimate” meeting with a senior executive from one of our customers or partners, only to find the room full of people. He couldn’t help it if customers felt the need to bring their entire org chart to the meeting. Fewer people is almost always better.
7. Timekeeping matters.
At Google, they always begin on time and end on time. Leave enough time at the end to summarize findings and action items. If the meeting met the objectives within the allotted time, end early. Remember we are human. Schedule time for lunch and bio breaks and be respectful of employees working in different time zones.
8. If you attend a meeting, attend the meeting.
The truth is multitasking doesn’t work. If you are in a meeting and using your laptop for phone for something not related to the meeting, it’s obvious your time is better spend somewhere else. If everyone can’t attend the meeting and get the work done, here’s one solution: Prioritize and attend fewer meetings. This is the most challenging one to implement.
Question: What action will you take to run effective meetings?