The Big Idea
Meetings don’t have to be boring.
Questions I Answer
- How do I make meetings more productive?
- How can I create a culture of collaboration?
- What should I do to make meetings better?
- How I can I have less meetings?
Actions to Take
- Pick up a copy of my book, The Joy of Missing Out, to learn more about Parkinson’s law and other topics discussed in this episode.
Key Topics in the Show
Understanding the frustrations behind meetings
The importance of collaborating with others and allowing for different ideas, opinions, and voices to be heard
Examining the outcomes that you want to come from meetings
Creating an environment that’s conducive for your business (and team members) to flourish
This is productivity Paradox with your host, Tonya Dalton, an entrepreneur,
best-selling author, nationally recognized productivity expert, and mom of
two. This season is all about leading with confidence. Tonya is shifting
mindsets, redefining productivity, and equipping women with the strategies
you need to step into intentional leadership. Are you ready?
Here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello. Hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton,
and this is Episode 179. And today we’re going to be moving right along with our
discussions on how to embrace leadership and doing it with confidence because I
think it’s really important not just to lead, but to feel really damn good while you’re
doing it. So we’ve been talking about some different strategies over the past few
weeks for team-building and inspiring motivation.
And I’m really excited because we’re going to be continuing over the next few weeks
to really dive even deeper into this idea. So today I want to talk about a consistently
hot topic around the professional water cooler, okay? And that is the tried and trued
meeting. Okay, maybe not so much of a hot topic because it’s definitely nothing new
that’s come up,
but we’ve touched on this a little bit in the past. And I feel like meetings are one of
those things that get talked about all the time because they drive us crazy. Now last
week, Emma and Heather from my team were on the podcast with me and we
touched a little bit on some of the meetings that we have on a regular basis.
And I thought that’d be a great idea to talk a little bit more about, How do we make
our meetings feel effective? How do we make it so that they really do bring our team
together? Because here’s the thing, no matter where you stand, whether you are
running your own business or you’re working for someone else, I’m going to bet you
have your own hot opinions about meetings.
We all do. I’m certain it’s because we have all experienced our fair share of bad ones.
Oh, there’s nothing worse than sitting through a bad meeting, especially when you
feel like you have a lot of other things you’d rather do, which let’s be honest is just
about anything else, especially when it comes to bad meetings. And I think just
meetings in general are something that everyone seems to love to hate when they
come up on your calendar or at least that’s kind of the traditional story.
That’s how it seems to go. But honestly, meetings are a great way to bring our
people together, to lead them, get them excited about what you’re working on
together. It’s a great way to boost motivation and excitement for what you do. Or it
can have the opposite effect. And that’s really the problem that I see a lot of times
with these businesses and these corporations where it’s meeting after meeting,
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after meeting. And it seems like such a beat down. I mean, we’ve all had those weeks
where it’s jam-packed with meetings, right? We’ve all had that. It’s not that
uncommon, especially with more of us working from home lately. And we’re either
hosting or attending meetings online. I mean, I feel like if I have a one more zoom
I’m going to lose it. So what happens is this, you get into your office or you sit down
at your desk in the morning and you’re like, ‘Okay, today is going to be a great day.
We’re going to have a fabulous week,’ and you want to get this solid plan written
down. And then you’re like, ‘Okay, I’m feeling pretty good.
I have the time I need to tackle my tasks and my projects and everything else.’ And
then you look at your calendar and go, ‘Oh, I have meetings every single day this
week. How am I possibly going to get anything done?’ And really what you mean by
that is, ‘How am I really going to get the work done that I really need to do?’
This is why we feel like we’re behind on everything. If you’re spending half your life in
a windowless meeting room, sitting in a meeting chair, that can be incredibly
frustrating. And I don’t think there’s anything worse than feeling like the work that
you really want to do–the work you really need to do–is being pushed aside for
meetings that don’t really help you and your real work can’t even begin until you
check those meetings off your list.
And I think that’s where a lot of that frustration comes in, where it’s like, you’re just
checking the boxes of what you’re supposed to do: ‘I have to go to this meeting. It
has nothing to do with me. I’m getting nothing out of it, but I’m checking the box
because I am supposed to be there.’ I get it. And that,
that really is the frustration. Now I think the thing is, is that no matter how much we
love or we hate meetings when they crop up on our calendar, effective meetings are
necessary. The meetings where you show up, where you get the good info, where
you feel more excited about your work, those are the meetings that help because
truly it’s key for us to come together with the people that we work with. After all,
this is where the best ideas are often realized. It’s when we’re collaborating with
other people, when we are bringing different people around the table, and we allow
everyone to share their voices and their opinions, that is when we can do incredible
things, right? And that can only happen when we’re working through things with
other people. So we need meetings from time to time to get our creative juices
flowing and to find ways to maneuver through different stumbling blocks or
challenges that come our way at work.
Having different voices, having different opinions, having different thoughts: that
helps build our team together and makes it even stronger. And I think honestly,
businesses, teams, meetings, all three of those things, they go hand in hand. And I
think that lately, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of articles and maybe it’s because I’ve been
spending time thinking about meetings,
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but it seems like there’s a lot of articles and posts that come onto the scene more
and more that say things like, Please! No more meetings! and these really snarky
titles. And I think if I’m being truly honest here, I’m not surprised because meetings
tend to get a bad rep because so many of them are run wrong; because they’re run
without really any idea of what you want that outcome to be.
When everyone walks out the door, there’s no focus. There’s no agenda. There’s no
outline to really help you stay on track. And I think this is because there are leaders in
the business world who have fallen prey to the belief that the more meetings you
call to check in on your team and to ensure that everything’s running smoothly, the
more productive your team’s going to be. Now,
technically that’s just micromanagement disguised as a meeting. That’s exactly what
that is. It’s you micromanaging your team. And anyone who’s ever sat in on a
meeting where there’s very little value being discussed or worse, no clear agenda in
place . . . they know how incredibly frustrating and morale-busting–not
boosting–that can be. I mean, think of just about any episode of The Office and how
every single one of Michael Scott’s meetings are run.
That’s what we’re talking about here. You’re walking out dejected and not feeling
excited and invigorated, and that’s the opposite of what we want to have happen
with your meetings. We want people to get fired up. We want them to be excited.
We want them to have clear ideas of what we are all doing together next. Because
here’s the thing: if you’re using all of your meetings,
just to check-in, to make sure people are doing the things that you think they’re
supposed to be doing, they’re walking out of there feeling micromanaged . . . And no
one likes to feel like they’re being micromanaged. So calling meetings all the time to
check-in on your team or calling to make sure that they’re operating as smoothly as
possible, you’re sending the opposite message.
You’re not sending the positive message you think you are. You’re telling them that
you don’t really trust that they’re capable of doing the work that you’ve laid out for
them to do. We want to give them ownership. We want them to take the projects
we have assigned to them and run with them, right? And along those same lines,
you’re not being respectful of their time or really creating an environment that
welcomes the level of productivity and commitment that you’re really shooting for.
If you’re wanting your team to take those projects and run with them, you have to
give them the faith and the belief that they can do it. And you checking-in very
regularly is not doing that for them. And here’s the truth–Oh, hell, let’s just call it
what it is, some tough love: How your team feels about meetings,
that’s what ultimately influences their happiness, their job satisfaction, and their
perception of your company and you as their leader. If you want your team members
to respect you, if you want them to take you and your business seriously, and to feel
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invested in the work that they do for you and for the things that your business
stands for, you got to do the work to ensure the environment that you’re creating for
them is conducive for all those things to flourish.
So how do we do this? How do we accomplish this as leaders? How can we ensure
that we are truly being as effective as possible and that we’re spending time with our
teams in an effective way? Well, for me and my team, it’s all about intention.
Intention is a huge part of what we do with inkwell press and the Tonya Dalton
which is why you’ll see it as one of our core values. And this comes through in the
way that we approach those Monday Momentum meetings that Emma and Heather
and I talked about last week, because yes, that is me checking in with my team, but
we only do it once a week. It really, the entire point of those Monday Momentum
meetings is so that I can listen as the manager,
as the boss. And I can make sure that every one of us is prioritizing in a way that
moves us forward together as a team, towards our common goals together. And
that’s part of that conversation. So it’s really not so much about checking in. It’s more
about accountability. How’s everybody doing, how’s everyone feeling. And we start
our meetings by talking about how we felt about our weekend.
It’s not just about the work. It’s also about how are we going into this week feeling,
how can we support each other? How can we encourage each other? And really me
being able to see from the top-down what everybody’s working on in their own
unique worlds allows us to move together seamlessly. So it really is about that
intentionality and bringing that into your days and bringing that into your meetings.
That’s what’s going to make you more productive and more effective. So I want to
dig into this a little bit more and share some quick tips on how you can make the
meetings that you hold with your team more effective, more enjoyable, and more
productive. But before we do that, I want to take a quick mid-episode break.
Okay. So just now we talked about my Monday momentum meetings, which are the
meetings I have with my team to set our week up on the right note to get us all
excited. But did you know, I actually have a text club called Morning Momentum,
and that’s an audio text club? That’s every weekday, Monday through Friday. And it
essentially has the same objective to check in with you too, to have you feel a little
more accountable, and
to feel more intentional with your days. And what I do in these morning
momentums is I send you a quick little audio message. It’s about, about two to
maybe three minutes. I try to keep them to two minutes, but I do like words. But the
intention behind them is exactly that: it’s really setting your week up to set up your
days so they feel good.
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So it’s full of lots of quick and easy tips that you can implement right away, things for
you to think about, things that I’m researching, things that I’m thinking about with
writing my next book, which is what I’m knee-deep in doing right now, working on
that next book, or things that I’m thinking about for future podcast episodes. It’s a
way for you to kind of get a glimpse behind the scenes of what I’m thinking about
and what I’m working on with intention and allowing you to feel that same
And I have to be honest, part of it is, I love these Morning Momentums. It’s such a
great way for us to stay connected. So to make that even easier for you, you can get
the first month of Morning Momentum for only $1.99. Simply go to
Tonyadalton.com/morning and use the code PODCAST. When you check out and
you get the first month for $1.99.
Try it out, see what you think. I can promise you, people keep coming back and
coming back for more. They seem to really like them because truly it is manageable,
bite-size, and simple to implement. So I hope you’ll join me in my morning.
Momentums. I would love to chat with you every single morning. Okay?
Okay. Let’s get back to that idea of talking about how to run our meetings with our
teams. And I want you to think about this. If you’re in a situation right now where
you’re like, ‘Well, I don’t run the meetings. I’m the person who’s sitting in the chair in
the meetings, dreading the meetings, waiting for them to end,’ I want you to think
about all these tips that we’re talking about now because there’s going to be times
where you’re running meetings. Or these are great tips to kind of share with your
boss, and you can do that in nice and easy ways.
I really think you can, especially if your boss is open to communication or just say,
‘Hey, I listened to a great podcast episode. You should listen to this one. I found it
really helpful,’ that works too. Okay? But don’t just stay in the same place. If you’re
frustrated with how meetings are being run in your office space and your workspace
or with your business,
let’s make a change. Let’s make an adjustment. Little things can really make a
difference. So let’s talk about some ways and focus on some quick and easy ways
that we can make the meetings you have with your team and your colleagues feel,
well a little less like a downer. We can have fun. Here’s the thing just because it’s
work, it doesn’t mean it has to feel like work.
You can infuse some of the fun elements that my team talked about last week,
because at the end of the day, I think that having a fun family-like environment is
important when it comes to boosting your motivation of your team, in the
investment in your business, and not to mention the team culture that you’re
looking to build, and it makes everybody more productive at the same time.
But here’s the thing: as leaders in business, I think that it’s when we lose touch with
who we are at our core, with that part of ourselves that puts us on the same playing
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field as those that we’re working alongside or leading on our teams . . . That’s when
we run the risk of veering off into the stuffy side of things in our workplace. I think so
often we feel like we have to do things differently so we can be respected because
we want to be seen as the leader.
And yes, it is so important to have those boundaries, but that doesn’t mean that you
have to be the wet blanket. Or you don’t have to be the one who’s calling 50 million
meetings to make that happen. You can set those boundaries and still have a fun
and enjoyable environment. And this is when we start to fall into that pitfall of all
work and no play.
And that mindset is no fun for your team, but it’s no fun for you either. And really
that’s when people on our teams start to feel stagnant and they feel burned out or
they get just completely uninterested or uninvested in their work and the vision of
where you want to go with business in general. So what are some strategies that can
help infuse some fun–
I mean, that’s certainly what my team and I aim for–while still bearing in mind you
want to keep those boundaries in place. You want to make sure that you’re still
being respected because I think it’s so important to bring the team together and to
bring you all together, to make sure everybody’s on the same page and enjoying the
journey at the same time.
So first and foremost, let’s make sure that all your meetings are not strictly just about
business. Bring in some transparency into the scheme of things. It is perfectly okay
to talk about serious topics but consider your approach. How do you come off when
you’re delivering your points? Don’t get so wrapped up in your station as the quote
unquote leader that you forget that you and every member of your team are people.
It’s okay to be a person.
You know, when I was a teacher, I remember my first year that someone said to me,
don’t smile until Christmas. I thought about that, and I just hated that idea. I said,
‘Why would I not smile till Christmas?’ And they said, ‘You want the kids to respect
you. You want them to look at you as the leader of the classroom.’
And I thought, ‘Oh, hell no. That’s not going to work for me.’ Because I wanted to
have a classroom full of kids who were excited to learn, who were wanting to come
to school each and every morning. And that wasn’t going to happen if I wasn’t
smiling until Christmas. And here’s the thing, you can smile. You can be friendly and
still be the one in charge.
It doesn’t mean you have to be a curmudgeon. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be
friendly or you can’t be a human; it’s setting the boundaries in other ways. But really
when you bring your team together, when you have this family-like environment
where you truly care and trust in one another, that is when the entire team becomes
stronger. And I think we really do get caught up in that idea that, ‘I’m the boss.
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So I can’t smile till Christmas,’ or whatever it is you’re thinking. You have a
personality, embrace it, love it. You have something funny you want to say, say it. It’s
okay. People will still respect you. You know, I think this is the thing: Infusing some of
your own personality into the mix of things, as you’re moving through items on your
Hold on a minute, you are setting an agenda, right? Okay. Hold on. If you are not
setting an agenda, for the love of all things good and Holy (and really just for the love
of your team), please start setting agendas. Please start outlining the different things
you need to touch on before you even call that meeting in the first place.
I mean, this is key for keeping yourself on track. Yes, let’s have fun, but let’s put a little
structure in there. Let’s have an idea of what we want the outcome to be when
everyone walks out of that room. We can’t do that if we’re not setting an agenda. So
if you’re holding meetings without an agenda, and then you’re confused at how your
meeting went off track,
we’ve got a disconnect there. If no one has a roadmap of where the conversation
needs to go, it’s no wonder everyone leaves the meeting feeling lost. Agenda,
agenda, agenda; probably the simplest and easiest fix to most of your meeting
issues, quite frankly. Honestly, having that little bit of structure, knowing where you
want to go with the meeting,
that makes a world of difference, okay? And that will keep your meetings on track.
And here’s another solution to helping your meetings from going astray. And this is
particularly if you often find that you’re running overtime or you’re feeling like you
have so many meetings and they’re running long, even with an agenda: I want you
to try cutting your meeting times in half.
I know that seems crazy, but take a look at how long your meetings are scheduled to
last right now. And I want you to consider how productive that time spent there feels
between you and your team, because here’s what happens. A lot of meetings are set
up to run in 30-minute increments, simply because that’s how your shared calendar
runs. So instead of calling a 45 minute meeting,
you feel like you gotta go with the full hour. I mean, some meetings need only 15
minutes or even 10 minutes or 25 minutes, but we’re letting our online calendar, a
piece of software, make that decision for you. I mean, I don’t know about you, but it
feels like we’re waking up in the matrix. If we’re letting technology determine how
things need to be run,
we need to shift that thinking. I want you to not fall into that trap of thinking that
you can’t have a 45-minute meeting or a 40-minute meeting or a 25-minute
meeting; use the amount of time you actually need. And if you’re not sure, please
start paying attention, open up the conversation with your team. Let them know
that honesty and communication are important to you as their leader for them as
members of your team and for the business in general.
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I mean, without communication, open, honest communication, growth is not
possible. So bring your team into the conversation as you look for ways to make your
meetings more enjoyable, more effective, and more productive because here’s the
thing: we need everybody on board. I mean, do you spend a good chunk of your time
waiting for everyone to settle in, to take their seats to get ready?
Is there a lot of silence happening in between the points you’re making or the topics
that you’re bringing to the table? Are you talking about things that have absolutely
nothing to do with what you set out to discuss? We want your team to be engaged.
We want the conversation to be happening. So take a closer look at how you and
your team are spending that time that you’ve set aside for these meetings.
And this is going to be really helpful in figuring out how to make that time more
productive, and more effective. And if you’re having meetings with your team that
are lasting longer than an hour or so, I think you need to really ask yourself, do I really
need a full hour? Do I need two hours or however long you’re having them sit in that
Whether you think you do or not, I want you to consider cutting that time that you
normally allow for these meetings by 50%. I know I said it again because I think
you’re probably still sitting there going, that’s not possible, but it is. If your meetings
are typically scheduled for an hour, alright, let’s bring that down to 30 minutes. Let’s
see what happens.
Let’s see if you really do need that much time to discuss the topics that you’re
talking about, because you may not realize it or even think about it when you’re in
the thick of things. There is a lot of waste of time in meetings. I mean, a lot of times
they start five, 10 minutes late, whether it’s again because you’re waiting for
everyone to get settled or you’re running into some kind of technical issue with
zoom or Skype or whatever.
But that time is just extra, it’s just wasted time. This idea that tasks, projects,
meetings they expand to fill the time that we allow for them is nothing new. In fact,
we talked about it here on the podcast before, we’ve heard it discussed in my book,
The Joy of Missing Out; it’s Parkinson’s law, pure and in simplest form.
And what that is, is it means that if you give an hour to complete a task that really
should only take 10 minutes, then it’s going to take you the full hour to get it done. I
know it seems strange, but it is true and it’s been proven again and again, but that
extra time, it isn’t filled with anything of value or substance.
It’s just added stress and added time-wasting. So the message here is this cut your
meetings in half. If you say you want your meetings to end earlier, put your money
where your mouth is, give yourself less time to host it in the first place. I mean that
weekly department meeting that you’ve been carving out an hour for. All right, give
yourself a Pat on the back because moving forward,
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you’re going to make that 30 minutes. You’re going to do your best. And I think you’ll
be surprised at how much you’re actually going to get through in that shorter time. I
know it might feel strange to make this adjustment at first, but you’re going to be
really shocked by how much Parkinson’s law will help keep you and your team on
track. And one of the other things that can really help with Parkinson’s law and
making sure we’re using our time effectively is having a facilitator in with your
For me, a lot of times, if we’re having a big team meeting, this for me is John. He and
I sit down, we outline the agenda of our monthly meetings when we have our entire
team come into the office and we sit down and when it’s time to dive in and begin,
we hold each other accountable for sticking to the agenda,
as much as possible. We already know each other’s talking points. So it all goes really
smoothly. I’m not to say we don’t get off topic every now and then. We like to laugh,
we obviously have a good time. You heard that in last week’s episode: we’re human
and the people on our team are human also. And so we’re sociable and it’s okay.
We get a little bit off track as the conversation unfolds. It happens. And this is
especially true when we’re brainstorming ideas of new podcast seasons and
episodes, and what we want to have happening for the new products and all those
kinds of things. But because we’ve allowed space for that, we can really dive in and
we can follow those rabbit trails, and having someone there to help facilitate and
make sure everything’s moving forward is crucial to make sure we don’t follow the
rabbit trails for too long, right?
And that’s the thing: we want to make sure we can easily find our place again when
it’s time to move to the next item on the agenda. And the other thing is having a
facilitator is a great way to break up some of that stuffiness that we might
experience with a traditional corporate type of meeting, right?
Now, if you don’t want to have a facilitator, use a timer. Set it to go off a few minutes
before your meeting is scheduled to end and then stop with that set time that
you’ve already allowed. Using a timer is actually something I do with my meetings
with my friends. So not really meetings, but it’s, you know, let’s meet up for coffee.
I set the timer and I say, ‘Okay, I’ve got to leave at three o’clock. I’m going to set the
timer for 2:50. And I do that because I want to really, truly enjoy that time with my
friends. I don’t want to be looking at my clock, I don’t want to be looking at my watch
or sneaking glances. I don’t want to be worrying about what’s happening with the
time; I’d rather let the timer do that for me.
And that way I’m truly able to enjoy that time. And when the timer goes off, it gives
me my 10-minute warning. ‘Okay. We got to wrap it up because I have to go
somewhere.’ And that way I have found I’m truly able to enjoy that time.
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And I think that’s true for your meetings as well. You should enjoy the time meeting
with your team. And I think that’s really important because they’re called team
meetings for a reason: We want to build our team up. We want to make our team
stronger, more effective, more productive, and more excited about the work we are
creating together. And if I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times:
It starts with you. Being the one in charge, leading your team, getting them to ask
the questions, seeking out their opinions, letting them know you’re interested in
what they have to offer . . . And in their collaboration, you’re going to get a lot
stronger team. Get them involved, okay?
So let’s talk about a few things you can do in moving forward, some great
Number one, create a skeleton agenda. For meetings that you have often, go ahead
and create a loose agenda of what kinds of things you’re going to talk about on a
regular basis. I have a skeleton agenda for our team meetings, and I had my
marketing team create a skeleton agenda for the meetings they have each month
and each quarter. That means you’re not starting with just a blank page and it
makes it so much easier to do so.
That’s the first tip. The second thing is to go into my Facebook group at
Tonyadalton.com/group. And I want you to share your worst meeting experience
because here’s the thing: We learn from the experiences of other people. So hearing
what did not go well, for either you or in a meeting that you were sitting in on that
somebody else led, will help everyone figure out, ‘What do I want to make sure that
I’m doing for my own teams in moving forward?’
Okay? And then the third thing to build momentum sign up for that Morning
Momentum. I can promise you that’s a fabulous way to build up momentum and to
feel a little bit more intentional with your every day. And I think that is truly what will
make you an even greater leader by being intentional each and every day.
And to do that, don’t forget to go to Tonyadalton.com/morning and use the code
PODCAST to get that first month for $1.99, all right?
I look forward to talking about this with you, cause I can’t wait to hear about the
meetings that you’ve been having and how your meetings are going to adjust in the
future based off these tips we talked about today. Now next week, I have a fabulous
episode planned for you. I’ve got Pat Flynn on the show, who’s going to be sharing
some incredible tips with you all.
So until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.