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How to Lead a Meeting People Want to Attend

How to Lead a Meeting People Want to Attend

by Rujuta Gandhi

Story Highlights

  • Unproductive meetings cost U.S. businesses $37 billion a year
  • If you want people to get behind your idea, you need to engage them
  • Use the Q12 survey as a framework to get agreement and emotional buy-in

According to some recent studies, 15% of a company's time is dedicated to meetings. In fact, senior executives spend two days or more a week in them even though they consider 67% of meetings to be "failures."

Those unproductive meetings cost U.S. businesses an estimated $37 billion a year.

Not coincidentally, there's a multitude of websites telling you how to run better meetings. The must-dos vary a little -- Stick to the agenda! Take notes! Make someone else take notes! -- but they're all based on the same premise: there are too many meetings, and people don't like them.

Well, some people do. For the less goal-oriented employees, maybe meetings are fine.

An MIT Sloan study found:

"People with a strong desire to accomplish work goals tend to report poorer job satisfaction as the number of meetings they attend increases; those who are less goal oriented indicate that attending more meetings was actually desirable (perhaps for social reasons or to provide structure to an unstructured day)."

Besides which, satisfaction isn't the same thing as engagement.

Gallup research shows that satisfaction is an attitudinal outcome, like loyalty or pride, and doesn't always relate to employee performance.

Engagement is different, deeper and more emotional, and it predicts important business outcomes, like profitability and productivity.

Job satisfaction beats misery or annoyance any day, but it's not exactly something to strive for.

If you want people leaving the conference room fired up by an idea or excited to work toward a goal, satisfaction is not enough. You need people to be engaged.

To get them there, you first have to understand employee engagement. With that, you can run a meeting that's effective and enjoyable.

If you want people leaving the conference room fired up by an idea or excited to work toward a goal, satisfaction is not enough. You need people to be engaged.

Once you have the tools, it's pretty easy.

Use the Q12 employee engagement survey as a framework for meetings.


Workplace engagement is about the universal needs of all employees: Everyone performs better if certain workplace needs -- the items that form the basis of the Gallup Q12 -- are met.

If you're curious about all 12 items and the link between the Q12 and improved business outcomes, download our meta-analysis report.

But the Q12 isn't just an annual survey you should email to your employees -- though that's a great starting point. It can also be used as a framework for leading an engaging meeting.

By integrating engagement concepts into your meeting goals, you can create an environment that delivers on those engagement needs. As a result, you may be more likely to see more agreement with your goals and emotional buy-in from your team.

Let's look at some of those needs to see how it can work.

  • Q01: I know what is expected of me at work.

For instance, the agenda you send in advance? Use it to make your expectations crystal clear.

Do people need to bring certain materials or bone up on a particular subject? Will they leave with new assignments, product knowledge or corporate strategies?

Knowing what's expected of you at work is fundamental to engagement. Your meeting can help fulfill that requirement -- and people participate more when they know what you want from them.

  • Q04: In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

It's hugely important to workers, and meetings provide ample opportunities -- that are often overlooked -- for recognition. While you should definitely mention recent accomplishments, don't neglect attendees' contributions to the meeting itself.

Let people know when they ask a good question or offer great advice. Praise gestures of goodwill, and spotlight strengths as people use them. That feedback is gratifying for attendees and reinforces the behavior you seek.

  • Q07: At work, my opinions seem to count.

Of course, everyone should feel heard, and listening to people's contributions should be the baseline.

However, asking for opinions can be more difficult. Sometimes, you just don't want to hear pushback on your idea or plan.

And asking shy people to opine in public isn't particularly kind.

But giving people a platform for their opinion pays off. For one thing, it shows an employee that his or her opinion counts, and you care about it. For another, you might drum up some useful input.

And if you just can't bring yourself to ask for opinions at a meeting, send an email to each attendee shortly afterward.

Even that can promote engagement and is an opportunity to demonstrate that you understand others' strengths:

"Henry, I know that you don't like voicing an opinion until you have your thoughts in order, but I'd like to know what you think about the product launch when you've had a day to process the plan."

Giving people a platform for their opinion pays off. It shows an employee that his or her opinion counts, and you might drum up some useful input.

Redefine what an effective meeting is.

None of this is difficult, but it does require broadening your meeting leadership perspective.

In return, it offers a much richer blueprint for an effective meeting. Beyond just giving and receiving information, an engagement framework helps gets people on board with your idea and inclines them to accomplish it.

And as unproductive meetings cost us $37 billion a year, there's ample room for improvement. We really ought to be getting a better return on our time, and boosting engagement while getting the work done is an excellent way to increase ROI.

Meanwhile, your meetings become known as exceptionally productive -- which may increase attendance and will certainly improve your outcomes.

Gallup can help you improve employee engagement, whether in a single meeting or across your whole organization:


Jennifer Robison contributed to this article.

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