3 Reasons why meetings are ineffective and how you can be a boardroom hero


Derek Robertson.jpg

Derek Robertson , CEO

(Chartered FCIPD, MCMI, MInstLM, NLP Practitioner and Coach) 

Author of The Great Cape Escapade (A Fable about effective meetings)

5 min read



For decades it’s baffled me why businesses put up with ineffective meetings.  It’s a disease, with the virus passing from one generation of employees to another.  It seems such a straightforward ROI to improve them and yet there’s global inaction.  The upside is opportunity for you.  Change meetings in your organisation, report the business benefits and you’ll be the boardroom hero.

I could share poor meeting stats from Harvard or the UK’s Institute of Leadership and Management.  Instead, here is a LinkedIn poll we did two weeks ago.


Meetings in my organisation are consistently effective and fulfilling experiences

Yip.  We've nailed it


It depends on the chair


As often as mid-summer snow



What is an effective meeting?

It’s one that achieves its purpose, finishes on time or earlier and has the participants feeling good about the experience.

And it improves the chair person’s personal brand.  If you run meetings with external folks it adds shine to your organisation’s brand too.

3 Reasons meetings ain’t effective

Ben Franklin said, “The only three certainties in life are death and taxes and ineffective meetings”.  (See what I did there?)

#1 The senior person dynamic

With senior people in the chair – in general – three challenges appear:

  1. They are less likely to ask for support
  2. It’s tough for participants to give honest feedback
  3. Participants conclude, “This must be how meetings are done.”

#2 Learned behaviours

We know the numbers of people trained to be a participant or a chair person are miniscule.  That means the main way to learn meeting behaviours is from what you experience and observe.  If that’s unfocused agendas, circular discussions, poor commitment to actions and review AND NO-ONE CHALLENGES IT then the poor meetings virus transmits to the next generation.

#3 Global delusion

This shows itself in how people talk about meetings.  Comments like, “Well, what can you do”, “They’re always like that”, “They’re a necessary evil”. Maybe it’s group-think across the developed world.

Check it out for yourself.  Ask some colleagues at the coffee machine, “How do you find meetings here?”  I bet they’ll jive with my assessment.

Isn’t it sad is that people’s motivation to feedback, suggest and even challenge becomes extinct?

Potential returns

Let’s take a 1,000 person professional service business with 100 managers.  From our meeting cost calculator, here are the results:

172,800 Annual hours of people’s time in meetings

£4,356,857 Annual meeting salary costs

The potential benefit if they were just 5% more effective:

8,460 hours saved to do other value adding stuff

£217,843 Annual time salary saving

How to be the board room hero

  • Training is needed but it’s more of a behavioural blindspot.
  • Make your case showing the investment and intended results.
  • Start small and get the local key stakeholder on board.
  • Be relentless over the communicating progress and recognising success.
  • Prove the results.
  • Bask in your meeting hero status.  You’ve done great thing.

Your takeaway

You can forget high performing teams and other aspirations if you don’t get your business essentials right.  One of them is consistently effective meetings.

The good news is that

  1. It’s a straightforward ROI
  2. The underpinning skills are mostly there: it’s a behavioural issue
  3. Curing the ineffective meeting disease is good for you, all meeting participants and your organisation.

Final thought

Remember you’re pushing against an open door because people long to go to effective and fulfilling meetings.

Your next action

Check out the following resources: