Leadership Meetings

4 things great leaders NEVER do in meetings

It can feel like meetings get in the way of performance. However, successful leaders are drivers of meeting discussions that lead to great decisions.

Do you find yourself making any of these faux pas while leading your meetings? Be mindful of these next time – not only will these tips help you excel as a leader, but your team will also thank you.

Successful leaders strive to build high-performing teams. But sometimes it can feel like messy, unorganized meetings get in the way. According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers surveyed said that meetings are unproductive and inefficient. However, by changing the way your organization does team meetings, you can improve your team’s culture and drive informed decision-making and engaged discussions through effective meetings.

Whether you’re running one-on-ones, board meetings or full-blown leadership meetings, you don’t want to make these missteps while leading a meeting.

1. Waste time

Decide ahead of time how long a meeting should last based on the decisions you need to make rather than keeping to a strict 30, 60 or similar time interval. If a decision can be made in 10 minutes, schedule the meeting for 10 minutes. 
In a March 2017 article on Inc.com, Jeff Haden gives this example: “So the meeting that starts at 9 is usually scheduled until 9:30, even if you only really need 10 minutes to make a decision. It's like the bigger-house syndrome: After you buy a bigger house, you somehow manage to fill it with furniture, even though you don't need any more furniture.” 
Wasted time and lengthy, meandering meetings can interrupt your meeting participants’ workflow – costing your organization time and money. If the meeting could be an email, let it. If the meeting only concerns three team members, only invite those employees. Save everyone’s time. Hold smaller, separate meetings for separate specific topics rather than a large meeting that’s unfocused.

Leadership meeting Tip #1: To not waste time at a high level, depersonalize the “cut-off awkwardness” with technology 

Some of the most difficult meetings to lead are leadership meetings. That’s because leadership meetings operate at a high level. Some organizations may have weekly team leadership meetings, monthly or only a few a year. 

According to Indeed.com, a leadership team meeting is a meeting that involves the upper-level employees – maybe just the C-levels or perhaps the entire management team or senior leadership team.  

But what is usually discussed in leadership team meetings? These high-level meetings are usually held to set high-level goals, discuss strategy, make key decisions and consider big picture items.  

When dealing with the most senior management of your organization, you want to make sure if you are leading this meeting, you have an airtight meeting agenda and there is no talking over presenters. You also want to ensure there is no “cut-off awkwardness” and that while everything runs on time, no member of the leadership team takes the moving along of the agenda personally when facilitated by technology. 

When leading a meeting, especially with an executive team, it’s important to build an airtight agenda that keeps the meeting moving and on time. These leaders will appreciate you respecting their valuable time. To do this, you can use meeting management software like Decisions to allot time to each agenda item, so your meetings never overtime. This is especially important if you are running a leadership meeting consisting of other execs and high-level colleagues whose daily schedules are tight.  

Decisions tool solution for time-saving meetings: Smart Time Tracker 

Unlike the built-in Microsoft Teams notification that pops up when there are five minutes left in the meeting overall, Decisions Time Tracker works at the agenda topic level. It follows the length of the agenda, tracking progress as it goes.  

Users can also hover their mouse over the tracker to see exactly how much time remains, down to the second. Working in tandem with Decisions Time Tracker Alert, which lets speakers know when they have a minute left to speak, you’ll always know where you stand on time in your meetings. From one-on-ones to high-level leadership meetings, the Smart Time Tracker will move your meetings along democratically and effectively, which could drive value through meetings and boost team morale by respecting everyone’s time.  

Our Meeting Management Tools | Meeting Decisions 

2. Come unprepared

Ah, as the old classic goes: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to planning your team’s meetings. 
Meeting preparation is critical to its success and ensures everyone gets the most value from their time together to make informed decisions. Thirty-one percent of respondents ranked “poor leadership” as one of the top three reasons meetings fail. Meeting preparation includes creating and thoroughly reading the agenda and materials in advance, writing down your thoughts and questions, and starting discussions before the meeting in a collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams. 

||Read more: How productive people prepare for meetings

“Meeting preparation is one of the best ways to improve meetings yet is often overlooked,” said Liana Kreamer, a lead author in a recent study that surveyed over 1,000 employees about their experiences with virtual meetings. “If meeting leaders can focus on driving that change, I think they will be surprised at the increase in engagement in their meetings.”

Leadership meeting tip #2: A structured agenda will ensure you always are prepared and have a guide 

One of the best ways to ensure you are prepared and run your most effective leadership meeting possible is to create a structured leadership meeting agenda beforehand and send it your to attendees with enough time so they can also prepare. This agenda-setting habit will not only impress your colleagues, but if you create a thorough agenda by assigning topics, presenters and specific time allotments to each agenda item, you can use the agenda as a guide to help guide yourself through the meeting. This can be especially helpful at leadership meetings, when nerves could take hold. 

According to The Bridgespan Group, a non-profit that provides management consulting to other non-profits suggests establishing each agenda topic, purpose, leader, preparation, and time for each agenda item in a leadership ahead of time to increase your likeliness of an effective leadership meeting.  

Decisions ultimate tool for meeting preparation: Structured agendas

With Decisions meeting management software, you can create polished and structured agendas in minutes. With Decisions capabilities upload attachments right into the relevant agenda item, assign presenters and schedule the exact time you want to spent on each topic. Want to save the agenda template for a recurring meeting? Easy. Save your template for your next leadership team meeting or one-on-one with just one click.

3. Dominate the meeting

The worst is being invited to a meeting, coming armed with ideas, then being bulldozed by a dominant leader or speaker. If someone is invited to a meeting, it should be because they are necessary for decision-making on a topic discussed in the meeting. This means they need to be heard. Lead by example: facilitate good discussions by encouraging everyone to speak, asking quieter participants to weigh in and don't interrupt. If applicable, create an environment where meeting participants can talk openly and collaborate.  
Dr. Steven Rogelberg said in his Harvard Business Review article, Why Your Meetings Stink—and What to Do About It, “As the conversation gets started, try to adopt a stewardship mindset, asking questions, engaging others, modeling active listening, drawing out concerns, and managing conflicts. Of course, leaders at times will need to offer their own opinions and directives to move the discussion forward, but the key to successful facilitation is understanding that you’re primarily playing a supportive role.” 

Leadership meeting tip #3: Create an established system for ordering speakers ahead of time 

To prevent one executive from dominating a leadership meeting, make sure when you create your airtight agenda, you establish a system for speakers so these meetings don’t devolve into chaos. Since these are some of the highest stakeholders in your organization, you will probably have to facilitate a lot of opinions and maybe personalities. You will be able to manage everything if there are assigned speakers and a system for speaking, such as hand raising, using tech for participants to create a speaker list or only opening for discussion at certain times.  

Decisions tool for democratic meetings: Speak Now

The Decisions Speak Now add-in for Microsoft Teams enables coordinated participant engagement.

The more participants in your meeting, the harder it is to ensure that everyone gets their chance to speak — without speaking over each other. During the discussion, you can create an ordered speaker list, give participants the option to respond to the current speaker as well as request a brief recess.

4. Fail to establish accountability

With a whopping 40% of survey respondents rating “unclear decisions, commitments or next actions” as a top-three reason meetings fail, leaders should rethink their meetings: Focus on decisions that must be made by the group and establish an environment where these decisions can be made and clear action steps can be taken after the meeting. 
This means creating agendas that communicate a clear objective, such as, “select the new meeting management software vendor.” Then, be specific on action items and the next steps. A decision is not a decision if it never happens. Get clear on the what, who and when of a decision and never leave the meeting with vague accountability.

Leadership meeting tip #4: Build decision-making into the agenda 

One of the big ways that meetings “fail” is the lack of decisions reached. This doesn’t hold anyone accountable and doesn’t establish the next steps on anything. At high-level leadership meetings, it’s important you make time to make important and maybe challenging decisions for your organization. While considering a decision at executive team meetings, it is easy to go back and forth or belabor issues, however, it’s vital while all major stakeholders are gathered that decisions are made.

For leadership meetings, and for situations when you are leading a meeting for board members, it’s a good idea to establish where in the agenda a final decision must be made. That way, attendees can prepare their materials, points and mentally, and a clear decision can be marked in the meeting notes. A clear decision is essential in establishing next steps, keeping everyone accountable, getting the most out of your meetings and ensuring full team alignment. 

Decisions tool for accountability: denoting tasks and decisions in your live agenda 

Using smart-text recognition, Decisions automatically identifies tasks and decisions from the meeting minutes, eliminating the need to manually enter them into your task management system. 

Your team can then easily access pending tasks, and the task owner receives an alert that tasks are due. Each task and decision record includes a link to the related agenda and meeting minutes, providing participants with the context they need to complete action items.


Great workplace relationships are built when people work together toward a common goal and can rely on each other to meet commitments. High-performing teams focus on tangible outcomes and meaningful goals, and meetings should be a place where these things are realized. Try some of these tips out at your next meeting, whether it’s virtual or in a conference room. Effective leadership paves the way for powerful team culture and powerful meeting culture. What kind of meeting leader are you?

How do you currently manage your meetings?
Check out a few of our most popular blog posts below and download your FREE trial of Decisions, a revolutionary meeting management software that integrates seamlessly into Microsoft 365 and Teams, allows you to build an agenda, automatically sync meeting minutes, assign tasks and so much more!

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