The Ultimate Guide to Meetings


Better Meetings, Better Performance

A recent Gallup study found that 71% of employees are “disengaged,” including the 18% who are “actively disengaged” and set out undermine the enterprise where they work.

This situation costs the United States alone over half a trillion dollars a year. 

If you fear your business contributes to that alarming number, you’ve come to the right place.

The solution is simple, but it’s sort of like the ancient Chinese game of strategy known as "Go." Understanding how to play Go will take you about ten minutes. But you can spend the rest of your life trying to master it.

In the same way, reading a handful of articles and a couple books will teach you how to engage your employees, how to win their best contributions, and how to inspire them.

But actually transforming your company’s culture into a high-performance enterprise a completely different endeavor.

Based upon our fifteen years of international experience with thousands of clients, the transition requires four best practices:

  • Strategic Planning

  • Real-time KPIs

  • Radical Transparency

  • Integrated Meetings & Continuous Communications

One without the others won’t work. And half-hearted efforts will backfire.

But a wholehearted effort, led by the C-suite and embraced by middle management, can sweep up everyone and deliver spectacular results -- rapidly.

Right now, only one in five employees feels strongly valued at work (TinyPulse), which obviously has to change.

No matter where you are in your company’s decision-making hierarchy, here’s all you need to know to make the case for a cultural transformation that will lift your people performance to an entirely new level:


  • Understanding what makes people perform isn't enough to transform your corporate culture

  • Four best practices will...

  • ...If the C-suite embraces them - and includes everyone

Management Happens At Meetings

80% of senior managers are not passionate about their work (Huffington Post)

79% HR Managers believe they have a significant engagement problem (HBR)

75% of HR Managers struggle to attract the caliber of people they need (HBR)

83% of HR Managers feel they don't have a compelling employment brand (Huffington Post)

70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units is due to management’s responses (Gallup)

A mere 18% of managers demonstrate a high level of talent for managing (Gallup)

Only 11% of managers believe that their company commits the financial and human resources needed for strategic priorities to succeed. (HBR)

However, according to their direct reports, more than 90% of middle managers live up to the organization’s values. (HBR)

Nearly nine in 10 middle managers reinforce performance and consistently hold team members accountable for results. (HBR)

80% of employees who are dissatisfied with their direct manager are also disengaged (Dale Carnegie)

26% of employees plan to leave their employer within the next 2 years (Towers Watson)

69% of employees report engagement is a problem in their organization. (Psychometrics)

82% of employees said it’s very important that their organization address the employee engagement problem (Psychometrics)

88% of employees don't have passion for their work (Huffington Post

60% of employees lack the elements required to be highly engaged (Towers Watson)

1 in 4 employees does not have the tools needed to be successful in their jobs (TinyPulse)

66% of employees do not see a chance for professional growth (TinyPulse)

The Best Meetings Are Strategic

People need to understand what their company wants to accomplish, and most have a clear preference for working towards objectives that improve the well-being of others and society as a whole.

Your Strategic Plan arises from your Core Values and shows how your values relate to your business goals.  

If you implement it by showing people how these values and goals map to departmental and individual objectives, engagement skyrockets.

“When all you’ve got is numbers, you get bricklayers who do their job for a paycheck and nothing more. But when you’ve got a well-understood Core Purpose, you get engaged people pouring their energy and ideas into building your version of a great cathedral.

— Stephen Lynch, Author of the Award Winning Business Execution for RESULTS


  • When your people understand your Strategy, it comes to life.

  • When they see how it arises from your Core Values, it engages them.

  • When you map it to their daily activities, it comes true.

Meetings Should Be About Strategic Execution

90% of strategies fail due to poor execution (Harvard Business School Press, The Strategy-Focused Organization)

86% of business and HR leaders believe they don't have an adequate leadership development path (Huffington Post)

70% of employees who lack confidence in senior leadership are not fully engaged (Dale Carnegie)

But 79% of highly engaged employees have trust and confidence in their leaders (Towers Watson)

And 54% of employees who are proud of their company’s contributions to society are engaged (Dale Carnegie)

29% of companies can’t act fast enough to profit from changing market conditions -- or to defend themselves from new threats. (HBR)

24% of companies may respond to opportunities or threats quickly enough, but lose sight of their strategy in the process. (HBR

One third of managers say that when their company reassigns people, it's done so poorly that it has a negative impact (HBR)

Only 55% of middle managers can name even one of their company’s top five priorities. (HBR)

Meetings Should Be About Objective, Real-World, Real-Time Metrics

People want to know what they are supposed to do. Explain it to them, and they’ll do it. 

After decades of studying management practices, it has become clear that if people know how to win at work, and if they're allowed to win, then they will do little other than play as well as they can.

To establish this environment, it's easiest to carefully define Key Performance Indicators  (KPIs) that let everyone -- from the hourly employees to the executive suite -- know exactly how their work contributes to the company's success.

KPIs are not goals. Goals can backfire; KPIs can't. 

Goals can focus people too narrowly. Sometimes they encourage people to fudge data so they can hit a target. 

And sometimes people lower their ethical standards to close business that does not serve the customer -- which has the potential to backfire massively across the company.

On the other hand, KPIs show people how their individual work fits into the big picture. They're measures that a responsible individual can control.

When everyone can see everyone else’s KPIs, they understand how everyone's work fits together. The collaboration and personal commitment that arises from this environment can be profoundly transformative, both culturally and financially.


  • If your people can win at work, they will play as well as they can.

  • When "winning" means making a Key Performance Indicator move, all their work feeds your Strategy.

  • When they know their personal success contributes to the company's success, they become fully engaged.

Metrics Make Better Managers

A minuscule 6% of employees know their own priorities (Covey and Whitman, Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times)

Only 35% of US managers are engaged in their jobs (Gallup)

92% of organizations do not measure Key Performance Indicators (Deloitte)

Only 28% of Millennials feel their employer makes “full use” of their skills (Deloitte)

30% of employees report a lack of supervisor support (Towers Watson)

One fifth of managers and employees say a big salary is “extremely important” (Pew Research)

One fifth of managers and employees say helping society is "extremely important" (Pew Research)

One fifth of managers and employees say opportunities for advancement are "extremely important" (Pew Research)

34% of companies tolerate poor performance from employees (HBR)

33% of companies delay action when confronted with an underperforming employee (HBR)

34% of companies address underperformance inconsistently or arbitrarily (HBR)

37% of managers resolve issues only after a “significant delay” (HBR)

12% of managers don’t address issues at all (HBR)

10% of managers try to address issues, but fail (HBR)

71% of the employees in a company with strong execution agree that “Everyone has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which he or she is responsible.” In companies with poor execution, that figure drops to 32%  (HBR)

69% of senior managers say they are “very satisfied” with their financial situation (HBR)

Only 28% of employees are also “very satisfied” (HBR)

Culture & Buy-In

People won't believe in their company until they know exactly what it is doing and where it is going.

They can’t see how their work fits into the company's success unless they can see how everyone else’s work fits in, too.

And your best employees -- the ones who create new revenue -- won't trust management unless they can see that merit is rewarded.

If that sounds like a lot, you're right. It's a culturally transformative shift in the way you approach your meetings.

And you can expect an equally transformative shift in the way your employees approach their work. 

Great meetings create a team atmosphere that encourages collaboration and cooperation across business units. Make that happen, and employee engagement skyrockets.


  • Top employees can't believe in your Strategy until they know where it leads.

  • They won't trust your management unless they see merit rewarded.

  • Radical Transparency is the only way to deliver both.

Meetings Should Lead to Understanding

Only 27% of employees have access to their company's strategic plan (Strategy & Leadership Journal)

Only 5% of employees understand their company's strategy (Renaissance Solutions)

Only 15% of employees know the company’s top priorities
(Covey and Whitman, Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times)

More than 90% of CEOs see leadership development as the single most important human capital issue their organizations face (McKinsey)

77% of individuals in organizations with strong execution agree that “Important information about the competitive environment gets to headquarters quickly.” Only 45% of those in weak-execution organizations do. (HBR)

71% of workers in weak-execution companies think that decisions are second-guessed (HBR)

But fully 45% of workers in organizations with strong execution also felt that way, indicating it’s a widespread problem. (HBR)

In companies exhibiting strong execution, 61% of workers say that field and line employees have the information they need to understand the impact of their decisions (HBR)

Sadly, only 28% of workers in weak-execution companies think that (HBR)

In companies exhibiting strong execution, more than half of the employees think information flows freely

Only 21% of workers in weak-execution companies think information flows freely. (HBR)

When asked this long-standing survey question: “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted...?”

Just 19% of Millennials agree

Compared to 31% of Gen Xers

37% of Silents

And 40% of Boomers. (HBR)

Only (or, perhaps, thankfully), 55% of employees feel inspired by their leaders (Towers Watson)

How To Communicate at Meetings

Communication is everything, but everyone knows that meetings often fail to communicate much at all. 

In fact, meetings commonly make the communication problem worse. Rather than clarifying and enlightening, they cause confusion, misinformation, and disorientation.

Most caustically, people often leave meetings with no clear idea as to how it pertained to them personally, and therefore with no idea at all as to how they should respond to it.

Great meetings, on the other hand, can be the most valuable time in an individual's week.

That's because your top-performing employees need substantive, measurable, actionable input so they can figure out what to do to maximize their performance. Even more: they need to know that you know they're succeeding.

When you provide high-impact meetings like that, they can enhance and accelerate every other aspect of your transition to a high-performance culture.


  • Top employees need actionable input to maximize their contribution.

  • They need to know that you know they're succeeding.

  • Great meetings accomplish both.

Engaging and Fruitful Meetings

15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings (HBR)

67% of meetings are considered “ineffective” by managers (HBR)

2/3 of today's employees feel "overwhelmed" (Huffington Post)

64% of all employees do not feel they have a strong work culture (TinyPulse)

49% of all employees are not satisfied with their direct supervisor (TinyPulse)

44% of employees give peer-to-peer recognition when they have an easy tool to do so (TinyPulse)

Only 9% of managers say they can rely on colleagues in other functions and units all the time, and just half say they can rely on them most of the time. (HBR)

The failure to coordinate also leads to conflicts between functions and units, and these are handled badly:

38% of the time they are resolved after a significant delay

14% of the time they're resolved quickly but poorly

12% of the time they're simply left to fester (HBR)

When asked to identify the single greatest challenge to executing their company’s strategy:

40% say it's the failure to align work with strategy

30% cite failure to coordinate across units (HBR)

80% of companies have at least one formal system for managing commitments across silos (such as cross-functional committees, service-level agreements, and centralized project management offices) (HBR)

But only 20% of managers believe that those systems work (HBR) 

When asked what would happen if a manager achieved his objectives - but failed to collaborate:

20% believe the behavior would be addressed promptly

60% believe it would be addressed inconsistently or after a delay

20% believe it would be tolerated (HBR)

When it comes to hires, promotions, and recognition, rewards are three times more likely to be based upon past performance than a proven ability to collaborate (HBR)

34% of distributed leaders believe that factions exist within the C-suite

And they believe executives focus on their own agendas rather than on what is best for the company. (HBR)

Peers and camaraderie -- not money -- are the #1 reasons employees go the extra mile (TinyPulse)

And so, obviously, employees who feel valued by their employer are 60% more likely to be motivated to do their very best (APA)