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Issue: 69 - Sep 15, 2014
How to Make Staff Meetings Fun and Productive
By: Dr. Phil Zeltzman
Dr. Phil Zeltzman1

Do you drag your feet when you have to attend a staff meeting?

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Google, known for breaking the rules and being one of the best companies to work for, recently reinvented the rules to hold meetings. “Badly-run meetings are a demoralizing waste of time” writes Google operations VP Kristen Gil*.

Larry Page, the head honcho, wants his 48,000 employee company to run meeting like a start-up: efficient, useful and exciting.  It seems like the more people attend a meeting, the less efficient it becomes.

Here are the 4 key new rules at Google:

* “Every meeting must have one clear decision maker. If there's no decision maker - or no decision to be made - the meeting shouldn't happen.”

* “No more than 10 people should attend.”

* “Every person should give input, otherwise they shouldn't be there.”

* “No decision should ever wait for a meeting. If a meeting absolutely has to happen before a decision should be made, then the meeting should be scheduled immediately.”

Sounds pretty straight forward, right?

From experience, it seems that meetings that do end with final decisions and an “action list” are rare in our field.  We may be great at presenting ideas and discussing them as a group, whereas we might not always follow up to get things done.  And so the “old business” portion of the meeting agenda keeps getting longer, sometimes even longer than the “new business" section.

It seems that if we held meeting abiding by these googlesque rules, our pow-wows would be less dreaded, less political and more productive.  In other words, if attendees don’t leave a staff meeting with a to-do list, or an action list, or things to change or implement, what was the point of the meeting? Was it really necessary?  Do all attendee understand what is expected of them? Is that in writing?

Here are a few other suggestions to hold more efficient meetings:

  • Avoid meetings like the plague.
  • Or at least decrease their frequency. If weekly meetings seem a bit too much, or if they lack effectiveness, try to meet every other week and see what happens.
  • If things get better, try to meet every third week, and so on.
  • Never hold a meeting without a predetermined duration.
  • Decrease the planned duration of meetings.  Who on earth said a meeting has to last an hour? Why not 45 minutes? Or 30? Or 15?
  • Hold your meetings standing up. This is virtually guaranteed to speed things up. Providing chairs or the ultimate sin – food - is a sure way to require more time (and money). It might feel awkward at first, but you will probably love the new energy and the end result. You can use paper to take notes, or try a dry erase board.
  • Not every announcement, every tiny change, every little next best thing has to be explained in a meeting. Use email, sent to all team members or only the appropriate recipients.

Following these ideas will make time-consuming, inefficient, demoralizing meetings a thing of the past, and will encourage team members to attend, rejoice and contribute.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

* “Think Quarterly,” Google's new online newsletter, late 2011