The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: “We have too many meetings…”

Question: We’ve slipped into having meeting after meeting and when I query the value of this I just get blank looks. How can I persuade people that we should be out there doing the job not sitting around a table? Elaine.

Answer: It starts off with good intentions, doesn’t it? It’s an easy way to get people together to thrash out ideas, give the latest updates on market trends or sales levels. Then the once a month becomes once a week, decisions have to wait until the next meeting and before you know it you’re having meetings about meetings.

You haven’t yet been sucked into this and as it’s a recent phenomenon you’ve got a good chance of changing people’s attitude and behaviour. So gather evidence as to the value of the meetings to date. What difference have they made to your bottom line, efficiency levels, customer satisfaction etc. What are the lost opportunity costs? What else could people have been doing? A Chief Executive I know had a wages clock in his meetings. He calculated the salary and on-costs for all attendees per minute, pasting the cumulative cost on each 5 minute marker. When the hands reached a certain £value if a decision had not been made he closed the meeting. The numbers of meetings dropped drastically and became far more business-like.

There are some standard rules for effective meetings. Good chairing and timekeeping are essential but equally important is to know what outcomes you want before you start. Only have people there who can actively contribute and/or make a decision. And attending only for their particular agenda item. Volunteer to chair a meeting using the clock and rules. When your colleagues see the difference to the outcomes they’ll be converted.


Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company.  Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach.  If you have a problem then contact her at

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Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.