Most meetings are bad. This is because not because people are bad or dumb — it’s because meetings bias us toward status management. Here’s the only stat you need to know: in a typical eight-person meeting, three people will do 80 percent of the talking.
But lately I’ve seen a couple of simple hacks that successful groups use to make meetings better. Here is the simplest: a meeting cheat-sheet. It’s a sheet of paper with two sentences on it: 1) TALK LESS; and 2) HELP OTHERS TALK MORE.
Here’s another: have the leader of the group call on the least-powerful person to share first. This will send a signal of connection, and defuse status management. (It’s also best if the leader gives that person some advance notice, so they can prepare).
I know, these kinds of tiny nudges seem almost too simple. But they work, because they help fight the inescapable behavioral drift that happens in life; they sweep away distraction and reconnect you to the real goals. My favorite example of this technique involves New England quarterback Tom Brady, who carries a small card in his wallet with a list of fundamentals written on it. The words aren’t complex — Keep your fingers on top of the ball, Feel like you’re throwing down a hallway, that kind of stuff. But they have an impact, because they reconnect him to the truly important things.