September 12 2019

2 Key Strategies To Master The Meeting

On the surface, a modern office meeting may not look too different from the classic 1990s boardroom: reports are shuffled, ideas are discussed; and minus the occasional google search, meetings are still treated as organic touchpoints that move decisions and projects forward.

Photo credit :  US-Women-GettyImages-1160858454

But outside the office, the world has moved on: today’s economy is swimming in data, and that makes the decisions made during organic meetings all the more impactful.

This ‘make or break’ nature is pressuring many project managers to make meetings more efficient, and – as has been done over a century of project management – re-evaluate the performance indicators that drive its content and format.

However, with the right attention to format, pre-planning and behaviours, meetings can create a powerful advantage over competitors who lack this smarter structure.

Angela Ahrendts: 'The last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career' © Bloomberg


We all remember the ‘apple maps’ fiasco that ultimately led to senior design manager Scott Forstall being fired in 2011: for a company seen to tolerate none-other-than perfection, this hardly came as a surprise; and was even imagined to be an amicable ‘data-based decision’ in- spite the collaboration and synergy he brought to the table.

But stepping aside with Apple CEO Tim Cook, a quite different story came to life: ‘’I dismissed Scott to promote collaboration in the company. Scott simply no longer represented that collaboration’’.

‘’He no longer represented that collaboration.’’
— Tim Cook, Apple CEO

On the surface, it would be easy to criticise this ‘personality-charged’ definition of what should qualify as a high-quality team member: surely employees at a tech giant such as Apple are ranked by performance metrics – not personality contests.

But digging deeper, this may have been one of the most data-driven productivity decisions the CEO could make: recent studies in occupational psychology indicate that our perception of team member personalities are in-fact subconsciously driven by behavioural cues designed to signal a level of ‘collaborative alignment’ towards an established project goal (Cummings, L. and Pierce, J. 1989).

By extension, this means that certain behaviours of team members – despite providing valuable contributions and insights to the project – still limit the ability of the group to collaborate and contribute as a whole. For a large tech firm such as Apple, this seemingly- tolerable difference in behaviour with other team members meant lost productivity, time and revenue: collaboration is a high-leverage activity, and remains a valuable commodity that machines are still unable to do.



When considering the indicators that define ‘meeting productivity’, this concept of what defines human intelligence may also be an effective thought-experiment:

Fast-forward fifty years and human meetings may remain as the last high-leverage task that machines have not quite yet been able to simulate – seamlessly reviewing, combining and inferring metaphorical concepts such as ‘USP in the market’ is an advanced activity and this sets the direction of what the modern meeting should be developing further.


Cited from the Four-Part Leadership Framework, Bolman & Deal (1991)


Seamlessly inferring metaphorical concepts such as ‘USP in the market’ is an advanced analysis activity

Building on this ‘performance indicator’ for high-performance meetings, recent studies on leadership psychology suggest that modern meetings should not only leverage modern tools such data and analytics with team members; but also that a natural cycle between three ‘modes of behaviour’ are already hard-wired to maximise the synergy of collaboration that enables innovation to strike (Furu, P., 2012): this ‘optimum’ state of thinking begins to mimic primitive stages of data scanning, methodology and analysis – and enables decisions to be made quickly when time is running out.


In this week’s article, we explored two key strategies to maximise the value of your team meetings. If you are a project manager, CEO or high-performance leader, consider applying the following to improve the next meeting you have planned:

  1. Show the door if necessary: It can become difficult to justify dismissing a team member – or at least transferring a colleague to another department – on the grounds of simply not aligning to the most preferable meeting behaviour. But tolerating domineering behaviour may be sacrificing the dozens of contributions your other team members would otherwise make. Remember, displays of arrogance and behaviourally dismissing other colleagues during meetings should never be confused with passion for your company or department. If you have been considering making this tough move for some time, first make your perceptions clear, allow time for improvement – and then proceed to dismissal quickly if meeting quality does not improve.

  2. Combine data collection behaviours with great tools and instruments: Behaviourally conditioning your team into ‘optimum meeting mode’ will already create the tweaks that make absorbing, interpreting and analysing data come more naturally. But this can also be combined with external data collection instruments to capture this organic insight – and then ‘bottle’ shared ideas and innovations into reports, case studies and white papers that can be reviewed at a later date: instruments could include automated survey tools to capture a combination of qualitative and multiple choice answers from your client base; but also semi-structured interviews with select clients to later apply thematic analysis using a combination of your jotted notes and meeting transcriptions.

  3. Humility is conditioned best when from the top: Ultimately, conditioning team members towards behaviours that maximise collaborative input and that promote data-focused meetings will only work as effectively as you engage in active enrichment as the team leader: every meeting has its intellectual glass ceiling, but self-enrichment and exposure to large volumes of outside data will ensure that team members know the limit stops with you. At CONQA, we provide an opportunity for any team or project leader to obtain a lifetime of exposure to cross-domain leadership methodologies, strategies and tactics – but compressed into a one-day event format: this effectively enables an approved leader to check-in, absorb and return to their team to apply.