BL&T No. 190: Should this be a meeting?

Agency Leadership

This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.


"Never write a memo if telling someone will do, never call a meeting if a memo will do, never call a four-hour meeting if a one-hour meeting will do, never have two meetings if one will do, and never set up a process if two meetings will do.

First of all, you’ll directly save lots of time and money by eliminating wasted motion. Second of all, you’ll convince people by the way you act that you’re serious about focusing on results, not processes, and the savings will be multiplied many times over as they act in a similar fashion."

From "Double Your Profits" by Bob Fifer [Book]


In a distributed work environment, meetings often replace the "let me swing by your desk" moments from days in the office. That's fine if it's what it takes to resolve an issue. But as Bob Fifer lays it out in his book "Double Your Profits," not every issue needs a meeting.

I don't consider sprinting to the bathroom between meetings a workout, but over the last few weeks, it seems to be part of my exercise regimen. I don’t mind it but it’s forced me to reflect on which meetings are the right meetings and which meetings shouldn’t be meetings at all. In that way, it's not always a question of whether or not the topic of the meeting is important, but if the meeting itself is the best forum for progress.

Lately, I’ve seen some interesting outcomes when I've resisted the urge to set up or attend another meeting.

For instance, our team was about to kick off a new engagement with a client I’d been chatting with for months. I realized I hadn't filled the team in on the full context of my past discussion. Instead of scrambling to get everyone on a last-minute call, I sent out an email instead. I laid out all of the details, shared additional resources on the brand, and asked everyone to confirm receipt. The next day, I heard from everyone—many thanking me. In hindsight, had I set up a meeting, it would have been just me talking to everyone for 15-20 minutes, then asking for questions and leaving everyone with materials to review. Email proved to be the better approach, allowing folks more time to digest and engage with the material.

In another case, we were working on a proposal and needed to meet as a team to review the approach. The team wanted to meet with me to share progress, but it didn't feel like a good use of time over other pressing items. Instead, they got together, hashed things out, and sent me a video walkthrough of their thinking. We met later in the week for only 15 minutes because I was able to come prepared with a perspective, share feedback, and align on the next steps.

All this to say, I see an opportunity to align on an agency-wide perspective about what warrants a meeting and how to make the time together as effective as possible. The same goes for our time with clients.

The good news is Loom videos are happening everywhere across the team, and "let's do it async" is a phrase I hear weekly. Yet, there are still those who talk about their meeting-packed days.

If we were to keep it simple, I wonder if we start by assuming a meeting is unnecessary, asking "Why are we coming together? What result do we want to achieve by meeting? How can we get it without a call?" Start there, and if a memo or a Loom video or a quick Slack exchange won't do, the reason for a meaningful meeting will rise to the surface and we can be sure the game plan is clear upfront.


How often do I default to setting up or attending a meeting when the topic could be addressed more efficiently another way?

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