Musings on the Meaning of Meetings

“I enjoyed the meetings, too. It was like having friends.”

― Luna Lovegood

Depending on how and where and what you work, different meetings benefit from different structures. Some people like stand-up meetings, others enjoy small meetings, and still others prefer lunch meetings. What we can all agree on is that we need meaningful meetings.

Some meetings are primarily informational – people need to know their marching orders. In this case, I tend to believe it is quite important to provide useful resources in advance and to use all the same successful techniques we use in our classrooms to teach.

However, most meetings are meant to involve some form of give and take. In this horizontal hierarchy, it becomes important to ‘flip’ the meeting.

How many of us have sat in a meeting where we were meant to give an opinion but were first brain-barraged with the facts needed to make a wise decision? If the decision-makers at a meeting need to know something to make decisions – get that information out early! The other side of this is – do your homework. If someone gives you things to read through, research in advance.

Apple’s Steve Jobs was famous for his sometimes quirky personality and yet highly effective meetings. Meetings were always small – he even asked people to leave if he didn’t believe they needed to be there (including himself). Another feature of his meetings was that most of them involved action items. He insisted each action item have a Directly Responsible Individual (DRI).

Do your action items have DRIs? I was writing an agenda recently and realised far too many of the DRIs were me. I reworked the agenda, and gained plenty of other folks to share the load.

I didn’t do that because I wanted to create more work for other people. Instead, I realised if I was the only DRI, then I didn’t really need a meeting. Except of course, I need the people who are not-me to be very much in full play if that set of objectives is ever to be achieved. By creating the agenda in advance, I could see I needed to change the way our meeting worked if I was to actually achieve our goals.

What sort of meetings do you have? What type of meetings do you lead? What ownership do you need from your people? Let us know in the comment box below, and be sure to watch for a workshop on motivation and engagement in meetings!



Matt Wiley is a tenured, associate professor of mathematics with awards in both mathematics education and honour student engagement. He earned an assortment of degrees in computer science, business, and pure mathematics from the University of California and Texas A&M systems. He is the director of quality enhancement at Victoria College, assisting in the development and implementation of a comprehensive assessment program to enhance institutional performance outcomes. A programmer, a published author, a mathematician, and a transformational leader, Matt has always melded his passion for writing with his joy of logical problem solving and data science. From the boardroom to the classroom, he enjoys finding dynamic ways to partner with interdisciplinary and diverse teams to make complex ideas and projects understandable and solvable.

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