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The Perfect Meeting


"One can either work or meet. One cannot do both at the same time."

-Peter Drucker

Darn it! He's right again. Despite our best efforts we can only do one of these (effectively) at a time. Through this, he also reminds us of the multitasking myth. What we actually do is task switch. It takes 40% longer to accomplish two things we're switching on and longer when we add a third or fourth task. One thing we can do to help with effectiveness is to have better meetings.

Most HR professionals will tell you there are only a few main reasons to have a meeting.

  • Share important information
  • Making key decisions
  • Updates
  • Brainstorming
  • Solve organization challenges
  • Get feedback

While there is no "perfect" meeting, here are some thoughts on how we can get closer.


Figure out your "why"; your purpose. Without this, the time together will fall short of being meaningful for everyone. Ask yourself "What's Important Now?" (W.I.N.) This will help craft the agenda. Next, save time by sending it to everyone who's invited and have them adjust the plan as needed. No one person in any organization knows enough to get every agenda "right" (there's no such thing anyway) and involving everyone sends a great teamwork message that everyone's voice matters!


Start with heart! We all want to be valued as humans (think Maslow's hierarchy of needs). Build in time for everyone to get in the moment, to check in as human beings. This should include gratitude and celebration. Making recognition the biggest resource on your team is foundationally important. Remember; what's rewarded will be repeated. Ensure the behaviors the team desires are recognized and celebrated. Strengthening the "human skill" of appreciation for others supports healthy collaboration!


Now that you've connected you're ready to jump into the content of your meeting. Because everyone had a chance to review and adjust the agenda you can trust that you'll be going over what's important now.

How you make decisions throughout the meeting will be paramount to moving forward as a team. The Gore Company uses the "Waterline" principle to work effectively and grow their people. They say...

"We are all shareholders, and we will consult with the appropriate Associates before taking an action "below the waterline" that could cause serious damage to the long-term success or reputation of our Enterprise."

This principle serves as a guide for both team and individual decision-making. Above the waterline is OK to try, below the waterline sinks the ship!

After each agenda item, ask for feedback. Consider using the "Stop Light" method to include everyone's voice for alignment.

At the End

We don't ever "get" clarity, we're always seeking it. During and especially after the meeting clarity can fade quickly. Consider including and answering this question (thanks Crucial Conversations) to ensure you'll be leaving with as much clarity as possible.

"Who is going to do what by when and how will we follow up?"

-Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

This may take more time than you think it should when you first start including it. Stay with it! The team will get faster once they begin to expect it before the meeting can be concluded.

Other meeting considerations

Consider having a regular "ask anything" meeting open to anyone. Confusion leads to frustration so clearing the air periodically really helps. This also projects safety through being vulnerable in asking how every team member feels.

Every 3-4 months ask "Do we need to have these meetings?" Time is not a renewable resource, your energy is. Don't waste everyone's energy on unnecessary meetings!

Shift from a focus on "accountability" to an approach of seeing each other as "success partners" for the work you accomplish together. You can't be the best you can be unless others are the best they can be!

What do meetings support?

The time you spend together supports the culture you want to have in your organization and teams.

Culture = values + behaviors

Culture is always shifting. It takes constant looking after, intention, and effort to sustain what is good for the humans experiencing it. It's not on any single person, it's IN everyone. Remind everyone of the values and resulting behaviors you've all agreed to so the well-intentioned stuff on your website becomes real!

Great meetings project the expectation that leadership comes from everybody regardless of roles, responsibility levels, and positions.

Best of luck with your next "perfect" meeting!

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The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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