Meetings. Proactive or Reactive?

by | Apr 4, 2024

Article written by Nick Roud.

My question today is around meetings and more importantly are your meetings effective?

How many meetings are in your calendar right now? If you have set those meetings up do you know why you are having that meeting, do you know what needs to be discussed, do you know what you and or others want to achieve from that meeting?  Are they therefore proactive or reactive.

How many meetings today / tomorrow are you being invited to? Again do you know fully why you are being invited into that meeting? Do you know what will be discussed in order for you to plan ahead of time? Do you know what the outcome of having that meeting? 

Welcome into today’s article. 

For leaders around the world meetings seem to be very much part of your everyday life. The day could start over a breakfast with your Chair, customer, team report, investor etc and end with dinner with your Chair, customer, team report, investor etc. 

Today is not about outcome rather giving yourself time and permission to review your meetings effectiveness. Allow yourself time to reflect and as you read keep asking yourself ‘am I being effective with my use of time’. Being effective is not about avoidance. 

Leaders squeeze a great deal into a working day, its very rare when I coach a Chief Executive Officer (CEO), leader or emerging leader that the topic of just how ‘busy’ they feel they are seems to crop up. We certainly unpack that during our coaching engagement. 

The word ‘busy’ in my humble view has and is overused. 

To me being busy isn’t a sign that you are being effective. Being busy seems to be something many fall into the trap of say like when asked ‘how are you’, the typical response is ‘good’. 

Being busy is a complete waste of time, energy and something we all might want to review. My grandfather Louis a beautiful Hungarian Jew was a coal miner, he spent a great deal of time under ground literally shovelling shit and for him to get paid he had to dig for coal and hit certain weights before he took home the bacon. To me when I think about the meaning of busy its not how many meetings can I fit into the day I think am I being effective with my time? Grandad had to be effective with his time or he wouldn’t get paid!

Lets come back to an earlier point, are you being effective with your time and use of meetings?

As a leader one of your priorities is to know where your time goes. The Godfather of Management Peter Drucker said and wrote a great deal about mangers must ‘know their time’ and I believe this has not nor will change. You must know your time; where are you actually spending it and how effective is the use of your time. Therefore how can we put more time into your day so yo can be more effective? 

So what is actually a meeting?

In the Cambridge Dictionary it explains that a meeting is;

a plannedoccasion when people come together, either in person or online (= using the internet), to discuss something

Lets look at that clear definition a little deeper shall we. 

  1. A planned occasion
  2. People coming together
  3. To discuss something.

When do you review your meeting protocol or are you in an ecosystem that just has to have a meeting to discuss a meeting? 

  1. A Planned Occasion

How often do you plan forward and really think about the occasion? Where are you going to hold the meeting; at your desk, in a coffee shop, in the board room, in a rented conference room or a space outside to breathe. Here is a picture of a recent place I held a one-on-one CEO Coaching conversion.

All we needed was a chair and space to talk!

Make sure the setting enables the meeting is in my view critical to it being effective. Imagine you need to discuss something like a merger or acquisition, do you think a busy coffee shop is the best setting for you both to really disclose confidential information? The above picture was a meeting with a CEO she was at a stage in our coaching time together to reflect, where she has come from and where she is going. It was the perfect setting and space for her to really lean into the conversation. 

When you consider and look at Proactive v Reactive might it be worth considering where you will hold the meeting and what might the setting need to be to ensure the effective outcome, or will you rush down the hall way to find a room that isn’t being used and usher others into that space!

2) People Coming Together 

The next effective part is to ensure you have the right people at the right time in the right place so you can hold an effective meeting. Who needs to be involved? Will it need to be face to face and in doing so have those attending all in the same room. Or will it be a virtual meeting with others joining in on screen? Again who ever you are inviting in make sure it is effective use of time.

A short check in might be better served with a phone call as opposed to sitting in a meeting room!

As you set up your meeting take a moment to really consider how you will message your invite to that or those people. Are you to the point, is their more of a story you need to share, are some accomyning notes being attached. To ensure your time is effective come back to the point of explaining why a meeting is taking place, what is the purpose, what will we discuss, what are we looking to achieve etc. Is it a safe place where people are able to speak freely. Do you have trust around the room? The more clarity you can share the better others will be able to effectively participate and contribute to your time together. 

3) To Discuss Something!

An effective use of your time and others when it comes to discussing something big or small is to know what it is you are their to discuss. Jeff Bezos shared that he and his leadership team at Amazon would ensure the first 30mins of any meeting would be spent reading the document that they were together to discuss. What that meant was everyone who was invited into that meeting could be on the same page of the discussion that needed to follow, or to put it another way those involved were speaking the same language right from the start. This is an effective use of time and energy. 

Should you send out an agenda?

Depending on the scale of the meeting sending that agenda a few day in advance will enable others to start considering and or thinking about the discussion topic. 

I’d encourage you to have less on the agenda than more. I remember observing a CEO in the board room and the agenda was 12 pages long! All I can say is that after a few hours the whole room was done and the rest of the time was simply wasted. Less is more but be very specific and clear. 

So here are a couple of check ins 

  1. Why are you having a meeting?
  2. Who should attend?
  3. What outcome are you looking for?

Get back to basics and in doing so your meetings quickly become more effective. Less is more

Some other observations and or thoughts to share with you. Running an effective meeting could involve periods of time when no technology is bought into the meeting room. Heaps of evidence is coming out sharing how impactful (negatively) technology is having on the time people spend with each other. I walked into a restaurant the other day to have dinner with a client and at one table there were 6 people all sitting tougher they looked like a group of friends, all sitting their with phones in hands all looking down at their screens, occasionally they would lean over and share something from his or her phone. They did this for about an hour and then all got up and left. 

BIzarre I thought or maybe I am just getting a bit old and when I am with people and or a person I want to be fully with that person or people. 

How often do you observe your meetings only to find all heads are down staring into a screen? 

I 100% agree that their is a time and place to have technology on in meetings and those meetings. A few years ago I was coaching a CEO in Wellington New Zealand. I was shadowing her in a Board meeting, just noticing what and how she effectively lead the meeting. I noticed out the corner of my eye a board member who was clearly not adding any value or insights to the Board meeting, his focus was on a website looking to purchase a new boat! 

During our coffee break I approached the Board member and asked how he felt the meeting was going, oh Nick brilliant really good, love the conversation. To which I replied ‘I hope you invite me out on that boat when you get it! Lets just say for the rest of the days meeting his laptop was firmly closed and he was all in on the conversation. I still mention that to him when we meet for coffee, hows that boat going!

My guide for technology is use them when its needed otherwise leave them at the door and get into conversation, thought, suggestions, ideas and ultimately solutions. 

As we close today’s article on meetings may I ask you. Do you feel you really run effective meetings, could they be shaped differently?  Just doing a google search there are pages and pages of ways to run a meeting. I’d encourage you to explore be curious and find what works for you. Over time you may need to adapt, modify and or refresh your approach. 

Here is how CEO Jeff Bezos approached meetings at Amazon. Again another view to consider. 

6 page narrative memo meeting.

Use meetings as a means to move things forwards, take your time, be effective and enjoy spending time with fellow humans and adopt a team first mentally. 

Look after yourself and each other



For a confidential conversation about your leadership coaching needs, call Nick on +6421375630 or email him

Nick Roud

Nick Roud

Executive Leadership Coach

Nick is the Chairman of Nick Roud Coaching and a Global Award Winning Executive Coach. Nick holds the highest coaching qualification MCEC. His clients are typically Chief Executive Officers, Executives and Emerging Leaders. Nick’s office is based in Auckland, New Zealand and he travels extensively around the world to coach his clients. You can contact Nick directly on +6421375630