Two Bold Rules to get meetings right before they even start

Ivan Sanchez
2 min readJul 27, 2020
A collaborative meeting with the doors open
Image credit: @bantersnaps

There aren’t many teams where meetings don’t become a contentious subject at some point or another. Regardless of the topic and even before any meeting takes place, the way a team manages meetings says a lot about how they operate and how invested in self-organisation they are.

The main contention I see is around attendance: often people feel they’re invited to too many meetings, or that they’ve been excluded from the important ones. Regardless, the responsibility of getting this balance right tends to fall in the hands of one or few team members, and it’s just too easy to get it wrong and create frustrations.

A way to make this situation a lot better is to embrace two bold and simple rules: Meetings are open to the whole team, and Meetings are always optional.

By saying that Meetings are open to the whole team, there’s no longer a risk of excluding interested people. It also opens the space for people who otherwise wouldn’t be present to show up and contribute.

Open meetings also incentivise better invitations (goals, agenda etc) upfront. With those in place, team members will be able to judge if they’ll be able to learn and contribute, and also propose changes to scope or time in case key people can’t attend. It also moves the responsibility of coming up with the attendance list from individuals to the whole team, who’s now empowered to make the best decision possible.

This flexibility only works if Meetings are always optional. This rule creates the safety for people to skip attendance when they judge appropriate, and even apply the Law of Two Feet (“it’s ok to leave a meeting if you’re no longer learning or contributing”) when needed. The result is meetings with higher engagement.

Those two rules are inspired by Open Space Technology and widely applied at conferences, and require a leap of faith. You have to trust that meetings will count with the right people and produce the best outcome possible in each context. And above all, that you trust the team to help each other for that to happen.

If you believe this could be of benefit to your team, I suggest the following three next steps:

  1. Share and discuss this article with your team.
  2. Commit to applying to the Two Bold Rules for 2–4 weeks as an experiment.
  3. Reflect as a team on the impact, and if possible, share the results with other people who could benefit from it.