Can a meeting be efficient & engaging at the same time?

3 Questions that will cut your meeting time in half but double your engagement.

Have you ever walked away from a meeting and said to yourself or someone else, “Well, that was a waste of time! We just met for two hours and…. “

  • I heard the same person talking the entire time.”
  • We didn’t talk about anything important or helpful.”
  • I am not sure what just happened in there.”
  • We didn’t even get to talk about the most important thing!”
  • “I need a drink.”

Facilitating a good meeting is like putting together IKEA furniture . . . it goes a lot better if you have a step-by-step plan, and the right tools for the job. Lose that little guide or your tool, and your HEMNES is not going to look so good. Am I right?!

I’ve talked to a lot of leaders, who have no guide and are uncertain about which tools to use, who ask me, “How can I run an efficient and engaging meeting? Is it even possible to do both at the same time?

Death By Meeting

Years ago I was introduced to Patrick Lencioni’s book, Death by Meeting, which is an excellent guide to creating engaging and effective meetings. I highly recommend it. Pat talks about how he structures a few different kinds of meetings. And here’s the one that’s made the most significant breakthrough for me.

Weekly Tactical Meetings: According to Pat, the team meeting starts by having everyone go around the room and each person has 60 seconds to share 2 or 3 things that are on the top of their list. I learned from a former team leader who adapted this approach that this works best this way: each team member shares three things we were working on in a quick verbal or written meeting brief, and no one talks about their own list unless they are asked a question about it by another team leader. This made our meetings more efficient but a new problem emerged for me. 

The Problem: As I began to lead meetings using this approach, I noticed I knew what everyone was working on, but I had no idea what was going on in their lives. This really hit me hard when I found out way too late that my administrative assistant’s sister had cancer. 

A few questions emerged for me as I started to rethink my approach to weekly tactical team meetings:

How can I work so closely with someone and not know anything about them? How am I leading at a church of all places and we don’t know what is going on in each other’s lives.

That’s when the 3-2-1 idea came to life for me. 

My 3-2-1 Approach: a Practical Tool to Guide Your Meetings

The past number of years I’ve asked the teams I’ve led to submit their 3-2-1 lists prior to our team meeting via email or slack–whichever communication method each team uses the most. They reply just to me if it’s email, and I share the list ahead of our team meeting, or if it’s something like Slack, then they “reply all.” And those 3-2-1’s go something like this:

  • 3 things you are working on
  • 2 things happening in life
  • 1 work-related goal you have for the week

Here is the latest 3-2-1 I shared with my team:

Our team uses Slack and posts on our team meeting thread their 3-2-1 prior to the start of the meeting. At the start to every meeting we take about 30 minutes to ask each other questions about our 3-2-1’s. And you’d be surprise at what comes up.

Here is what I love about this: 

  • People only talk about what they are asked about. Too often in meetings, someone shares about something that nobody cares about or doesn’t impact their area. This helps your team ask questions and create intentional connections.
  • Team leaders have shared that this helps their team really focus on what they are working on and goals each person has for the week. 
  • If someone writes the same thing on what they are working on week after week after week, this creates a coaching conversation between me and them re: what’s stuck and why. 
  • If there is something I think should be on their top three and it’s missing from their list, this also creates a coaching conversation.
  • This allows people to follow up with each other outside of a meeting on other questions or things going on in their lives.
  • This creates written accountability for each person on the team, me included.
  • Last but not least. I find most people ask questions about the 2 things going on in life more than the goals or things we’re working on, and I actually think that’s GREAT! As a team leader I am so glad I and the rest of the team are not missing out on what is happening in people’s lives. This creates connection, trust, and allows the team to lean into one another.

Let me know if you try this 3-2-1 approach! I would love to hear about your experience. Comment below or shoot me a message at

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