This 5-Minute Rule Is Proven to Make Your Meetings More Productive

Imagine you’re tasked with updating the team on an important work issue that needs their buy-in. You’re all prepped and start delivering on all the points they need to hear. Sixty seconds into your polished presentation, your boss cuts you off, holds up her hand and says, “Nope, we’re not going to talk about that right now.”

While that kind of abrupt interruption may look rude and unprofessional, it’s an increasing trend enforced by high-powered execs demanding more efficiency in meetings.

The 5-Minute Meeting

More companies are now embracing “agile” meetings and daily check-ins to make their teams more productive and efficient. The hard rule? Keep it under five minutes or be ready to be rudely cut off in front of your peers.

While some argue this laser approach to meetings won’t get anything accomplished, The Wall Street Journal recently published a story that convincingly declares otherwise.


Can you keep your meeting to five minutes?


Time is too precious to waste in high-demand business settings. The old ritual of booking conference rooms and clogging calendars with incessant 30 or 60-minutes of drudgery is being replaced by 5-minute huddles where teams can cut to the chase and make decisions on the spot.

Aaron Shapiro, CEO of New York digital agency Huge Inc., forsakes meeting rooms for deskside “drive-bys” when employees ask to meet with him. If they ramble on, he has no qualms about cutting them short by being what he calls “politely blunt.”

Over at Scrum50, a Connecticut based digital marketing agency, morning meetings start and end on time in as little as four to six minutes. If you’re late to work five minutes, you’ve missed it.

At Fingerpaint Marketing, a New York marketing agency, if co-workers argue over a point or drone on beyond the allotted time, their head of operations, Jennifer McKenna, plays music queued on her laptop signaling that it’s time to stop talking. Her song of choice: Nappy Roots “Good Day.”

You Now Have 15 to 30 Seconds to Talk

That kind of meeting efficiency also means your “air time” is drastically reduced to what seems to be a ridiculous length.

At Phoenix digital agency LaneTerralever, teams meet every morning for rapid-fire updates on dozens of projects. “People typically speak for 15 to 30 seconds at a time–or risk being cut off by meeting leaders,” the WSJ reports.

Jamie Abbruscato, an account director, “spends five minutes before each meeting paring his customary three- to five-minute updates to 30 seconds,” or he knows he’s going to get the hand.

This poses a challenge. Professionals used to deliver presentations that play to their strengths are finding that the 15-30 seconds to “briefly explain mere seeds of ideas or works-in-progress” is a humbling experience.

“Participants must learn to distill their ideas and requests to the conference-room equivalent of an elevator pitch,” the WSJ reports. Scrum50’s executive creative director, Jennifer Miller, admits that “you sort of need to check your ego at the door.”

An Argument Against It

On the surface, it appears that hard-nosed leaders who mandate for lightning-fast meetings are driving an intense and stressful culture of hyper-productivity. Is this a good thing for fostering good relationships at work? I’m not entirely sure it is.

In personality typology research, people in demanding leadership roles are extremely motivated and naturally wired to get as much done as possible in a day. That’s certainly a positive for moving the needle on productivity.

Where it gets tricky and problematic is the people side of work, with opposing personalities in play. Competitive, take charge leaders tend to communicate and move things along with extreme urgency (which means they expect others to communicate and move at lightning speed alongside them).

Before objecting that crunching 30 minutes down to 30 seconds in the name of efficiency is not a bad thing, consider the typical blind spots these hard-driving leader-types have that are detrimental to a healthy team atmosphere.

They can be too controlling or aggressive, and not sensitive to the needs of others, as evidenced by having no qualms about abruptly silencing the voices of their employees (whom may have something really good to say beyond 30 seconds).

They make decisions too quickly and can come across as critical and unsupportive of other people’s ideas. (How can you fully express a great idea in 15 seconds, without fear of being abruptly cut off by your boss?)


The bored meeting.


Furthermore, because urgency is a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10, these bosses tend to have poor listening skills. They want to solve a problem without hearing all the facts and move on. Their biggest fault, perhaps, is lacking a collaborative work style because they’re going through their day at warp speed, communicating in sound bites 30 seconds at a time, at the expense of people and relationships.

What they miss in their impatience is the opportunity to get to truly know their people as human beings and hear valuable input, ideas, and even opinions on what’s working, what’s not.

Take Jason Schlossberg, managing director at Huge, who calls himself a talker. He tells WSJ that he once was making a point in a meeting when Shapiro, his CEO, cut in and told him to move on. “I had four more anecdotes to prove that point!” said Schlossberg.  Now, he says, “I choose my words more carefully.”

Schlossberg’s response to change the way he is naturally wired to talk appears to be motivated by fear to appease a dominant boss with a personality type that desires that his people communicate and work to his style. This takes the strength of diversity and varied expressions to solve daily problems out of the equation. In the end, you adapt unwillingly, but you adapt; nobody wants to be shamed by his CEO in a meeting.

What’s Really Missing

Toward the end of the WSJ story, Lyde Spann, chief executive of New York e-commerce company, Netamorphosis, admits the downfall of this meeting strategy.

“An adverse effect of this kind of efficiency is that meetings used to be a time to connect. You’d ask people how their weekend was. You build relationships. We run the risk of missing that.”

To be fair, Spann says she compensates by scheduling time off on Fridays for socializing, and check-ins every 30 days for employees to talk about how they’re feeling.

However, in this day and age where the best bosses on the planet clearly value relationships that lead to results and respect their employees’ time and voice, is that enough? What do you think?


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