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How many are too many meetings?

Updated: Feb 19


How many meetings are too many? I was thinking about this after reading this article Dear Manager, You’re Holding Too Many Meetings (hbr.org) and it reminded me of a time when in post as a new Head Teacher, I started to ponder this myself.


My role had changed greatly for me in the short time I had been there. I had expanded the school from one to two form and this this entailed numerous meetings with the LA and builders etc.


Then there were a whole host of other meetings to attend; locality, HT conferences, parents, LA Quality Assurance, sales, initiatives; government updates, SEND, budgets; finance, curriculum, governors and of course, numerous safeguarding meetings which were completely off the scale!


All these meetings were exhausting and though some of course, like safeguarding were important, I felt that attending every meeting that I was invited to was impacting on the time I needed to devote to my strategic role and other responsibilities that I cared deeply about such as being around for the pupils and staff.


I wasn't sure why I was feeling like I needed to attend these meetings.


Was it because as an inexperienced HT I felt I had to and isn't this what all leaders do?


Or was it because I compared myself to my colleagues?


Was it my lack of confidence or a fear of missing out?


Or, was it that I just did not want to offend anyone by not attending?


Or, even I just do as I am told!!!!!!!


So I began to choose which meetings I attended carefully (actually quite ruthlessly) on the basis of importance. Most meetings were followed up with slides or notes to delegates so I just made sure I looked at these.


This then led me to think about whether I was holding too many meetings with my staff and the impact this was having on them


Interestingly, the research in this article shows that newly promoted managers held almost a third (29%) more meetings than more experienced colleagues.


Why was I holding these meetings with my staff and was there another way of communicating?


Was I holding these meetings because there was so much to know/learn as a new leader and so I held meetings to find out about certain aspects of the school/staff? Or, wa sit something I had inherited from the previous HT? Or was it is something entirely different? Ego?


The first thing I considered was the impact that weekly staff meetings were having on staff (as these weren’t the only meetings they were required to attend).


I felt that the staff meetings were contributing to teachers’ stress and were taking up far too much of their precious time at the end of the school day which they needed for marking, paperwork or spending time with their families!


So, I decided to do something about it.


At the start of a new term, in our first weekly staff meeting I asked teachers what would be a reasonable time to end the meeting (I wanted to place a time limit on our weekly staff meetings to see if it made a difference). After surprise from staff, we negotiated an amount of time that was reasonable for everyone; allowed me to get key messages across while caring for teachers' time.


At first it felt unnatural to end the meeting at the negotiated set time; members of SLT were keen to share their updates with teachers but now not everyone could lead an element of the meeting.


I was ruthless in stopping the meeting at the negotiated hour, and sometimes this was mid topic which didn’t feel quite right (at first!). But I wanted to show my staff that I was serious about their well-being.


This was one small step that I could take to help with their workload. The items that couldn’t be covered were sent through via email and sometimes just via a conversation with the people who needed to know the most.


It did make a difference – staff appreciated the gesture and senior leaders in turn adopted a similar practice with their teams.


It also helped me to prioritise and plan more carefully for the meetings rather than just hastily throwing a list of items together at the last minute.


Ineffective meetings wastes time and can negatively impact psychological, physical, and mental well-being of employees, and too many meetings just adds to workload and stress.


So, if you are a new school leader, really think about your meetings schedule, both for yourself and your staff. Do not fall into the trap!



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