Episode 35: Why Meetings Fail with Oscar Santalo

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Importance of Meetings

•Establishes alignment: allows for discussion of complex issues and for the team to get on the same page.

  • Helps leaders make better decisions when gaining insight from the team •
  • Builds stronger relationships: free-flowing ideas and personal interaction which can increase work success and productivity.
  • Information exchange: Communicate company updates and process changes
  • Promotes inclusion: avenue to freely express thoughts and ideas
  • Facilitates innovation: allows team to showcase critical thinking and creativity
  • Opportunity to share feedback: a great way to learn more about your team and areas you can improve
  • Improve employee engagement: when team members feel that their input is considered or solicited, it helps them feel valued about the job equals more productivity

What is the problem?

  • Feeling overwhelmed by meeting
  • No agenda
  • No advanced communication
  • No interaction
  • Meeting length and frequency
  • Conflicting opinions get out of control
  • Not summarizing actions
  • Regardless of meeting type, whether formal or informal, traditional or agile, face-to-face or electronically, they feel overwhelmed
  • No agenda means no purpose for the meeting.
  • No clear plan and goal of what you want to achieve.
  • No advanced communication can lead to people arriving unprepared or not showing up at all
  • No interaction as in talking at team members and not promoting opportunities for feedback
  • Executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours per week in meetings and that excludes impromptu meetings
  • Conflict can lead to a negative environment and distraction from the agenda
  • Not summarizing actions – next steps are unclear, no action plan
  • These issues lead to meeting failures which increase costs and decrease productivity, focus, and engagement

Survey of 182 Senior Managers in a Range of Industries

Only 17% reported that their meetings are generally productive uses of group and individual time

Effects of Meeting Failures

  • Time is zero-sum (time spent doing more of one thing means less of another)
  • Deep work meaning the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task
  • Having fewer meetings and running them poorly allows for more solo tasks and deep thinking, but weakens group productivity and collaboration
  • Dysfunctional meeting behaviors (including wandering off-topic, complaining, and criticizing) decrease decreases market share, innovation, and employment stability
  • Happiness: Job satisfaction correlates with the effectiveness of meetings.
  • Bad meetings can undermine communication and collaboration leading to less satisfaction.

Five Steps for Systemic Change

  • Collect data: Survey should include questions about emotions felt about meetings, hours spent in meetings, the balance between group and individual work-time, the impact o work quality, and identifying best practices
  • Interpret data: By doing this together, you are generating widespread understanding and buy-in from your team as you try to make the systemic change
  • Goal: Meeting free periods allows time to feel like they have freedom and flexibility to get tasks done and free up time in the schedule.
  • Handoffs are good because they require less time and people and still an adequate exchange of information to keep everyone updated.
  • Use pulse checks to identify how employees feel about the way they spend their time and how they are doing working on a team •

Tips for Meeting Management

  • Establish clear agenda and stick to it
  • Determine who should attend
  • Set your schedule
  • Determine action items and who is responsible
  • Encourage feedback
  • Leadership support is critical

How is this applicable to our practice?

  • Pharmacists are constantly in meetings
    • The administrative role has a higher volume of meetings
  • Distractions during meetings can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes
    • Improper “go-live” or medication safety issue
  • Meeting failures can decrease team satisfaction thus decrease productivity in pharmacy
    • Promote high tension in an already stressful work environment
    • The team feels a disconnect between themselves and the leader
    • More push back on new initiatives


  • Many factors go into making a successful meeting or a failed one
  • Open communication and honesty foster stronger bonds
  • Systemic change can lead to better meetings
  • Better meeting means a happier team and better results


Jimmy L. Pruitt III, PharmD, BCPS, BCCCP

The Pharm So Hard Podcast is a show focused primarily on emergency medicine and hospital pharmacy related topics. To empower healthcare providers with the knowledge and skills they need to provide evidence-based, safe care for critically ill patients.

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