Microsoft’s CEO: This Is How to Run a Great Meeting

Three simple principles from Microsoft's Satya Nadella will help you get the most out of your meetings.

Courtesy of Pixabay

“Ugh, another meeting. Can’t I just get some work done?”

Who of us hasn’t said that at one point or another? Researchers estimate that companies waste hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity due to poorly organized meetings.

On the other hand, if done right a 10-minute meeting can save dozens of emails, prevent major miscommunication, and even give birth to wonderful ideas and solutions.

This is why it pays to examine the meeting style of successful business leaders–like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

When Nadella took over, Microsoft was in the midst of an identity crisis. The company was lethargic, plagued with infighting, and had lost its innovative edge. But in the years since, Nadella has conducted a stunning turnaround. 

That’s right. Satya Nadella made Microsoft cool again.

One way he did so was by transforming Microsoft’s meeting culture. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal a few years ago, Nadella shared his three-rule method for better meetings, and it looks like this:

1. Listen more.

2. Talk less.

3. Be decisive when the time comes.

Nadella’s advice may be only 10 words, but they’re packed with emotional intelligence. Let’s break down why this method is so brilliant.

(You can learn more lessons by analyzing meetings run by Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, too.)

Listen more.

When you listen, you learn. 

Listening skills are invaluable for anyone running a meeting, because the whole reason you’re together is to benefit from one another’s viewpoints and perspectives. Additionally, listening to your team helps provide a psychologically safe, trusting environment–one in which they feel comfortable expressing their ideas, and sharing their problems (and even their mistakes).

All of this is valuable data that will help you guide not only your meeting, but also your team, in the most effective way possible.

Talk less.

Note that the key isn’t “Don’t talk.” It’s “talk less.”

You can talk less by:

  • asking more questions;
  • being concise (not rambling);
  • refusing to micromanage or solve every problem yourself;
  • drawing out introverted or shy team members by asking for their opinion; and
  • staying on time.

If you have the tendency to speak too much in a meeting, keep yourself under control by asking yourself three key questions:

  • Does this need to be said?
  • Does this need to be said by me?
  • Does this need to be said by me, now?

There are definitely times when the answer to all three questions is yes–and by all means, speak. But if the answer is no, bite that tongue and you’ll find that meetings are more effective.

Be decisive.

Now that you’ve taken time to consider the thoughts and perspectives of your team, it’s your job to move things forward. Remember, it’s great to talk less and listen more, but that won’t get you anywhere if you don’t assign tasks and follow through.

Of course, not every decision you make will please everyone. But that’s part of your job, too–to make the hard choices, commit to making them a success, and get everyone else to buy in, too.

So, the next time you’re running a meeting, repeat these three tenets to yourself:

Listen more.

Talk less.

Be decisive when it counts.

Keeping Nadella’s three principles in mind will help you stay balanced and productive, and make emotions work for you, instead of against you.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on

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