Keeping It Real: Business Insights For Leaders In Asia – How To Run A Meeting Like A Boss

By Mac Ling, Updated: 2023-01-18 (published on 2019-05-01)

Welcome to a new monthly column that answers your questions about leadership in
Asia. We’ll talk about the challenges of leading small-to-medium-sized businesses, cross-cultural management issues, and the nature of leadership, among other things.

It’s my belief that a healthy dose of humour and authenticity can make the process of leading – and, often failing, more bearable, so the goal of this column will be to offer practical insights and provide solutions you can apply directly to your management toolkit to improve your overall efficiency and enjoyment of leading people at work. It doesn’t always need to be so difficult!

You’ll find that most of the advice I offer doesn’t sound like rocket science (because it isn’t), and it’s important to remember that solutions to many of the leadership challenges that lie ahead are simple, but not easy.

I’m going to start by answering a question I was asked recently; if there are specific questions you would like me to discuss in a future column, send me an email to:

Dear Mac,
My company has been growing steadily over the last 12 months. We’ve grown from our
founding team (of three) to eight people. We’re now at a place where I feel like I’m
constantly in meetings and not getting to do the work that’s on my plate. I often find the meetings getting sidetracked by off-topic conversations or someone (who probably doesn’t need to be there) asking foundational questions because they aren’t up to speed on the topic. What can I do to run better, more efficient meetings so that we can all get back to the work that’s actually sitting on our desks? 



Dear Unproductive,
First off, congratulations on growing your company so successfully over the last year. That, in itself, is a huge feat, and deserves some celebration. Growing pains can be hard to manage (as you’re experiencing), as the sheer complexity in communication with multiple parties involved creates more room for confusion and dropped balls. When it comes to meeting protocols, I recommend a few things that could help in your situation:

1. Assign responsibilities to the meeting convener. If someone is going to call a meeting, that person also must be responsible for setting the agenda (and invite list – we’ll get to that later); watching time; assigning someone to take notes; and keeping everyone on track.

You can create a hard line here as the leader. If there’s no agenda attached to the
meeting invite, you can create a policy where this means you don’t need to show up. Meetings should be intentional and the objectives thought through beforehand, rather than putting a bunch of people in the room, and THEN figuring out what you’re going to accomplish.

2. Start on time and end on time (or early). This one can be hard in small businesses as there are limited resources and people are pulled in so many directions. As a leader, you have the ability to enforce meeting start times as part of building your culture. It’s your responsibility to take the lead here, so if you start meetings on time, others in your company will too. Ending meetings on time is also important, as people have budgeted how long to spend on this particular topic. If you find you run out of time, don’t just run the meeting over. It’s good practice to identify a new time for a follow up, and allow people to go on with their scheduled day so that the rest of their day doesn’t get fouled up. Most meetings can be completed in an hour (planning meetings should be scheduled for at least two to four hours), and I recommend that one-to-one catchups last 30 minutes.

3. If you don’t need to be in the meeting, get out. With small teams, it’s nice to be inclusive so that everyone is kept in the loop. But, the adage of too many cooks in the kitchen, really applies here. It can become a good practice to ask at the start of every meeting, “Why are you here?” If that person doesn’t have a real ability to create value in the meeting, they should get back to work.

4. Finish well. At the end of the meeting, it’s important to finish with a summary of
the action steps, who’s responsible for carrying each out, and in what timeframe. If those action items don’t get assigned before you leave the meeting, you can basically consider that hour you spent together wasted. It’s the convener’s job to ensure those tasks are
assigned specifically (having “somebody” or “everybody” assigned also means nobody is going to do anything).

All that is to say, meetings are a part of how all companies need to work effectively in order to delegate tasks, collaborate, and to create value together. As the leader, how you approach meetings and how you ask your team to approach them, will quickly impact the culture of how things get done in your company.

This may require you to re-look at how you approach meetings. If you find that you’re a culprit in some of these areas, choose one recommendation mentioned above and start there. Culture takes time to change, and by introducing new norms incrementally, you’re more likely to see lasting change.

Have a question for Mac? Drop him a line at

MAC LING is an executive coach and founder of Coaching Collective, a leadership coaching firm based in Hong Kong. With over 15 years of experience as a technology and marketing executive across the U.S. and Asia, Mac’s wealth of experience spans the corporate, entrepreneurial and non-profit spheres. This diversity of experience has given him unique insights into how global companies and leaders deal with cross-cultural challenges and driving transformation, at both an individual and an organisational level.

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Tags: business strategies | leadership | z-syndicate

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