This Billionaire Sports Team Owner Says the Key to Success is Avoiding Meetings

There are plenty of theories out there about the secret of success.

Do you have to be ruthless or learn to embrace failure? Or does it all come down to having an unwavering passion?

Perhaps. But according to one tech billionaire, it could be something as simple as avoiding as many meetings as you possibly can.


Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Wizards and a former AOL executive, says that when it comes to achieving your goals, it’s all about maximizing your time. Even if that means saying no to endless gatherings in the boardroom with your colleagues.

“I’ve learned not to have a lot of meetings. I think that meetings are the biggest productivity killer imaginable. I hate decks, I hate PowerPoints. I want to be involved with outcomes, I don’t want a lot of discussion around process,” said Leonsis to Mashable in a Facebook Live interview.

For many of us, this is all too familiar a problem; everyone has been part of a meeting that could very easily have been discussed in a simple email.

Many are so inundated with requests for meetings that there is only a small amount of time left to actually perform the duties discussed during said meetings.

A friend recently told me that she was going into her sixth meeting of the day. The topic? “An actual meeting about meetings. I sh*t you not,” she replied.

So if meetings feel like a waste of our time and resources, why are we incapable of avoiding them or condensing them into fewer, more productive ones?

A recent Harvard Business Review discussed the ‘success syndrome’, whereby the most informed and helpful colleagues are bombarded by requests from co-workers so much that they overwork themselves until they eventually quit.

The paper also talked about “collaborative overload.” With workers spending upwards of 80 per cent of their time in meetings, on the phone, and responding to emails, employees are buried under an avalanche of requests for their time and information.

The result? Pretty soon these people look for a new job, or risk burning out completely.

Leonsis also had some other tips for finding success in your career. He made a list of 101 things he wanted to achieve in his life, including some pretty awesome goals he’s already ticked off like buying a sports team and winning an Emmy.

But there are also less business-focused accomplishments, like taking care of friends and family.

He also confessed to waking up at 5am every morning, working speedily for a few hours, and then working out on the treadmill before going back to work.

Here are some tips for ducking out of unnecessary meetings and getting more out of the ones you do attend:

Ask Colleagues to Define The Objective
You’re kind of calling their bluff here, but if you’re upfront with colleagues about the expectations of each meeting (and how valuable your time is), you’re forcing them to come up with a good excuse for one – or hopefully making them question the need for it in the first place. Plus, if the objective doesn’t directly concern you, you have an out if you need to dodge one.

Make Your Meetings More Effective
“Any questions?” Well, they don’t have them now, but you can bet your ass they’ll have them in an hour when you’re back at your desk and desperate to knuckle down. Instead of someone sending everyone to sleep with another lacklustre PowerPoint presentation, try to plan your meetings a bit better in advance. Tell people what you’ll be discussing ahead of time and ask them to bring suggestions or questions with them so you actually get more out of it.

Tell Your Colleagues You’re Overburdened
You don’t have to be a martyr about it – you can simply ask that your colleagues take notes and debrief you later, but right now you HAVE to finish what you’re working on. If you’re snowed under, your focus isn’t going to be up to much in another boardroom gathering. If it’s a really important one, of course you should attend, but subtly hinting to your colleagues that you need to crack on with work may help them ease up on all these conferences.

Make Sure Your Staff or Colleagues Have Enough to Do
You may not have a lot of control over this aspect of your co-workers’ professional lives. But chances are if one of your colleagues feels the need to setup countless unnecessary meetings, they’re either bored in their careers or struggling with their position. See if you can speak to those organizing all the meetings and check in with them to see if everything is OK. They may need more support on a project, or perhaps they just think it’s normal to have three meetings a day. Kindly educate them that this is false.