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Ex-Wall Street analyst and CEO: How to have an insanely productive meeting

OpenTable CEO on the secrets to insanely productive meetings
OpenTable CEO on the secrets to insanely productive meetings

More than a decade on Wall Street and multiple years as a tech executive have taught Christa Quarles a key skill — how to get things done efficiently.

Quarles is the CEO of OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation company that seats more than 20 million diners each month. The company, owned by the Priceline Group, has generated $45 billion spent at restaurants over the past two decades.

Quarles described how the environment at one of her previous employers was very roundabout and indirect, which killed productivity.

"People were not always super direct," Quarles told CNBC. "You had these meetings where nobody was really saying what the meeting was about, or there was a meeting before the meeting so there were no surprises in the meetings."

"Those things drive me bonkers," said Quarles, who has worked in private equity research and previously served as Disney's senior vice president of mobile and social games.

Quarles shared four key steps to having an insanely productive meeting.

1. Have a clear purpose

Being direct in communicating the meeting's purpose is the first step, the executive said.

"I just want to have meetings where the purpose is clear," she said. "There is an objective."

Then break that objective down into small action steps, Quarles added.

"There's a to-do list," she said. "There's an outcome. We're not just sitting there dithering for a while."

2. Focus on what needs to get done

"I'm a big, big believer in action and accountability," the CEO said. "So how do we do that in a meeting? And outside meetings?"

Setting clear goals and discussing the feasibility of those goals with employees is crucial, she said.

Checking back in on to-do lists is also important, Quarles added.

3. Don't shy away from the tough questions

"I'm a huge believer in a good, fierce debate and collaborative decision-making," Quarles said.

Make sure your ideas are "battle tested" in meetings, Quarles said. Ideas that are "battle tested" have been scrutinized for their potential flaws and have been improved upon, according to the CEO.

"By the time you get out into the broader market, the ideas have been battle tested," Quarles said. "You're going to be stronger because you've thought through all the solutions."

4. Be collaborative

For this executive, it's important to foster a culture of incorporating multiple people's ideas to find the best solution.

"It's not about your idea or my idea," she said. "It becomes a hybrid. We're going to take 30 percent of your idea, 20 percent of yours and 50 percent of yours. Then we're going to make it a better animal."

"You have to want all those viewpoints and not be afraid of them," she added. "They're there for you to carve out a better path for you and your organization."

Video by Brandon Ancil.

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