Inspiring Leadership Stories with Christian Zierleyn from Yabbu

Imagine a world where every meeting was poignant, helped build the team, and wasted no one’s time.

Many accept that their meetings are a necessary time sink, and abandon trying to create the ideal meetings for their teams. The impact of meetings on business processes means this is a grave mistake.

Fortunately, we have access to experts and meeting innovators like Christian Zierleyn from Yabbu.  In episode 120 of the Meeting Leadership Podcast, Christian lets us in on what inspires him and gives us more on the tool and the philosophy called Yabbu.

Christian Zierleyn

Christian Zierleyn - Meeting Leadership Podcast - Effective Meetings

Born and raised in the Netherlands. Bookworm, cycling fanatic and nerd that became IT-consultant during the dot-com bubble. Entrepreneur, but also diversions as director of exchange organisation YFU Netherlands. Since 2008 engaged in local politics as a council member and alderman. Learned much about bad meetings that way. Co-owner of Yabbu. Now on a mission to change meeting culture. Dreams of only having short and fun meetings for the rest of his life. 

You Can get in touch with Christian at

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00:00 – Show Opening

 Gordon Shepherd: Are you ready for another big dose of leadership inspiration? Then stick around for this episode of the Meeting Leadership podcast, because we’ve got Christian Zierleyn from Yabbu.

Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for daily tips from the coach, with the experience and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. You’re listening to the Meeting Leadership podcast with Gordon Shepherd.

00:35 – Podcast content starts here!

 Gordon Shepherd: Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership podcast, where we give you the practical tips and the strategies that you need to build your leadership skills, and learn how to run outstanding meetings. 

00:58 – Welcome back, Christian Zierleyn!

Gordon Shepherd: It’s great to have you here. And for everybody listening to this episode, consider yourself lucky because today we’re going to get another installment of our inspiring leadership stories. And today we’ve got Christian Zierleyn from Yabbu.

01:19 – Earlier appearances – MLP 106 – MLP 113

 Gordon Shepherd: Now Yabbu is a meeting productivity app and it’s helping people in the Netherlands really make their meetings significantly better. And Christian is going to share his driving goal behind that software and the thing that inspires him, and I know in turn it’s going to inspire you as well. And for many of you, you’ll remember all the great information that we got from Christian back in episode 106 on the Meeting Leadership podcast. It was called, A Meeting Productivity App to Improve Team Communications. And you can get that episode by going to And then on episode 113, we got to learn how to lead productive, start up meetings with Christian as well. Really great information in both those episodes. And if you’re looking for episode 113 just go to

01:56 – Welcome back, Christian!

 Gordon Shepherd: And with that in mind, here’s the great interview with Christian. Christian, welcome back to the show. Again, if people have been paying attention to you on the Meeting Leadership podcast, they already know you are on episode 106, when you introduced us to Yabbu. A meeting productivity app that is bringing not just app applications but also a philosophy to meetings to help people with their meeting process to create ownership accountability. It’s really been wonderful to learn about it. We’re going to leave certainly some notes in the show notes for people to find those episodes. But there may be some people that are coming to this episode for the first time who don’t know you. Christian, how would you introduce yourself?

02:30 – Christian’s self-introduction

Christian Z.: My name is Christian Zierleyn and I live in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. I am just getting 50, and had a very diverse career. First as an IT consultant, but 10 years ago I became active in my local municipality as politician. Was an alderman and a council member. I’ve been an entrepreneur, and for the last two years I’ve been involved with Yabbu, startup here in Amsterdam.

03:11 – What inspires Christian Zierleyn?

Gordon Shepherd: So many different leadership roles that you’ve been through throughout that career. And again, what we’ve got you back on here to do is really talk about some inspiring leadership stories. And it starts with a pretty basic question, and we just kind of go from here. But basically Christian, what inspires you?

 Christian Z.: Well, I think a lot about last year when we at Yabbu were invited to a big innovation conference here in the Netherlands. And there we spoke to dozens of people that told us they were doing nothing but have meetings all day. And many of them felt completely miserable about it. That was of course news for us. But then we met a woman that told us she was really on the brink of a burnout because of all the useless meetings she was forced to attend. And she actually started crying when we showed her Yabbu. And this was really an amazing moment because she realized there was a simple solution to her misery, but she also realized that it would probably be really hard to implement a solution like ours in her corporate culture. And she said, “Well yeah, nothing will ever change.” And that really drove her to tears. And for us that was really like a wake-up moment when we realized that what we do is not just about creating effective meetings and starting a business and being successful. But from then on it felt to us that we were on a mission to change the meeting culture altogether. And that’s been driving us in the last year. And it feels sometimes that we were part of an epic battle against bad meetings, but we really believe that we can make a difference here with our new approach.

04:40 – How many meetings are too many?

Gordon Shepherd: It is so interesting to hear this and I can tell you, I can mirror your experience. I speak at conferences. I speak on the topic of the truth about meetings and how to fix them. I work with professionals for half day workshops. I’m talking engineers, doctors, some of the highest performing people within their organization. One of the simple exercises that I do, people at home can do it when they’re listening right now, I say, “Put your hand up in the air, if you are in at least one meeting per week.” When I’m speaking to a crowd. Now, all the hands go up, right? And then I say, “Okay, keep your hand in the air if you’re in at least two meetings per week.” And then I say, “Play along with me.” And I start to count three, four, five. The middle managers, the upper managers drop off at about 12, 14. I can tell you firsthand with the people that, again, drop into tears multiple times. They’ve got their hand up at 25 and 30. That means during the workday, between eight and five, whenever they go to work, they’re in meetings all day long. And then immediately I’m empathetic. I used to think it was funny. It’s not funny. I’m empathetic right away to say, “Okay, so great crowd, and anybody that’s this person’s boss, when are they doing their regular work?” Immediately people know they’re doing their regular work at night. Immediately they know that their relationship with their children, their spouse, their family is brutal, because it’s not sustainable.

So then what we’ve done is we’ve taken an A-type person. We’ve paid them the highest salaries for our middle and upper management levels. We’re burning them out in these crushing soul-sucking meetings. And so you can hear the passion in my voice. And I mean to really share in your mission and really pick up on that. And I’m so glad that you guys are now not just, again like you said, app and profit driven, but mission driven to help that person.

Christian Z.: Yeah. I sometimes think when you look at meetings, and we talked about it in the other podcasts, but the strange thing with meetings is that it’s a skill you do not learn at school. You don’t learn about how to hold effective meeting at college. And I bet that nobody was ever asked during a job interview if he was any good at holding meetings. And that’s really strange if you think about it. Especially, and it’s management sometimes they’re in meetings for 60, 70% of their time. And everybody just expects that everybody knows how to hold meetings, and it’s just not the case.

06:16 – Overestimating one’s own knowledge

Christian Z.: We wrote a blog about that and it’s called The Knowledge Illusion, inspired a well known book, about the fact that people always overestimate their knowledge. And that we thought that was really brilliant with meetings, that’s actually the case, because everybody thinks they know how to hold meetings. But when you look at it and you look at the numbers of that meetings, it’s simply not the case.

07:16 – The pitfall of titles and putting in the time

Gordon Shepherd: I totally agree. And the piece that I’ll bolt onto that is they get trapped in a title. So when I’m looking into organizations and I’m looking for title change, they went from employee to manager, manager to director. Somehow they think when they get the new title, the expectation is they’re running teams. They could be running, I don’t know, 10 people. Talked to people who run two, and 300, and 500 people. And again, like you said, this knowledge illusion that they have, the title is misinformation for them. They won’t actually take that step back. And in my case, I’m always saying, “Can you please? Please?” And within about a two month period, just put in the six to eight hours to become adequate at running meetings. Maybe you’re not going to be a superstar, but at least put in the time, find the resources and actually practice those things. Because again for me, philosophically again coming off of what you’re talking about for inspiration, every major thing that happens in an organization happens in a meeting. Like you pointed out, why wouldn’t we spend the time to get this process to be better?

08:10 – Meetings are a crucial business process

Christian Z.: It’s such a crucial business process. Meetings are the moments when as an organization you make tactical and strategic decisions which decide the future of your organizations and we’re just terrible at them. So yeah, we sometimes think so that you can really get ahead as an organization if you’re really successful at holding meetings. And there a good example of course famous CEOs like Jeff Bezos and other people that have really interesting meeting styles that are quite effective.

09:06 – Get in touch with Chistian Zierleyn – –

Gordon Shepherd: We can see the correlation there between that approach and billions and billions in profits in terms of what they’re doing. I so share in your passion. I’m so glad to hear that mission driven aspect. That’s a totally inspiring story that really is coming directly out of your work. And so you must sleep well at night because you get to go to work and actually pull this mission off every day. Christian, if people need to get in touch with you to learn more, how can they do that?

Christian Z.:  Well, they can take a look at our websites at it’s or they can just send me an email at

 Gordon Shepherd: So wonderful to have you on the show. Thanks again.

 Christian Z.: Thank you for having me.

 Gordon Shepherd: There was so many great takeaways in that interview, but really if you think about that moment when somebody comes to you and you’ve got a solution, and they’re in tears because they really, really need that solution. And you know that you can help to solve their problem and you’re going to push forward to make sure that you do that for as many people as possible. That is absolutely inspiring. It’s absolutely something that I relate to because that’s what I go for every day when I get out of bed. I’m trying to lead one more person to have a better meeting, just incrementally, so they can have a better time at work. Ultimately serve their customers, their community at a high level, and they go home and have a really great life as well.

10:08 – MLP 30: Effective Meeting Agenda Software That Gets Results with Ashley Jansen –

 Gordon Shepherd: And if you’re looking for the information to download the other episodes that Christian took part in on the Meeting Leadership podcast, just check out our show notes. And there’s another episode on the Meeting Leadership podcast that may be of interest. Again, if you’re looking for meeting productivity software applications. It’s episode 30, and it was called Effective Meeting Agenda Software That Gets Results. And that was with Ashley Jansen. Now Ashley is an outstanding leader and entrepreneur in her own right and I really recommend that you check out that episode by going to

10:34 – Meeting Leadership Academy –

Gordon Shepherd: And I also want to let you know that this episode of the Meeting Leadership podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. If you are looking for some online solutions, some inspiration to take back right now and get a tip, a strategy, something that you can put into action, then visit to learn more.

And I have to be honest and say, I would really appreciate if you hit the subscribe button on your favorite podcast app. The more subscribers, the more we build the community, the more we do that, the more that meetings and leadership is going to get better literally around the world. So please hit the subscribe button and if you get a chance, leave a rating and review. We’d love to get that information and apply it to making even more great content in the future. And as always, thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you tomorrow on the Meeting Leadership podcast.

11:26 – Podcast Outro

Thanks for listening to the Meeting Leadership podcast. Be sure to subscribe for more strategies to help you become an outstanding leader and don’t forget to rate and review so we can bring you fresh content every day. We’ll see you tomorrow. Right here on the Meeting Leadership podcast.

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Connect With Gordon Sheppard

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Gordon Sheppard

Gord is on a mission to change the world, one meeting at a time. Over his 25+ years in business Gord has run or participated in more than 2000 meetings! Not only is Gord the CEO of Business Expert Solutions Inc. (owner/operator of Meeting Leadership Inc), but he is also a Facilitator, Trainer, Business Consultant, Author, Speaker and Podcaster who helps leaders learn how to have great meetings, so they can build outstanding organizations and serve their clients at the highest possible level.

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