Do You Know How to Conduct Effective Leadership Team Meetings?
While most work meetings are considered a waste of valuable time and energy, your ability to conduct effective leadership team meetings is essential to moving a team forward and carving out time for strategic, complex, systemic, and cross-team issues.
The Cost of Ineffective Leadership Team Meetings
The cost of wasted leadership time together is high. In addition to the obvious frustrations associated with wasteful meetings, an unaligned leadership team creates distorted assumptions, shallow and silo thinking, misinformed decisions, and disengagement. And more importantly, ineffective leadership meetings create an insidious downward spiral of cancelled or unattended meetings that decrease the amount of time that leadership teams collectively discuss issues and solve problems.
- Set a Clear Purpose and Agenda
Sadly, one recent survey found that 95% of leaders rated their process for focusing senior management’s time on the most important issues as weak or non-existent. Without a clear meeting purpose and agenda focused on the most strategic areas, the “urgent” tends to crowd out the “important.” You should not hold any meeting that does not have a clear agenda and purpose that makes sense.
- Focus Only on Moving Strategic Items Forward
Too many leadership meetings end up being a combination of reporting status, discussing tactical issues, or rehashing previous discussions. While it is alluring to discuss urgent matters, if you want to conduct effective leadership team meetings, ruthlessly use the time only on areas that are directly related to moving your key strategic initiatives forward and that need to involve the entire leadership team. Use other meetings and other people to take care of tactical, operational, and functional items.
- Identify Clear Roles
For any meeting to be successful, each attendee should have a clear role. Leadership meetings are no different. Make sure that you are clear about each of the following roles: owner, facilitator, time keeper, scribe, action-tracker, and value-keeper (the person responsible for making sure that only strategic, complex, systemic, and cross-team issues are being discussed at all times).
- Focus on Making Important Decisions
While we believe that leadership team meetings are a great forum to create common assumptions and context, the fundamental purpose of leadership team meetings should be to make important, difficult, and collective decisions. In order to support effective decision making, all pertinent information should be shared well in advance.
- Cascade the Meeting
In order to make sure that strategies, context, assumptions, information, and decisions are being shared across the organization, it is imperative that leaders follow the same meeting format with their teams on a consistent basis. At first, most leaders find that a weekly cadence works best until top management is ready and able to conduct effective leadership team meetings.
An Example Agenda
One recent high tech client used the following agenda sections to improve their ability to conduct leadership meetings so they could move their strategic priorities forward and create greater levels of team alignment throughout the organization. Make sure that you create a leadership meeting agenda and cadence that works for your unique situation.
- Context and Implications
The purpose of this section is to ensure that the entire leadership team is on the same page and able to accurately share important market, business, competitive, industry, and strategy context and implications with their direct reports. This includes being able to answer questions from your team.
- Performance Status Dashboard
The purpose of this section is to make sure everyone knows where they stand in terms of achieving key success metrics and strategic imperatives. Keep the discussion at a strategic level with “Red” for areas that are off target, “Green” for areas that are on target, and “Yellow” for areas that are in between. Then only discuss related issues that involve the entire team – otherwise use a different meeting. Ideally the performance dashboard would be sent out to the team prior to the meeting.
- Other Stuff Everyone Needs to Know About or Decide
The purpose of this section is to share major accomplishments since the last meeting, inform everyone of new big upcoming actions, and make any other strategic decisions that were not previously addressed.
- Issues or Hassles
The purpose of this section is to uncover and resolve any team-wide issues or hassles that are impeding team success and that need to be discussed and resolved at the leadership team level. Done right, this allows leaders to identify and resolve important issues before they fester.
- Action and Decision List
The purpose of this section is explicitly agreed upon and communicates the actions and decisions from the meeting.
- Plus / Delta Feedback
In order to spur continuous improvement, use this section is to gather feedback on the meeting regarding what worked well and what could be improved for next time.
The Bottom Line
How leaders spend their time with their teams is one of a company’s most precious and influential resources. Get your leadership meetings right to ensure that every leadership team focuses on what matters most and that they stay on the same page. You will know you are headed in the right direction when your leadership team meetings are worth the time and you are making better decisions faster.
To learn more about how to create greater levels of leadership team alignment, download How Leaders Break Down Silos and Resolve Cross-Unit Conflicts