Effective leadership meetings are crucial for creating a seamless process and getting company initiatives across the finish line. Unfortunately, they can get sidetracked and go off the rails.
When run well and geared toward specific meeting goals, leadership meetings can inspire ideas, motivate actions, and clarify expectations for your leaders.
How can you run meetings that help, instead of annoy your very valuable (and often highly paid) leadership team?
“The price of misused executive time is high. Apart from the frustrations that individual managers suffer, delayed or distorted strategic decisions lead to overlooked waste and high costs, hastily conceived and harmful cost reductions, missed new product and business development opportunities, and poor long-term investments.” — “Stop Wasting Valuable Time”, Harvard Business Review
Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of how to plan, schedule, and run meetings that energize your leadership team and make a measurable difference in how quickly and successfully your team achieves its goals.
We recommend these seven actionable steps to create high-value meetings for your leadership team.
”Think about the why, the purpose of the gathering, and get really clear on what you want to accomplish from an outcome standpoint. How do I measure this meeting as successful?” — Douglas Ferguson, Founder of Voltage Control
Creating a meeting agenda is a must-have, cannot-live-without component of successful leadership meetings. Not having an agenda sets the entire meeting up to become an off-topic, disengaged, rambling mess.
Use a meeting agenda template (Range has an awesome one here) to ensure everything that needs to be covered in the meeting is included.
Identify the meeting’s goal, list all the questions you want to be answered (including the person you expect to be involved in discussing each question), and designate the amount of time you expect each point to take.
Once you write everything down, read over it carefully and remove the topics that you can handle in an email or during one-on-one meetings.
“For most meetings, getting people’s thoughts and ideas asynchronously ahead of time and then coming together to review them is most effective.” — Brett Berson, Partner at First Round Capital
Effective meetings require preparation.
Emailing everyone an agenda right as they log onto the video conference for a remote meeting is too late: Nobody wants to be put on the spot or caught off guard without ample time to prepare.
Finalized meeting agendas should be sent out to participants a full day in advance or earlier.
This way, everyone can actively participate and knowledgeably explain and discuss their assigned portions. In addition, everyone can have their questions ready in advance.
When everyone receives the meeting agenda in advance, it sets the tone for an effective meeting that doesn’t stall or go off the rails with unrelated discussions.
Don’t automatically suck the air out of the room by diving into the problems and obstacles. Starting your leadership meetings with positive news and updates gets everyone excited and engaged.
Go around the meeting and let everyone share something positive their team has accomplished. The news may be major, like completing a lucrative project, or minor, like finishing an unpleasant task.
Either way, good news gives everyone a chance to know about things going on in other departments and creates camaraderie within the leadership team.
They can then take updates back to their team to help break down cross-departmental silos.
A facilitator keeps the discussions moving and on topic, saving time and increasing the meeting’s effectiveness. Instead of the most senior team member always running the meeting, shake things up and keep them interesting by taking turns.
This way, participants stay on their toes and are involved while honing their leadership skills.
There needs to be a separate note taker, too. This person logs topics, ideas, action items, deadlines, follow-up ideas, and the people accountable for each in your company’s management tool software. These notes serve as your single source of information for the meeting, keeping everyone on the same page and working uniformly.
Add the assigned facilitator and note taker to each agenda so that meeting attendees know their roles and responsibilities.
“Try having a set of phrases that you keep in your back pocket that everyone can use.
Something like ‘We have 20 minutes left and I know we wanted to get to 3 more topics. Are those still things we want to cover today?’
It makes it easier when there’s a power dynamic because it feels less personal and more like a team norm.” — Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range
One of the easiest ways to put a damper on team enthusiasm and make leadership meetings points of misery is having them drag on past the scheduled time.
These meetings include senior company employees, making them expensive endeavors. It’s your responsibility to keep the conversations clear, relevant, and engaging within the confines of the agenda.
Facilitators should be comfortable shutting down tangents and steering everyone back on course. If topics go over the allotted time, curb the discussion and add them to the next meeting, or ask the involved participants to schedule another meeting to hash out the details.
Keeping meetings on topic and staying on time takes the dread out of meetings. By creating trust within the team and maintaining everyone’s engagement and focus, you can avoid them thinking, “well, here goes two hours of my life that I'll never get back.”
Every discussion should be introduced, discussed, and summarized. This process allows everyone to understand the insights and decisions from the discussion. Summarizing each point also helps the note taker fully flesh out the details of the topic that may not have been clear during the back-and-forth discussion.
A summary is essential for clarity and laying out the natural next steps of the agenda topic or idea.
Make a point to start positively and end positively. Graciously close the meeting by thanking everyone for their time, reiterating the meeting’s purpose and what it accomplished, and your confidence in each team member successfully driving their tasks and projects forward.
Ending meetings on a positive note helps instill confidence and hope in each leader, who can then take the attitude back to their individual teams. This wrap-up is especially important if some discussions get heated or intense during the meeting.
Research finds that most workers (82%) spend up to 30% of their week in video meetings. Make this investment of time count. Productive meetings aren’t going to happen just because you wish they would. There are necessary elements that go into creating effective meetings. Four components for creating better meetings for your senior management are:
Nobody wants to go into a work situation where they’ll be surprised. Kick off your leadership meetings with clarity. Every participant should know the other attendees, their titles, and why they’re there. Understanding the players and what they bring to the table are the building blocks for digesting contrasting points of view.
Include a list of the participants on the leadership team meeting agenda to inform and prepare everyone.
This point means crossing off team members who won’t be able to contribute to the leadership meeting.
Don’t waste your executives’ valuable time by inviting people who won't directly impact your outcome.
“I’ve found that, as a leadership group, if we align on clear goals at the onset of a quarter or project we can then allow the teams to figure out how to achieve those goals themselves.” — Chris Bee, CTO at Lessen
Following up on progress made since the last meeting should be front and center in every discussion.
Leadership should give a succinct, honest narrative that explains how their team has or hasn’t moved projects forward and why. All the explanations should go into the meeting notes for reference.
“Distinguishing between run and change the business efforts helps the executive team [...] align around their purpose and intent as a group. Often this leads to a realization that they need to focus more of their team time on changing the business. Yes, they still need to monitor operations and remove roadblocks, but they also need to delegate run-the-business issues whenever possible.” — ”How to make the most of your executive team meeting”, Bain & Company
After the initial check-in on progress, include a key decision discussion on the agenda. Company leaders are the ones most knowledgeable about the company and the direction it needs to head, so capitalize on this expertise.
While meetings should address short-range and upcoming initiatives, they should be vehicles that keep the leadership team aware of long-term goals and strategies.
Meeting topics like pricing structures, yearly revenue goals, operational improvements, and other key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical to keeping the company competitive and viable.
A common mistake is treating a leadership meeting as a stand-alone event when it should function as a GPS, a navigational tool.
It should show leaders where they are and direct them to where they want to go. Meetings that leverage past meetings and keep everyone focused on company-wide goals are the most efficient and productive.
Taking notes during meetings is one of the best ways to make this happen. Notes allow participants to reference and review the topics previously discussed (either in real time or asynchronously). Thorough, detailed notes with deadlines and related tasks assigned to the accountable person maximize the chances that the topics and ideas discussed in the meeting come to fruition.
Using a meeting tool like Range helps executive teams stay in the loop and actively involved in achieving targets designated in leadership meetings.
Effective leadership meetings don’t just happen.
They require a solid agenda, advanced preparation, engaged participants, and a clear purpose. When all these components are present, you will focus your leadership team meetings on the most important items.
This clarity allows them to guide their teams efficiently, driving company initiatives forward.
Could you use a robust tool to help you plan your leadership meeting agenda and keep everyone informed with follow-up and next steps?