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3 Tips to Improve Leadership Meetings

Poorly led weekly leadership team meetings waste two of a CEO’s most precious resources: your time and your team’s time. They could also be symptomatic of deeper communication issues that may be stalling key tasks from the C-Suite all the way down to the ground floor.

Below, we’ll discuss how to run a leadership meeting that yields results and makes the most of everyone’s time. You can use these three tips to keep your weekly leadership team meetings on point and your company marching towards BIG.

What Is a Leadership Meeting?

A leadership meeting is a weekly meeting where the management team or senior leadership comes together to share information to make business decisions. This event looks different from company to company. At a smaller business, attendees might be the director of marketing, sales manager, production officer, and president, while leadership meetings at a larger company might consist of C-Suite level executives such as the CEO, COO, CFO, CMO , and so forth.

There are several reasons why holding a leadership meeting is important. By bringing the decision makers and managers together weekly, you’re able to discuss goals, progress, initiatives, and milestones. Additionally, it serves as a time to identify any issues within the company and to brainstorm creative solutions to keep the business moving forward.

It’s also important to note that leadership meetings differ from other types of meetings, such as all-hands, board meetings, strategy meetings, and so forth.

Here’s how other types of meetings compare to leadership meetings:

  • Board meetings: Board meetings consist of members of the board of a privately held company or nonprofit organization. They are more formal and typically discuss an organization’s budget. Leadership meetings consist of executives and managers within a company to make decisions related to sales, marketing, HR, and so forth.
  • All-hands meetings: Whereas leadership meetings only consist of the highest members in an organization, all-hands meetings include every employee. During an all-hands meeting, topics like company growth, performance, and accomplishments are shared with the larger team.
  • Kickoff meetings: Whether it’s the start of a new month or quarter, or your organization is planning on rolling out a new product or service, it’s wise to have a kickoff meeting. Kickoff meetings let you discuss what your new initiative is about or give time to go over what employees can expect for the month ahead to be prepared.
  • Strategy meetings: Leadership meetings focus on a wide range of factors within a company, such as HR, marketing, and sales. Strategic planning has a specific purpose; they are centered around reaching certain goals and planning for the future, and might include topics around developing new products or converting more leads. Through a strategic planning session, CEOs will be able to consult with their leadership team to discuss annual or quarterly goals, discuss a path to reach milestones, and create a trajectory for the entire company to ensure success.

All of these meetings, including leadership meetings, can take different forms, such as in-person or through video calls. With that said, it’s important to know how to run a leadership meeting, which we’ll discuss in more detail in the next section.

How To Prepare for a Leadership Meeting

We’ve all heard the phrase, “This meeting could have been an email.” The last thing you want is to hold a leadership meeting that takes away from people’s time, which is why preparation is key. One way to make an effective meeting is leveraging your Chief of Staff or Executive Assistant who have the skills and knowledge to solve leadership problems and collaborate with teams to improve processes. A COS or EA can also help you create a meeting agenda that’s productive.

Creating a leadership meeting agenda is a great way to organize the key points you will touch on and will help ensure the meeting goes smoothly. Additionally, discuss several leadership meeting ideas with other executives who will attend to determine if there are other topics that need to be brought up.

As remote work increases, more meetings are going virtual. But technology can be finicky, which is why it’s essential you prepare when hosting a leadership meeting online. Some ways to plan for a virtual meeting include:

  • Creating an agenda that engages staff and encourages participation and brainstorming
  • Using features such as breakout rooms to promote collaboration
  • Bringing in guest speakers to provide learning opportunities
  • Giving everyone a chance to present

With a set of leadership meeting topics, you can ensure progress will be made to address any goals or issues within your organization.

1. Reevaluate the meeting cadence.

The most common error that CEOs make with leadership team meetings is they let the conversation get distracted by the day’s hot topic: a success, a failure, a brewing crisis, a tantalizing opportunity, the latest tweet. But there’s a difference between what seems like the most urgent issue right now, and what’s most important for your leadership team to accomplish in this room in the next hour.

A regularly-scheduled leadership team meeting is not a forum for putting out fires or dreaming up the next potential innovation. This meeting is one critical beat in your larger company-wide meeting rhythm. Miss one beat and the rest will lose their tempo too.

Having a CEO meeting rhythm in place is essential, and every CEO needs to have these five meetings on the calendar:

  1. Annual: Your “State of the Company” meeting that sets actionable targets for the year ahead.
  2. Quarterly: Planning session with your leadership team to discuss what went right, what went wrong, and how to recalibrate for next quarter.
  3. Monthly: Department meetings in which your leadership team updates their staff on progress towards goals.
  4. Weekly: Leadership team meeting to review progress on key tasks.
  5. Daily: Each leadership team below the C-Suite should have a quick huddle with their management team. Don’t even sit down if you can avoid it.

With these regularly occurring meetings on your calendar, you’ll be able to stay on track to reaching your goals. However, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t have a meeting just to have one. Every meeting should have a purpose, so you need to ask yourself, “Can a well-drafted memo suffice, or should I bring the leadership team together to discuss together?”
The last thing you want is to waste time, so make sure you have a leadership meeting agenda in place going into every meeting.

2. Set a clear agenda.

Having a plan in place before going into a meeting will ensure you stay on track when discussing what needs to get accomplished. It can be easy for attention to get diverted, so set a clear leadership meeting agenda and send it to each attendee so they can come to the meeting prepared.

Our battle-tested blueprint for an effective weekly leadership meeting has four parts:

1) Results. A ten-minute review of the weekly KPI scorecard that tracks the one or two metrics that are most critical to your company’s success. Make sure everyone understands where your numbers are and where they should be.

2) Progress. Give each leader two or three minutes to report on how his or her department is doing in moving these key metrics forward. Don’t let your leaders recite their to-do lists, and don’t let these progress reports turn into 20-minute monologues. You want to hear about how their activities are generating short-term momentum that’s building towards your long-term targets. Every meeting attendee should get in the habit of preparing their progress report ahead of the meeting so that you get through the important info as succinctly as possible.

3) Issues. One of the most important questions CEOs have to ask themselves is, “What can get in the way of what I want?” Keep this part of the meeting moving by acknowledging the issue and then asking the room, “What else?” We’re building an action list here, not solving all of the company’s problems.

4) Discussion. After every leader has raised their issues, one or two pressing concerns might emerge that are directly related to progress on KPIs. It’s the CEO’s responsibility to keep the discussion focused on just those leadership meeting topics. A supply chain issue that might cripple this month’s numbers needs to be talked out. A cool new piece of tech that could streamline your supply chain next year does not.

Sound simple? Good, because the agenda for this meeting should be. Aim for an hour. The less room there is for distractions and tangents, the better you’re all going to feel when you adjourn.

With that said, it’s important to prioritize items on your agenda, as you may find yourself running out of time during a meeting. Prioritizing items on the agenda can ensure you discuss the most important factors.

Additionally, you want to make sure you respect everyone’s time. Allow each member of the leadership team to share important updates and touch on their wins and losses, but make sure no one’s dominating the conversation and taking away from someone else. You also want to make sure you set a hard deadline, so the meeting doesn’t interfere with someone’s schedule. You can always send a wrap-up email or memo post-meeting so attendees can reflect on what was discussed.

3. Notes and follow-ups.

My favorite Discussion issues are the ones where a leader shoots his hand in the air and says, “That’s mine, I got it.” When my leaders are claiming ownership on problems and take responsibility to fix them, then I know that I’ve delegated well, and that we’re all focused on the same goals.

But if you’re discussing an issue and everyone is looking around the table at everyone else, that’s a good sign this week’s leadership meeting is over. Get a more granular meeting on the calendar ASAP. Same for any innovative ideas that might be worth exploring down the road, or potential hazards you’re keeping on your radar. Make sure you have a mechanism to follow up on issues that fall outside the purview of the weekly leadership meeting, particularly employee issues, comments, or concerns.

After each meeting, make sure to consolidate meeting notes and have an updated document that the leadership team can refer back to. This way, they can take a look at action items that need to be completed and can remember the main points brought up during the meeting. Also, take the time to ask for feedback on how the meeting went and areas for improvement, so your team can get the most out of each meeting.

Of course, the most important piece of follow-up is … next week’s leadership meeting, where you’ll review, report, and discuss all over again.

Sticking to this agenda and meeting rhythm is how you foster a culture of accountability. And companies that hold themselves accountable for hitting their targets are the ones that get BIG—fast.

At CEO Coaching International, we offer executive coaching services that can help hold CEOs and senior executives accountable to achieve their company’s revenue and profit goals. We also host executive coaching events that benefit our clients and their companies.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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