As we get back to life with more group interaction, I have been reminded of some important opportunities to use meetings to make our organizations better. In my first few years as a CEO, our company meetings and data generation were not optimal. We used materials that had evolved piecemeal without a strategy or understanding of how best to spend time together. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. Too often, our monthly progress meetings were inefficient and failed to help us move forward. Maybe you can relate to this experience? When we finally learned how to structure an executive meeting, the materials to share in advance, and how organized communication could prepare and align people, our meetings became productive, and the organization excelled.
What are the monthly or quarterly reporting, meeting, and communication styles of your organization? Do you have a well-defined board package or meeting pre-read packet? Are any techniques or tools missing?
Here are four tools for effective board or senior leadership meetings that I have applied and observed in businesses and while working with others:
- Consistent Agenda: Adopt a standard meeting agenda and follow it for every meeting. Condition your team to know what will be covered in each section and make it easy to update information. Then, the group can spend their time and energy looking for patterns and exceptions to solve problems. When we measure and observe, things tend to move in the direction we desire. Consistency allows us to focus without distraction and stay on topic.
- Revisit Your Mission/Strategy: Discuss and include a small section of your corporate objectives at every meeting. Don’t assume that because a mission or strategy statement is hanging on the wall or printed on a colorful glossy that everyone has internalized it. Begin every monthly meeting with a review of one line of your mission statement. Reviewing a small piece at every gathering can help build and later reinforce a collective understanding of your corporate identity and priorities so they become ingrained in your culture.
- Help Participants Come Prepared: The most impactful way to make meetings successful may also be the one most often missed. Great meetings are those where participants have received information in advance. When the data and written situation reports are delivered and reviewed ahead of time, the meeting participants (in-person or online) can spend their time together making progress and decisions. Too often, pre-meeting information is nonexistent, delivered at the last minute, or incomplete. Note: Deliver all materials a minimum of 48 hours in advance of the meeting.
- Minutes and Next Steps: Always end a meeting by defining the next steps and clearly confirming expectations and the individuals responsible for the actions. After the meeting, follow up with the action items so time spent on a subject was not wasted. Send out minutes to recap the discussion and next steps. Be sure to get confirmation and approval of the minutes from every participant – in writing.
Tighten up the documentation, share your mission, prepare your participants, and always follow up. As a result, your meetings will become focused on fixing problems, bringing stakeholders together, and identifying opportunities to move things forward. What are your next steps to get there?
Artwork: Izhar Cohen