5 Tips for Taking Charge of Executive Team Meetings

Time, it’s 11:05 and thank you for joining our lunch and learn. We are going to get started right now. This month’s topic is tips for executive team meetings. Very important meeting. Probably the most important meeting in the company, so certainly something we should pay attention to. A couple of housekeeping items as we get started.

You should know that everybody is muted so don’t worry if you are having your lunch now and are eating. That won’t interrupt anyone and also if you’re on the website, web joining us then hopefully you’ll be sending in some chats, we’re going to make this pretty interactive as we’re going through and know that your chats are going directly to me, they are private, so don’t worry about what you put in there, there’s no such thing as a question that isn’t [Inaudible 00:01:00].

We’re going to get started right now. At the end of the conference, I will have my contact information there so you can capture that if you want to send me a follow up. I’ll also take questions privately afterwards if you want and something spurts your thought, just press pound three at the end or send me a chat and we’ll get going with that.

Let’s jump into things, we got a pretty full agenda today. Want to talk about executive meetings. Give you, talk about some of the different challenges as I’m going through this now. Why don’t you send me a chat just as we’re getting started. Let me know what your role is in the company. What’s your purpose here today is, are you a executive yourself and looking for ways to bring your meetings to the next level or do you participate? Let me know and that could be helpful.

We’ll try to tune things to your particular scenarios. We’ll talk about planning ahead of time through the meeting. What time of structures work well. How to put together an effective agenda. Want to talk just about conflict management because sometimes it does come up believe it or not. Appropriate and relevant ways to do that and then we’ll have some takeaways at the end.

I did want to mention if anyone had seen the part about six hats in the invite. Not sure we’re going to get to that. If we don’t, there is information in the handout afterwards. Briefly as an introduction. My name is again, Brad. I’m president of Adigo and I had experience in both public and private companies. Have started a number of companies myself.

With that experience, I have been in many different executive meetings and some of them are highly effective so that’s wonderful but quite frankly, many had not been. We can certainly all learn, myself included and I’ve learned quite a bit in putting this together. Our research staff has brought together some interesting best practices that they found.

I wish I would have known some of these things years ago. Again, serious to chat, paying so. If you have a moment, please send me a chat, love to hear what you’re curious about and things like that and we’ll make it interactive with some other questions later on. First of all, let’s just talk about executive meetings.

This is the top brass within the company. It’s most important and what’s your experience within your own organization. Is it dysfunction or is it a smooth running machine that all the departments want to emulate with their own meetings? The aspect that’s most critical, of course, about an executive meeting is the value of people’s time. You’ve got the most, highest paid people.

Strategic thinkers within the organization and depending on how big the company is, that might be thousands of dollars per hour, literally, $20 bills burning up every single minute. As we see here in Colorado, not quite Peyton Manning rates but potentially getting close even for him. I think the ironic thing is that this can also be the most difficult meetings.

People somewhat maybe expect that these are the executives and so they know what they’re doing, they don’t need any help. Quite frankly, it’s a very diverse group. You’ve got people from all different fields. Technical, accounting, finance. People bringing in very different perspective. There’s also typically quite a significant age difference within the organization.

Everyone brings in a quite a different personal style. What does this mean? When you combine all of these things, well, you need to have a very fast meeting, efficient meeting. Speed is important. The organization of it is going to be critical and really what you’re going after is a highly interactive discussion. Recommendation number one, starting early in the webinar is you utilize a facilitator.

Have a coach or someone like that come in, yes, even for the executive meetings it’s appropriate. Have them come in, whether it’s once a year or every six months. Have someone come in and listen and undoubtedly, they’ll be able to give recommendations for how to facilitate the meeting more effectively and I’m convinced that this is just a smart, very cost-effective move for really any organization.

What it’s like in your group? Is it egos? Are there politics involved? What’s the scenario? Send me a chat if you’ve got some horror stories or play stories. It’s always fun to share that. I know I’ve certainly been involved in quite a few. Where really all of these things have happened. Turf battles for sure. It depends on if an organization is growing or constricting, that can impact a lot of these things.

Some organizations, they want to placate the president and not that there is a yes man for every topic but the degree of challenge in each other is different and when this is not an effective meeting. Really what happens is the staff within the group but more widespread throughout the organization is going to end up losing trust.

This is also critical for those reasons is the executive team purely reactive. Are they only firefighting some organizations, especially high tech organizations can sometimes fall into a scenario of competitor chasing. Where they’re very reactive. I’m a big fan of Dilbert and we’ve all seen the Dilbert loves to talk about the idea, the management, guru coming in, consulting company with the idea of the year and then you chase down that.

Really what you’re hoping for though is alignment throughout the organization because this is going to impact the morale, and the overall culture throughout the entire organization. If these aren’t done correctly, the result can simply be a lot of dysfunction quite honestly. You don’t want executive meetings just to be bitch session. This is the leadership of the organization and there’s significant financial implications obviously is these meetings aren’t efficient, fast and a value to all involved.

Let’s talk about how we can make this most effective within different types of organizations. First of all, like many things, planning is the most important. I like to say that in this case, cheating is encouraged. Don’t go into these meetings blind. What I mean by that is as the executive or the person that’s planning the meeting whether it’s the president or someone else, do your homework ahead of time.

You want to set ground rules for the level of preparation, the expectations ahead of time, and so it’s important to meet with the participants maybe a week prior depending on if this is a monthly meeting or every other week meeting. Because the important thing to focus on when everyone is together are issues that are require coordination throughout the organization.

Whether it’s new product roll-outs that are going to impact marketing. Have a financial implications, sales implications. Those are the things that are important to discuss when the entire team is together or issues might involve things that require decisions or approvals. When those are in play, again you want to talk about not the concept but clarifying the trade offs and having the criteria very clear.

These are the things that you need to facilitate ahead of time to make sure that when the group is brought together, these trade offs are very clear. Have that discussion up front, perhaps one on one. Another thing is about attendees. I think there’s a tremendous amount of value people said in research. Bring internal guests into the meetings. Not necessarily on every single meeting but perhaps every other month.

It promotes communication throughout the organization. You can have tremendous mentoring effect and it drives expectations down throughout the organization when people see what’s happening at the executive level, if it’s done effectively and efficiently. In terms of guest coming in from outside of the organization thought, be careful. Make sure everyone is aware, make sure those are setup ahead of time and there’s a good reason to do it.

Lastly, all sites can be very effective. Encourage that for more strategic thinking. Whether it’s budgeting at the end of the year, or looking at new initiatives. Many companies becomes so busy that they forget about the value of doing it on site, with the executive team. In terms of a meeting itself, let’s talk about the different types of structures.

First of all the morning is a great time to start your meeting. Many companies have a after-lunch meeting and people are already absorbed in their day. They might be missing lunch or there’s just a tremendous amount of reasons to have things in the mornings. In terms of duration, we’ve all probably heard about executive meetings that last all day or half a day.

Think for yourself how effective you are in a meeting like that and how valuable and efficient that is for your time. Recommendations typically for best practices are 90 minutes depending on the organization. Sure that may stretch two hours, but really that’s typically considered the maximum amount of time.

If you just got more issues to discuss. One way to get around that is to have a more frequent meeting but rotate the topics. You’re not discussing the same. You’re not getting a status update on every single thing or department on every meeting. Maybe you skip around and every third meetings finance gives an update, for example. That can help bring down the time for each meeting.

Some of these I hope are obvious for most of the people attending today. Certainly, you want to distribute the agenda several days in advance. Again, your ground rules and your expectations is that there’s tremendous amount of preparation and how can you prepare if you don’t know what the agenda is ahead of time.

We’ll go through this in a little bit more detail in another slide. Focus on presentations first. If it’s a status update or you’re hearing from different people. Do that at the beginning and then have the discussion afterwards. It’s also important to capture note of a meeting and have that done in real time. Have some type of administrative assistant participate in the meetings, so that notes are up on a large monitor or screen so that everyone can see them and everyone can, that will help keep the meeting moving forward and have it be very efficient.

I’ll say this again later, but down here, committees in non-profits are very effective and non-profits and some government organizations can certainly run a meeting somewhat efficiently with Robert Rules and not all executive teams do that. There are some ways where you can emulate that and take some good practices from there.

In the situation where there’s a problem or a significant issue. Then acknowledge it early on but handle it offline perhaps in a committee unless it really does involve everyone in terms of making a decision. Again, when you have the whole executive team together, the focus should be on decisions that the company needs to make.

All right. Going to keep rolling. As far as the agenda itself, these are best practices that are considered relevant across many many different types of organizations. Don’t focus on getting updates from department heads in the executive meetings. There’s a more effective and efficient way to do that. 20% maximum should be of just giving updates or current status on things.

There’s other ways to communicate that than in an executive meeting. Some things you definitely need to have. Key performance indicators. Those should be addressed monthly or quarterly, depending on your format. What’s important to always focus on is the metrics. Send me a chat, let me know how many of your organizations currently have metrics tracking your key performance indicators that you update on on a regular basis and people throughout the organization are aware of where you currently are.

Hopefully you answer yes, Lisa, thanks for that input. Jim, see something. Thank you. If you’ve got that, then you’re doing very well so that’s terrific. You also want to focus on what are the different strategies within each department to support those key performance indicators and what are the activities and initiatives for each, to accomplish each of these strategies.

Your terminology in your specific organization may be a little different but basically what we’re talking about here is what is the organization signed up to do to get the accomplished. The goals that are set at the executive level. What you want to focus I think on is are you meeting those accomplishments, are you on schedule or are things behind schedule?

If you’re not accomplishing your goal then the schedule may be one reason but sometimes people forget to focus also on the impact. You might be on schedule, you might be accomplishing the activities but they may not be having the anticipated impact that you thought six months ago or 12 months ago when these activities were first agreed upon.

That’s why it’s always critical to come back to the metrics. Are you accomplishing the metrics, that’s the bottom line. It’s important to know whether it’s a schedule issue or an impact issue. Second part of the agenda should be focusing on things that require coordination within the company. Before I talked about perhaps it’s a product launch.

Perhaps you’ve got new software tools rolling out within the organization that touches many different departments. These are the type of things that are relevant and important to talk about because you can verify what’s happening with all the departments involved. There might be timing issues that are important to discuss as a group and when that happens, there could be risks involved. These are important items to discuss.

Other things might be decisions. Are you making a decision on a new R&D project that’s going on and whether to continue to fund it or not? That might be a decision that the entire team is making. The question you need to ask is is the available data enough or do you need to get more data and focus on not just the vote but the discussion because the vote really can happen offline.

What the value of the group is is having that interactive discussion from different view points and perspectives. It’s important that everyone is aware of what the risks are that are involved. You might also be discussing certain challenges that are new whether it’s a competitor or new legislation, legal environment that’s changed or something with the economy.

If there’s new items that people are bringing up, it’s likely is better to just list them out and save the problem solving for later when you have more information and the date has been gathered and you’ve done that prep work of making sure that all the information is clear and concise. If there are issues that do come up, conflict management, even in executive teams is important to handle.

There’s a lot of good information out there, on the bottom here, we have a reference I’d be happy to share with folks. It’s important to I think focus on these bottom three techniques and approaches when there are significant disagreements within the group. What’s really important is if the discussion gets heated, take a break.

It’s an invaluable exercise just to let people cool down for a minute, take a break and the first thing you really want to do is just identify the scope of the issue, because likely people have different perspectives and they have different thinking about it and that’s really all you want to do as a group. Later in a different meeting, you can talk about possible solutions again, you’ll probably need other people involved and other data collected.

It’s appropriate to do that in a separate meeting. The only thing you really need to accomplish with the executive team is understanding the scope. We talked briefly about documenting early. It’s so easy to record these meetings, you can just have a one line into a conference system, they’ll record it for you without any hassle at all.

Also important to be taking notes that everyone can see as we mentioned earlier. Can’t stress that enough for follow up. We’re already burned through our 20 minutes takeaways, we’re in a definitely emphasize, utilizing the facilitator or a coach, I think people will find the value of that significant pre-plan on these meetings.

No one really ever has the time to do that, the time they’d like to have. You might need to delegate that to some extent from the leader. The more they can do that themselves, I think the more effective and efficient the meeting will be. Focus on area of coordination within the different departments, that’s what you want to have during these executive team meetings.

Also outlining, what are the trade offs involved with different decisions that people are making. Finally, important to update on the metrics whether it’s a schedule issue or the impact of the activities that the entire company has signed up for and whether those are relevant still to the key performance indicators.

Really appreciate everyone’s time, appreciate the chat people sent in. Here’s my information. Be happy to send you the slides or references that people, that we had in this slide. We do this every month and really want to make it more relevant so please send me another chat, mail. 

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