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Ten Rules for Better Meetings

The phrase “Death by Meeting” didn’t come out of nowhere. Better meetings start with better meeting rules. Today’s post will cover ten meeting rules that will make yoru leadership team meetings more focused and valuable with better outcomes to move your business forward.

Rules for Better Meetings

Meeting Rule One – State Why the Meeting Matters

I recall a meeting where a contractor pulled 15 people, including me, into a room. It was billed as an important meeting, and he created a sense of urgency around it. As it turned out, it was a general update meeting he wanted to use to sell another phase of the engagement. I pulled the plug on that meeting in 10 minutes.

If you’re calling a meeting, it is on you you to state upfront why the discussion matters. How does it tie into our strategic goals? How is it related to the key, measurable objectives or project priorities for the business? And if it doesn’t meet this context, why are you pulling all these people together?

Meeting Rule Two – Decide What Kind of Meeting This Is

There are many types of meetings to be had in an organization. At the leadership level, you typically see meetings for:

  •       Project Status or Update Meetings (don’t have this meeting, by the way, send an email)
  •       Problem Solving Meetings
  •       Planning Meetings
  •       Decision-Making Meetings
  •       Brainstorming Meetings

Meeting Rule Three – Decide Who Needs to Be in the Meeting (and Who Does Not)

I once worked for a company where the CEO believed people felt honored and included if they were invited to every vendor presentation he liked. And it wasn’t perfect. The table was packed, and the seats in the room were full. And nearly everyone was checked out. There is not always honor in being included. Sometimes you do have work to do!

Only invite the people to the meeting who need to be there based on the purpose of the meeting in Item 2. Everyone else can get updated by email or by an attendee during 1:1 if they need to be updated.

Meeting Rule Four – First Team Mentality

This is crucial for meetings of the leadership team. If you report to the CEO, you are part of the leadership team, and your first loyalty and responsibility are to that group. Of course, we want to treat our teams well, with respect, empathy, and fairness. But they are our second responsibility, not the first.

When we are solving problems and setting direction, we do so with the intent of what is best for the business. It requires objectivity and professionalism. It isn’t always easy, and it is always essential.

Meeting Rule Five – Treat Each Attendee with Respect

This seems easy. And then ask yourself, how often are you checking email during meetings? And to be clear, I am guilty of this as well. Here is how we treat our fellow meeting attendees with respect.

  •       Assume positive intent from all attendees
  •       Speak with respectful honesty
  •       Be focused and present the entire meeting
  •       Take turns talking – no sidebars, no overtalking

Meeting Rule Six – Openness and Transparency

The leadership team meeting is not the time to withhold information. You can’t make the best decisions for the business without complete details. I made this mistake. I allowed a leadership team member to do her work in a bubble. And it bit the company and me hard when what they were working on didn’t have the benefit of the entire team’s input. Don’t make that mistake. Some additional meeting rules:

  •       All substantive problems are transparent to the team
  •       Discussions are fully open and constructive
  •       Clarity on what is confidential to ensure transparency to the team is full

Meeting Rule Seven – Assignments and Accountability are Clear

As the meeting winds to a close, make sure everyone is clear on their assignments from the meeting. Whoever is taking the notes to send out after the fact should provide a clear list of action items, the deliverable, and who is responsible for it.

Meeting Rule Eight – Every Decision Made Has 100% Commitment from the Team

We are human, and we have different perspectives and conclusions on items that matter. I encourage disagreement in leadership team meetings. Groupthink will kill your business, and healthy debate leads to better decisions.

But when you and the team leave that meeting, you are 100% committed to the decision made. And when you meet with your team to discuss, there is no disagreement about the decision made. You will fully support it, even if you disagree with it in the meeting.

The fastest way to undermine leadership team decisions is to return to your team and say you don’t support it. That word will spread, reducing team cohesion and slowing your progress.

Meeting Rule Nine – Communication Plans for Every Decision

Once the decision is made, do not assume everyone has the right talking points in their head. Before leaving that room, make sure you and your team have developed talking points for the decision. Get them written down and use them to communicate the decision to their teams.

This ensures the same message will be communicated to all. Even if you follow Rule 8 religiously, you risk muddying the message if you have not agreed on how to share the decision.

Meeting Rule Ten – No Meetings After the Meeting

Another way to undermine leadership team decisions is to leave the meeting and pull individual team members aside to discuss and disagree with the decision. Leave everything on the table in the meeting and say everything that must be said.

If you hold back and try to lobby people 1:1 to disagree with or change the decision, you dishonor your team. And you’ve wasted their time in the meeting itself. This is a matter of integrity. Just don’t do it.

And there you have it. Ten rules that will make your leadership team meetings more focused and effective.

If you’re struggling with your leadership team meetings, let’s talk about it. We can find out what is getting in your way and how you can move forward to better leadership.