You launched your business to be your own boss, to have more freedom, to make your own decisions. With success however, comes growth. And with growth, the owner finds themself transition from being the focal point of the business to being one level removed from the day to day pulse of the company. They find themselves spending more time thinking about and planning for the future than the day to day execution. And, if they’re not careful, their vision and priorities for the business can get lost at the lower levels of the organization. So, it begs the question, what can the business owner do to ensure they are in touch with the business and the business is in tune with them? I advise my clients to pay particular attention to the Leadership Team Meeting. A successful leadership team meeting structure is crucial to keep the business on track and in alignment.
Why do you need a leadership team meeting?
The leadership team meeting is all about keeping the business moving forward and in alignment. Small companies become successful through the drive of the business owner. They make all the decisions, they drive the business forward, and they have the full pulse of the organization because they live it day to day. At some point, though, the company gets too big to be managed that way. The owner finds they need a team of leaders around them to move the organization forward effectively. And that is where the risk creeps into the equation.
The risk is in how well the business owner can ensure that their vision, strategies, and priorities for the organization are communicated and executed through the leadership team to the rest of the organization. It is not about micromanaging the organization; it is about informing and reinforcing a framework for decision making aligned with where the owner wants the organization to go. The leadership team meeting is the structure through which the business owner reinforces that framework and gets the information they need to make adjustments as necessary. If the leadership team isn’t meeting regularly and communicating openly, the message can be lost. And that’s where momentum slows, and confusion begins.
How do you run your meeting effectively?
Now that you are planning for leadership team meetings, it’s time to think about how you will run them. I love to talk about being intentional, and your sessions need to be just that. The purpose of the leadership team meeting is to get crucial information and updates on the table, discuss them, and make decisions as necessary.
The first piece of a successful leadership team meeting is to have an agenda. Each member of the team should let the leader know what topics they need to discuss and what input or decisions they need help with. The first item on that agenda, though, is to focus the team on the long-term vision and annual goals for the business. It may sound silly, but it puts the entire meeting in context. And then move to and stick with the agenda. Each agenda item should be time-bound. If you can’t resolve it, create a separate time to discuss it.
The second piece of running a successful team meeting is to have a set of ground rules for the meeting. It’s all about setting expectations around timeliness, focus, and issue resolution. Why do these even matter? They matter because, at some point, the meeting will start to slide. If half your team is checking email, then they are not present in the meeting. I know some leaders who insist no computers or devices are in use at the leadership team meeting. If key people are late to the meeting, you find yourself revisiting topics and wasting the time of those who were prompt. And how will you handle disagreements and differences of opinion? It helps to know that in advance.
Do not create your leadership team meeting rules in a vacuum. Develop them as a team, discuss them, and ensure everyone on the team has a voice. And the rules you create can evolve. As your business grows and the organization evolves, so should your rules.
How do you end the leadership team meeting?
We’ve discussed why the meeting is essential and the best way for you to run the meeting. Why does it matter how you end the session? As it turns out, it matters quite a lot.
The first thing to do is to make sure that you have a meeting rule around how you come to and communicate decisions. It’s a rare organization where you have 100% agreement on every decision. A meeting rule that states something like “80% agreement is 100% commitment.” What does that mean? It means you should strive to get 80% consensus on every decision. More importantly, the decision requires a 100% commitment from the team. Whether they agree with the decision or not, every member of the team will be on board with it.
The second thing to do is to document the outcomes, follow up, and commitments from the meeting. Have someone in the room whose sole role is to take notes and document the decisions. Why? It ensures that there is no misinterpretation of a discussion or decision. And it provides a reference to go back to if you have to revisit the decision and will be a crucial part of any after-action review.
Finally, there should be an agreement on how you will communicate decisions to the rest of the organization. Will each member of the leadership team share it with their respective team? Or will there be a broad, written communication to the team? What are the major talking points that you will have? Remember, every decision in the leadership team meeting requires 100% commitment of the attendees, and you will want to communicate that effectively.
I know many people roll their eyes about meetings. But well-run meetings, especially by the leadership team, are a critical value add to the organization. And when the meetings are productive, well run, and valuable, the attendees will see the value in them. The critical benefit of the leadership team meeting is keeping the organization focused and aligned.