My client, CEO of a large financial services firm, drummed his fingers on the table and looked out the window. It was beautiful outside, the first warm and sunny day of spring. Inside, the fourth PowerPoint deck of the day was being presented. All the decks had been at least 45 slides in length and my client’s frustration was clearly visible. The tension in the room was palpable.
The goal for the offsite had been to discuss and debate various strategic options and to align around a common enterprise strategy. Unfortunately, like many previous meetings, the day had turned out to be a presentation-fest with only brief and perfunctory opportunities for dialogue. The energy in the room had long since been drained, and no decisions had been or were likely to be.
When Frustration Rules…
Does this sound familiar? Wonder if I’m talking about your last executive team meeting? I’d be willing (almost) to bet my 401K that you have sat through way too many meetings like this in your career. And then afterwards you and your colleagues reconvened in someone’s office to express frustration about another meeting that had turned out to be a waste of time with nothing decided.
Back in the day, there was a popular magazine column titled “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” What I want to ask in this case is, “Can your executive team meetings be saved?” The answer is yes, but it is not going to be easy.
Six Principles for Better Meetings
Declaring and upholding the following principles will help make your meetings energizing, productive and (gasp!) something to look forward to:
- Meetings are for discussion, debate and decision making, not presentations
- At least 50% of every meeting must be spent on discussion, debate and decision making
- All agenda items must begin with a statement of the outcome desired and what is needed from team members (e.g. “I need a decision on whether to stop the experiment.”)
- Background information should be sent out a minimum of 24 hours in advance of the meeting and will be assumed to have been read
- No more than 50% of the time for any individual agenda item can be spent on a presentation
- Presentations must be no longer than 5 slides in length
Start every meeting by reviewing these principles. End every meeting by evaluating how the team did in sticking to them.
Changing bad habits to improve bad meetings is not easy. So, let me make an offer. Invite a TBG CEO Advisor to attend an upcoming executive team meeting. For $500 she or he will observe, evaluate, and make actionable recommendations for how to improve your meetings going forward. Click here to request a consultation – it might just be the best investment in productivity (and your sanity) you make in 2017!