How to make a good leadership team meeting

    What’s the purpose of an executive meeting

    Every executive team needs a regular meeting (we suggest ninety minutes) where you can ensure the smooth operations of your company.

    It is a time where the senior executives come together to celebrate wins, make decisions, raise and resolve issues, ensure alignment and create visibility across each department.

    • Always start by celebrating one or two wins. Running a business is hard and can sometimes feel like a never-ending stream of battles. Take the time to enjoy the victories that you achieve,
    • Ensure everyone is aligned on what matters (e.g the objectives set for the quarter and how everyone is tracking to them)
    • This is a time where you can make decisions that require cross-functional participation (or to delegate the decision to the relevant person)
    • It's also a time that you can raise new issues.


    What does a good executive meeting look like?

    Before the meeting

    Every good meeting requires an agenda. To build the agenda, ask yourself the following question "What do we hope to have achieved once the meeting is over." If you don't focus on the outcomes, you'll just end up with a meeting stew, filled with loads of half-debated ideas and no actionable steps to take.

    Some examples of outcomes could be:

      • We need to make a decision on the new bonus scheme
      • A competitor just launched a new product that is hurting our growth
      • The product team has something special that they think will double revenues from existing clients

    Pre-reading should be necessary. This is an expensive meeting. There isn't time to read and debate because the quality of the decisions that follow will be poor. It can be difficult to encourage people to conduct pre-reading and so use one or both of the following methods:

    1.  You may only participate in the meeting if you have completed the pre-reading. If you haven't done any pre-reading, you are in a listen-only mode.
    2.  Allocate the first 15 minutes of a meeting to silent reading (better for a shorter prepared meeting than a longer, unprepared one)

    Pre-readings should be sent at least a full day before the meeting. Because of this, and because your one-on-ones should be done on Monday, this meeting should take place on a Tuesday or Wednesday.


    Intro (20mins)

    • Ensure the Vision statement is prominent. While you may feel like you're repeating yourself, it's better that people know your vision by heart and be a little annoyed. Remind everyone why they are there. The more you repeat the better. All ELT members should be able to recant the 3-6 strategy goals by heart

    • Go through one or two quick wins. This is not one win per person because you'll end up celebrating triviality (which demeans a celebration) but the one or two things that have really positively impacted the company.

    • Key Metrics: These should be pre-read ahead of time. Focus on the metrics that are diverging from the plan.
      • Celebrate the metrics that are ahead of the target
      • Provide reasons behind those under target and the solutions (if any). In order to be accountable, the solutions for under-target metrics should be assigned to a Directly Responsible individual and discussed at the nearest appropriate meeting

    • Any significant deviations from OKR
      • If you become aware of a significant miss to your OKRs, inform the team at the earliest opportunity. Provide a reason but not discussion needs to occur at this time.

    Main Items (one hour)

    The meat of the meeting is to discuss the main items that require executive attention. If you find that you need significantly more time on an issue, it probably means that you need a number of separate meetings to get closer to a decision.

    Remember, this meeting is expensive and shouldn’t be used to brainstorm half-formed ideas, it's for coming with solutions. Each function should have ownership of their projects and trust from others.

    Remember the Intel mantra of ‘Disagree and commit’. You should stir up healthy debate. It is important that everyone is heard but a decision may be required
      • You must try to conclude each discussion with a decision.
      • If you cannot come to a decision, you should outline the data points required to make a decision and then re-table the item as soon as those data points are available

    Avoid going down rabbit holes. If something important comes up that wasn’t in the agenda, commit to discussing the topic at the next leadership meeting (when the facts can be shared and analysed)


    Closing (10 mins)

    It can be tempting to shut the meeting after the main items are discussed but this is a mistake. The close process helps to take the powerful insights you've shared and turn them into actions which your team can be held accountable for.

    • Recap what was agreed to be done and assign a Directly Responsible Individual. You should ask them what they believe is a reasonable timeline (it doesn’t have to come that second, but it should come)
    • If an item wasn’t concluded, make sure that it is re-tabled at the earliest opportunity
    • Confirm any communication that needs to be filtered down from the Leadership Team
    • Discuss the content of all-hands meetings