Executive Meetings: From the Holiday Table to the Board Room

Posted by: in Communication, Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy, executive insights, Organizational Communications on December 16, 2014

ExecutiveMeetingsRegardless of your industry, the size of your organization or your particular role, it’s likely that you spend much of your day in meetings. As a result, today’s business publications are littered with advice on how to improve effectiveness of collaboration and “How to Run a Meeting Like Google” or Apple! The productivity of meetings is a simple, but significant business priority, particularly within the context of the leadership table.

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A recent study showed that 65% of leadership team meetings aren’t set with the objective of making a business decision. Executive groups that do manage to decide on top-level issues often encounter trouble executing on them. These realities present a pressing business problem. Squandering executive time is diminishing organizational value.

While preparing dinner with my highly opinionated and particular family over the Thanksgiving holiday, I found myself observing  parallels between the executive table and the one with my turkey dinner on it. Chock full of differing opinions and potential dissent, there are many dangerous pitfalls that can be avoided.

Here are 5 tips for executive meetings from the holiday dinner table:

  • Establish Rules of the Road

A simple framework of rules and consequences can’t be underestimated. If you cause more chaos than assistance in the kitchen, it’s not long before you’re banned to the cleanup crew.  Similarly, executives must be held accountable for derailing the purpose of each meeting or operating outside of the established protocols. Regardless of the business objectives of the meeting, everyone must be aware of and adhere to the rules of the road.

  • Evaluate Agenda Items

The turkey always goes in the oven first. It’s the key component to the meal, unless you prefer ham, beef or fish over the holidays. An agenda is an effective tool only when it is appropriately assessed with weighted and timely topics. The executive team must address core business issues without sidelining them indefinitely. A comprehensive and appropriately valued agenda is essential for success in this.

  • Align Everyone Around a Common Goal

In the kitchen, it’s fairly straightforward. Ultimately, you’re looking to create a delicious meal for family members to enjoy together. In order for executive meetings to be actionable and productive, the overarching business goal must be predetermined—will it be an operations or strategy meeting for example? If there is to be alignment around decision-making, there must be a unified point of view on where the business is going and why. Although it seems simple, this basic component ensures that all decision-making is laddering up into major organizational development.

  • Keep it Interesting

It’s a whole lot easier working together if it’s enjoyable. My sister insists that the stuffing tastes better if we listen to some tunes during the “creative process.” If your executive team is dreading them, the meetings are not benefiting from their best efforts. Some ideas? Start on a positive note, highlight successes as freely as challenges and keep executives energized and motivated by mixing things up. Take away the table and hold a walking meeting.

  • Proactively Address Egos

There’s always at least one, right? One cook in the kitchen that disrupts the balance and flow, bringing the total of cooks in the kitchen to one too many. Executives across a team will have varying styles and personalities. It’s important to address issues such as personality clashes or general meeting disruptors before they significantly harm the group’s abilities to conduct business. Acknowledge issues with particular egos on the team in a separate conversation before the next leadership meeting.

The stakes are obviously much higher when your productivity and success are linked the investment of shareholders and employees. However, the fundamentals are surprisingly similar. In order to incubate a productive executive team, simple steps can assist with leveraging the most out of every meeting.

Of course, the most basic procedures can often be the most difficult to execute. Now, how about some of those leftovers?

By: Meriel McCaffery

Meriel is a Senior Account Manager in WCG's Corporate & Strategy practice, based in NYC. She has a background in strategic communications, public relations and business.

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