Meetings can be costly and time-consuming which can impede growth and progress of a company. Or meetings can be highly productive, focused, provide inspiration, clarity and direction, and be an excellent use of time.
As I wrote in my book, The Rookie CEO, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!, there are internal and external meetings the CEO leads, plans, and executes. I consider external meetings part of the culture, but both types are part of the CEO’s philosophy. External or offsite leadership team meetings can be Board of Director meetings, business reviews, team building, strategic planning meetings, or any major situation the CEO feels the leadership team needs to jointly collaborate and meet to discuss. These meetings are typically combined business and pleasure meetings oftentimes involving golf or special events such as motivational speakers.
All meetings should have an agenda, an assigned scribe or note-taker, a process that captures action items and owners for tracking purposes and follow-ups in between meetings. All meetings should be run with highest of integrity, respect for each other, and with clarity of actions, dates and owners.
Some CEOs like to have QBRs or Quarterly Business Reviews which may be on or off-site, with extended leadership teams to include reporting and information sharing on sales, product line performance and margins, major deals in the pipeline that require additional help to remove blockers or objections and can be good for growing companies or death for poorly performing product lines or individuals responsible for them. Most CEOs have been through both kinds in their career unless they are first-time CEOs in startups and have never been in other companies at the senior level.
Day-to-day meetings typically are derived from the CEO’s leadership styles and cross over into their philosophies. Some CEOs want larger groups of stakeholders in meetings for go-to-market, launches, status, product feature reviews and so on. Other CEOs only want the department head in the meeting. Depending on company size and stage, here are the types of meetings the CEO may implement:
|SLT – Senior Leadership Team (in early-stage, it’s the founders) but grows and changes as senior executives join the company|
|Product (or service) weekly status to discuss schedules, resources, deliverables, and features|
|Engineering (R&D) to just discuss development and testing, bug reviews|
|Manufacturing Operations if hardware is part of the offering, or just Operations if the product deliverable is software or a service|
|All-Hands: information sharing, transparency, announcements, new employee introductions, awards and recognition, gratitude|
|Sales meetings review pipeline, customer requirements, proposals, remove blockers|
|1 on 1 meeting with direct reports and key managers|
|HR/Admin/Finance and IT|
As companies scale from stage to stage, more structure will change exactly what meetings will be implemented along the way and how they will change. My experience with many CEOs are they will change their required meetings based on business, stage of the company and the situation.
Stories from Past Meetings
People who know me well, and those who have read my book, know I love to tell stories as a way to educate and entertain. The book has many fun and at times bazaar stories but we’ll discuss different meeting-related stories here.
A couple of pet peeve tidbits here: start and end meetings on time. The number of wasted person-hours waiting for the CEO to join his/her own meeting with anywhere from 3-20 people waiting is painful when it happens over and over again. The other one is when the CEO continues to accept calls during his/her own meeting disregarding all the people in the room. These cause lack of productivity and frustrated people in the meeting.
One CEO in a mid-sized company had what he called, “Bid-Reviews” every day for all deals over $100,000. He had his finance team and admin in these meetings, the account manager for the specific deal, product management VP (that was me), Sales VP, and Operations VP. He used two flip charts with crayons in his office for these meetings and we were all around a large round table. He would ask every possible question of people in the room and draw the solution in living crayon color! A competitive analysis was done in real-time, and discount levels would be negotiated. I was asked many questions by the CEO, and I gave a frequent “No” answer. I earned the nickname from the CEO, “The no-man” which I liked at the time. The CEO would then ask more questions until he was satisfied the margin was there if we won the deal. Now my favorite story from the bid-reviews. Funny thing is, it was the presentation from sales before my specific meeting. Sales finally was able to get their answer and the book was closed. For about 15 seconds. The sales person went to get his books and sport coat on, and he commented about the customer and the main competitor which peaked the CEO’s interest and he withdrew his approval and sent sales away for another week or two to get more detail. This leads to one of my favorite career take-aways which I describe in my book with a different true story , “Don’t answer a question that is not asked!” In fact, in any sales situation, once you get your answer and close the deal, quietly pack up and leave. Do not say another word except maybe “Thank You or can I expect the PO tomorrow?”
Quarterly Business Review (QBR):
One CEO loved offsite QBRs because sales folks from all regions flew into headquarters. These meetings at a local hotel were either a love fest or bloodbath. but you never know until the actual meeting. These were typically 2-day meetings, with dinner and drinks at local restaurants. The results may be terrific, but if the presentation was off format, missing specifics, the CEO and other leaders would gang up on the presenter. At one QBR I told the international president I was not going to take his project forward as his business model was a losing proposition. Spend $1M in development and customization for $300K revenues in a one time deal. We had several hours of debate but many senior leaders were shaken that this type of exchange would happen in front of all other team members. Oh, and the CEO loved these discussions!
Weekly Project Status Meetings:
This was a small company building hardware-software solutions. We were building the second generation of a product that increased capacities from the first generation. We had customers waiting for this product plus prospects lined up. The head of the project reported status weekly that we will have out beta units “next week” for several weeks. Finally one day, our rookie CEO took matters into his own hands and talked to the outsourced builder of the beta units only to learn it was no where near ready. The moral of this story is the status meeting is great, but when things are late the CEO needs to pull the thread on it immediately not wait for several weekly meetings to pass hearing the same story. These meetings are very important to the team for productivity and company success!
At first, I was just going to write this post about just all-hands meetings by the CEO, but chose to expand it and share this story. Rookie CEOs develop their own style of what they will deliver for information and how they will deliver it and how often. I will share two stories.
First, a well done monthly all-hands meeting included a dashboard (PowerPoint slides) of company performance of every part of the business. This included revenues, margins, backlog, leads generated, expenses, budgets, channel performance and on and on. All employees – remote or home office, could see and hear where the company was at that time vs. the company plan – on a monthly basis at first, then moved to quarterly right after board meetings where the deck was already done and the CEO already had board feedback!
Second, a not-so-well done all-hands has no scheduled timeframe by the CEO, and he liked to hear himself talk so he talked circles without saying anything of value and employees felt it was a waste of time. No revenues were shared, no knowledge of shortfall or exceeding plans, no idea who was new or who left, it was nearly useless for all employees. As a senior leader, the CEO will still not listen to feedback it was his way period. In my book, this is the “secretive” type of rookie CEO who did not want to share true numbers. Employees who have no idea, make up their own numbers and make decisions based on incomplete information. This is not good for the company culture.
To all CEOs: share as much information as possible. Team members appreciate and respect you for it. Your employees will “make it up” if you don’t tell them. It may cost you employees who will leave based on the lack of information, rumors that are difficult to overcome and destroys the culture.
Meetings should have an agenda, be productive, be efficient, be purposeful, remain focused, and led with integrity, clarity, accountability, and respect.
Meetings should NOT: waste peoples time, be all over the place, have ambiguity.
What are your favorite experiences in meetings? What are your pet peeves about meetings?
Thank you for stopping by and visiting! See you next time.
(Image by Pixabay)