The biggest and most important decisions are made by senior management. When employees lower in the hierarchy hear an executive meeting is coming up, they have great expectations and, often, high hopes. What positive change will be made?
The senior management meeting passes, another is called. This is followed by another.
Senior managers invest a lot of time in meetings. Executives will often tell you their interactions with colleagues, employees, and partners are key to their success. However, the truth is that those at the highest echelons of our organizations are just as prone to wasting time at meetings as everyone else. A lot of this time is squandered on meandering discussion. Here are things executives should really be talking about at their meetings.
Senior management should discuss key outcomes first and foremost. More specifically, they should establish a plan to achieve these and ways to find out if they are doing so. The number of differing opinions will surprise you, and different opinions on goals translates to reduced productivity.
Discuss Key Data
What data do you need about the company, sector, or industry? Can you find it? If not, what measures need to be taken? Executives would be wise to make a list of the data needed and proceed to obtaining that, which can be obtained. Then, establish measures in cases where data isn’t and cannot be made available.
What Risks Are There and What Should Be Done?
Albeit having many common personality traits, you’ll find senior managers can differ greatly in terms of risk profiles. Some executives are more willing to take risks. Others will avoid them where they can. If risk is discussed at a meeting, attendees gain crucial insight on how to manage their separate teams.
What Mistakes Are We Making?
Some executives will not find it hard to talk about mistakes they may be making, but most will. A senior manager is someone who has risen to the top of their organization with hard work and talent and unwillingness to admit they’re less than perfect just goes with the territory. The so-called alpha dog executive behavior is a problem at some senior management meetings, often due to lack of a fresh perspective. An objective, non-partisan individual can help pinpoint areas that need work and facilitate cooperation between attendees. Professional facilitators help organize meetings so every attendee can make a meaningful contribution rather than limiting their focus to their department or division.
Communicating the Company Brand
Managers should discuss groups or organizations, whom they should be networking or communicating the company’s brand with. Of course, the relevant approaches to this end should be discussed as well. Obvious issues to raise would be the essence of the brand, what executives want the brand to be, how the clients or groups served by the company perceive the brand, and whether this aligns with how it should be perceived.
Achieving consistency and an action plan on brand perception is key to building credibility throughout the organization as well as with partners or clients.
Discuss Positive Changes, Negative Changes, and Lack of Change
Executives should discuss any changes in relevant markets and businesses or clients’ industries. Plans might need to be revised in light of these. Sometimes, absence of change can be just as problematic as a negative change. Talk about this and commit to making changes where necessary. Communication and technology are developing at breakneck speed and something is bound to get easier or harder for your company than it was before. Draw attention to challenges involving margins, competition, or other aspects and discuss them.
Get to the Point
At a senior management meeting, there are many important people to be heard. For the sake of efficiency, everyone should make their main point as soon as possible. Executives tend to fall in the trap of giving too much context. Say what you mean and explain your position. For example, if you believe a program or initiative is costing the company too many resources and has too little potential, make a proposal to scrap it backed by relevant facts and figures.
After you’ve made your main point, you can share your thought process. Demonstrate to the other managers how you arrived at your proposal, suggestion, or recommendation to convince them of your logic and objectivity. This way, you foster engagement in the discussion and give other attendees an opportunity to see how you think.
Discuss Possibilities for Improvement
Infrastructure or process improvements will help drive the bottom line. Senior executives are responsible for driving positive change, which includes increasing the capability and capacity of their departments and teams over time. Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect a single person to shoulder this responsibility. That’s what meetings are for.
At the end of the meeting, set 10 minutes aside to discuss important takeaways in the form of a quick summary of key points, plans, and conclusions. Discuss what should be learned and improved. What should managers be doing to achieve this? Everyone should be aware that part of their job is getting better at it.
Last but not least, senior managers are responsible for investing in and developing “stars” within the structures of their organizations. At your next meeting, present a short list of people with high potential who should be getting bigger challenges, more exposure, and perhaps introductions to mentors. Growing star employees is good for the company, and what’s good for a company is always good for its senior management.
[About the author: Sylvia Peters is a Collaborator for Find a Facilitator and a mother of two. She’s also an expert to bringing the most credible, experienced and personable facilitation to every meeting she attended. In her free time you will find her meditating and making her favorite salad.]