At many companies small and large, leaders spend their time addressing the day-to-day issues rather than focusing on the big, strategic picture that is most important to the organization's growth and direction.
While every executive we've worked with has different leadership styles and faces different challenges, we have developed six common questions we recommend each leader ask themselves when managing their agendas to achieve superior value growth.
Gotta Keep It Separated
Q1: Am I focusing on operations separately from strategy?
A1: You should be. Reviewing operating performance and making policy decisions should live separately as they require different modes of discussion and shifts in focus and mindset. To tackle this head on, hold separate meetings for each purpose. Preventing day-to-day "in the weeds" operations from dominating the leadership team's agenda frees up time for business-changing strategy debates.
Takeaway: Schedule separate meetings to maintain a forward focus.
Decide to Decide Not Discuss
Q2: How do I make smarter decisions faster without talking in circles with other members of the team?
A2: Having quality discussions with your team is beneficial, however, at some point (we recommend sooner rather than later) you have to formulate a decision. Creating this shift from the collection of opinions, thoughts, suggestions and turning it into action is easier said than done, we get it. So, to avoid the meetings about meetings, there are two small items to change which can lead to a significant impact on the quality and pace of decision making. You ready?
1. Be prepared. Have an agenda that lands in the participants inbox or if you're old-school write up an in office memo to distribute on everyone's desk, before the meeting or session.
2. Add a Cover Sheet. (But, Really) Other leaders on your team are just as tapped for time as you, so by including a cover sheet with all the materials specifying why they are being asked to read them — for information purposes only, for discussion and debate, or for making a decision and deciding a course of action. From this pre-work, each team member (should) be able to attend and offer their intel on the subject matter at hand to accomplish the goals for the meeting efficiently.
Takeaway: To cut down on time and meetings about meetings, be prepared with an agenda and a cover sheet explaining the "why" of the meeting.
Determine the Value — Double Check Agenda
Q3: Is everything on this agenda a valuable asset to the meeting?
A3: When creating a meeting agenda pinpoint the most important item to your organization and it's long-term success. For example, say you put together a list of three items, but one of the items would create ten times more value if resolved than the other two combined, the team would naturally want to spend more time on the value driven issues. Keep this example in mind.
Takeaway: Create an agenda with prioritized value items at the helm.
Check It Off, Mate
Q4: Are we working as a team to get issues resolved and off the schedule quickly (and efficiently)?
A4: Streamline your system for getting items completed. This system should detail a specific timetable (with deadline dates mapped out!) as well as details of when and how team members will reach a decision on each item and who must also be included in the approval process for the final strategy. If you find that the same items are hitting the agenda week after week, you need to probe more to understand the real issue. An item should stay on the agenda for 1 or 2 meetings...it shouldn't live there indefinitely.
Takeaway: Getting things done is the agenda, develop a cohesive yet particular strategy to get.it.done.
Have Options of Substance
Q5: Is my team presenting real choices?
A5: Executives can’t make choices if they don't have real alternatives. By real options, we mean viable options that have merit and don't exist in the same silo. If you attend meeting after meeting that fall short on substance, be sure to assist your team in understanding the relevance of presenting well throughout alternatives.
Takeaway: To get the best long-term result, educate your team on how to formulate quality options for you and your leadership team.
Orchestrate a Process and Stick to It
Q6: Is my entire organization adopting a decision-making process and consistently using it?
A6: Companies that can make decisions quickly have a system that is definitively agreed to and consistently implemented at all levels. The company utilizes a common language, methodology, and rulebook for decision making which allows for open conversation to address issues at once without having a group meeting.
Unless strategic decisions are translated into tangible deliverables, they can fall victim to the silent veto. Also known as the black hole where all action goes to die. Make decisions that stick and be agile in implementing them so you can get back to focusing on strategic growth and business building initiatives.
Takeaway: If you walk the walk and talk the talk your organization's speed for making decisions will be streamlined through a universal strategy that sticks.
I'm sure you already know that time is your most precious asset. Communicating with your team and developing systems and tactics as we have outlined above, you'll be able to readily focus on savvy decision-making in the shortest amount of time. Meeting agendas will be systematically managed and continually refreshed so the right issues and topics are presented in the level of priority allowing you can tick those boxes and continue to grow and prosper.
For details on how to develop a concise and constructive meeting agenda, download our two-page template — it also includes all-too-important cover sheet!