Meeting Mastery for CEOs

What is a CEO’s #1 tool? Meetings, meetings, meetings.

Whatever vision people have for what a CEO does and what makes them effective, the reality – aside from time to think strategically – is that the majority spend most of their time in meetings. Meetings with team, vendors, potential employees, key thought leaders, industry regulators, etc. Meeting mastery is how things get done.

A CEO’s job is to organize the resources that create a great return on investment for the organization, and to ensure that the organization continues to get stronger and more capable over time.

Meeting mastery is important because CEOs activate important actions and decisions for their organizations through meetings.

Many people have a love-hate relationship with meetings. Hate because meetings are often ineffective, unfocused, draining, no-fun time wasters. Love when they are highly effective – when you find ways to dial in and optimize them, and to make them an amazing a template for others in your organization to replicate.

Ideally, leaving every meeting should be a “Hell yeah!”. And that takes great preparation.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war,

while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

– Sun Tzu

This quote couldn’t apply more to meetings. Meetings are made effective before they begin.

No agenda, no attenda

If there’s no agenda, whoever is running the meeting hasn’t put the work in to be ready.

  • Be clear on the outcome you want to achieve.
  • Set the right, minimum meeting time. The shorter the better. Many amazing meetings can be five, 10 or 15 minutes. If possible, arrange to not have a meeting.
  • Make sure that the fewest people possible attend.
  • Ask people to pre-prepare. I’m a big fan of short presentations or two-page documents to summarize what needs to be processed before the meeting.

Meeting Mastery: Tips for running an effective meeting

  • Assign someone to note all decisions and actions.
  • Review and discuss previously noted incomplete decisions and actions.
  • Create a system to review those actions to make sure they get completed.
  • Create and follow a code of conduct. Include things like whether people should have electronics in meetings, or raising of hands when it’s time to contribute.

Manage the traffic and cadence

Use key phrases like:

  • “OK, two minutes left.”
  • When someone goes off track ask “How does that relate to this discussion?” or “Back to the question at hand.”
  • When a new, non-relevant idea comes up, say “Can you take that offline?” or “Let’s add that to the parking lot.”
  • When someone complicates an issue, ask “Could you say that again in one sentence?” or “Could you say that again in very simple language for me?”

Wrap it up

  • Recap decisions. Clarify actions or next steps.
  • Look for ways to make the meeting better, if there is time. Ask what was effective and how to make it more effective next time.

Finish on time

  • Use timers. I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule of discussions: a maximum of 20% of the time to share information (to present or be read) and 80% for discussion and debate to make decisions.

The Challenge

  • Which of your meetings need notable improvement, so that you can enjoy participating, and come away feeling they are well worth the time?


More about this in Episode 114 of The Growth Whisperers Podcast

How to Leverage Your Collective Intelligence in Meetings

How to Have More Effective Meetings

Fill Your Week with Strategic Meetings


Team Meetings, Debates and the Power of Bowling Balls

12 Tips for Better Business Meetings

The Quarterly Strategic Planning Meeting

No Agenda, No Attenda

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