I hear this all the time: “Our Weekly Meetings are just routine report-outs about who’s doing what; they’re so tactical!” If this is your challenge, you’re not alone. I recently sat in on a client’s Weekly Meeting because the CEO wanted my help in making suggestions on how to make their meetings more robust and strategic. What I discovered was an executive team narrative that simply consisted of short, silo-oriented “report-outs” with little to no strategic discussion.
This client uses the Rhythm Dashboard to track their progress toward their quarterly priorities, yet they skipped right over items that simply weren’t going well! It seemed that a simple comment about a surface-level solution (“I’m on it…”) was about as deep as the conversation got. This team knows me, so it didn’t surprise them when I interrupted and said, “Wait a minute! You’re moving on from something that’s statused as failing without having a discussion about root causes. It’s been Red for a few weeks, so what’s the problem? Let’s take a minute to talk about it.” With this, an intriguing dialogue ensued—one that finally led to the real problem: “If IT and Finance don’t get our system to interface with XYZ, then I can’t move on this initiative at all.” Bingo! So I asked the Head of IT and the Head of Finance: “So, by when can that interface be completed?”
The answer was that it would take weeks—literally—to get this transition streamlined. “Why does Fred have an Individual Priority that he can’t possibly meet? Where’s the Individual Priority for IT & Finance?” It didn’t exist—and a minor recalibration took place during this Weekly Meeting. So, why hadn’t this discussion happened weeks ago?
Other times, Weekly Meetings become stale and rote because the executive team simply isn’t healthy. For whatever reason, they fear having genuine tough discussions (due to a fear-based culture, fear of looking stupid in the eyes of the CEO or team peers, etc.). If so, this is the hurdle that has to be jumped first. (That’s a topic for another blog post…)
However, for teams who are healthy and are simply looking for ways to have higher-level discussions that are more strategic and targeted at making the company stronger and preparing for growth, then you might consider some of the following.
Here are 8 ways to have a more strategic Weekly Meeting:
(1) Discuss One Key Roadblock. Prior to your Weekly Meeting, have each person identify one key roadblock that needs discussion. In other words: What's a bottleneck around here? Look for anything that emerges (i.e., more than one person mentioned it) and then you’ll know what needs discussion. If an entire list of different things are put forth, then the team can prioritize the list (and you’ll have discussions for a few weeks to come!). There are almost always little nagging “things” that with a little effort could be adjusted (such as a process). If it morphs into something that suddenly you realize is bigger than imagined, then this makes for great discussion at a Monthly Meeting (where you can take the time to have what I call a “Deep Dive” discussion).
(2) Discuss What We Learned this Week. Some companies have a Weekly Meeting agenda item around “what we learned this week.” I like that; however, not enough time is given to what was learned. Instead of a rote “report-out” about what each person learned, consider extending this discussion by asking: Of all of this week's "learnings," which one can we scale and how? (As a reminder: It's been said that "Knowledge is power" when in fact "Applied knowledge is power." )
(3) Dive Deeper into Potential Implications. The CEO or someone else on the team might consider stretching a key conversation about something you’re wanting or needing to do, or for a potential solution you’ve brainstormed, by having a conversation around potential implications. For instance: What might be some potential implications of doing this? (Hint: Force the discussion to include both positive and negative implications.) Then, take each of those implications one-by-one and ask the same question again. This is a great way to frame a simple conversation into a more strategic one.
(4) Strengthen Mutual Accountability & Joint Problem-Solving. I encourage clients to take more time on their quarterly priorities, especially the Reds and Yellows. It's kind of like asking "Why" five times before you get to the root of the problem. This also helps to create a culture of mutual accountability and joint problem-solving.
(5) Challenge Your Own Thinking. Consider leading a discussion that challenges the thinking at the table. For instance: What is it that we do around here that we really should be doing differently? Why?
(6) Learn from Your Team’s Collective Intelligence. Create a list of some key questions you can pull out of your pocket when you have the time to talk and discuss (which is why you have Weekly Meetings). Use these questions to engage the team’s thinking (and see what emerges). Another spin on this is to have an executive team "Question of the Week" and take the time to work it through.
Strategic Vs. Tactical Meeting Questions:
- Is our Brand giving us sustainability from a client retention perspective?
- Who are our top 3-5 primary competitors? What do they do well? What are they not willing to do—and which of those might we work toward doing?
- What do we need to do to get customers doing business with a competitor to leave them and sign-on with us?
- Which employees (specifically) are each of us coaching in order to develop our bench strength relative to the next level of company leaders? Do we agree we've all identified the right people? Is anyone missing? What (specifically) are we doing to develop these leaders? Are we giving this the time it needs, or are we rushing through it?
- What's our next big thing? (This should keep you busy for several Weekly Meetings!)
- Have a serious "people" discussion: Who in our company just isn't cutting it, and why? Have we truly given them a chance to be successful? If so, then what are we going to do about this, and by when? If not, then what’s the tough conversation that needs to be had, and by when? What will you say in that conversation?
- What are we sacrificing so that we can accomplish this quarter's (or year's) plan? What are the implications of those sacrifices? Are there any “Parking Lot” issues here for future discussion?
- What is it about our corporate culture that's positive? What's not so positive? What's our plan for addressing the negatives?
- Do we want to be “good”...or, do we want to be “great?” (If “great” is the answer, then: What are we doing to raise the bar? What about us is different? What are we missing in our journey to building a truly great company? What are some major logjams holding us back?)
(7) Keep Smart. Prior to the Weekly Meeting, each executive team member can read an article (the same article) and discuss it relative to their key insights and how they might use those insights for the betterment of the company.
(8) Dive into “Starts” and "Stops." More than likely you’ve identified what you need to “Start Doing” and “Stop Doing,” so what have you actually started doing from that list? What have you actually Stopped Doing? If you haven’t started or stopped anything on your agreed-upon lists, why? What’s it going to take to move the needle?
Weekly Meetings are a key part of an overall strategic Meeting Rhythm that helps grow a company toward excellence. Your Annual Plan is important, but the degree to which you can up the ante on the content of your Weekly Meetings is the degree to which you can build a great organization.
Additional Rhythm Systems Meeting Resources:
Consider using Rhythm Software to run your weekly meeting, where the status and agenda are automatically created every week to keep you on track!