Brace yourself for this. It’s not pretty.
The pinnacle of a successful company, the quintessential activity that makes success possible, is a CEO’s weekly staff meeting.
Yes. A staff meeting. Now, if you’ve read any of my books or essays, you know that I’ve talked about meetings before. So, you might be wondering, what’s changed?
Well, in working with CEOs to make their organizations healthier—less politics, less confusion, greater focus and alignment—we’ve recently come to the realization that a leadership team’s meetings are an even greater obstacle to transformation than we had thought before. Without changing the structural and behavioral nature of bad meetings, nothing else will change. An analogy will be helpful in explaining this.
A weekly staff meeting is to organizational health what regular exercise is to physical health: it is both an irreplaceable requirement for achieving it, as well as an ongoing experiential reward for having done so. Think about the fact that when we exercise, we not only become healthier, we also come to enjoy exercising. And that’s the point. No one exercises just so they can feel better while they’re sitting on the couch watching television. They do it so they can live a more active life. Exercise is both the pre-condition and the celebration of being physically fit.
The same is true for companies. Having great meetings is an absolute must for making any organization healthy; it’s also its own ongoing reward. Ask the leaders of a healthy organization and they’ll tell you that their meetings are not only productive, focused and practical, they are also engaging, energizing and a source of joy. Yes, joy.
But here’s the thing. If you don’t have great meetings, if they are unfocused, wandering, inconsistent and/or boring, they will prevent even the most well-intentioned leaders from making their organization healthy. They’ll become a regular punishment, a weekly rite of misery, if you will.
And leaders won’t be the only people who suffer because of those bad meetings.
- Employees will suffer for a lack of clarity and unity among leaders.
- Customers will suffer for a lack of good decisions about products and services.
- And, ultimately, the CEO will suffer for leading an organization that pleases no one.
Here’s another metaphor to illustrate the importance of a staff meeting. It is like the heartbeat of a successful company. If the heart isn’t beating correctly, the rest of the body doesn’t get the right amount of oxygen that it needs to function well. And no matter how many doctors try to fix the peripheral problems that a malfunctioning heart causes, they will not achieve real health until they address the heartbeat itself.
How about another analogy? Staff meetings are like… just kidding. I think that’s enough.
Let’s just agree that we need to acknowledge that meetings are indispensable in making companies successful and in helping the people who work there find fulfillment.