Schedule more meetings next year

Get together with your leadership team on a regular basis


Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:34 pm

If your business is on a calendar fiscal year, it’s likely you’re preparing for 2020.

Have you finished your 2020 budget? Chosen your health insurance options for next year? Prepared for employee reviews? 

The most important question is: do you have your leadership team offsite meeting scheduled? I’ve spoken to over 200 Vistage member companies this year and, surprisingly, only about one in five has a disciplined process for their leadership team meetings. This is a huge missed opportunity.

Why do so many organizations fail to do business planning? Here’s the excuse litany:

  • “Our meetings suck, so we stopped having them.” 
  • “I can’t get everybody together.”
  • “We see each other all the time, so we don’t need to meet.” 

Blah, blah, blah… 

No matter what the excuse turns out to be, it’s a mistake not to meet with your leadership team on a regular basis. Here’s what I recommend:

Plan an annual two-day offsite meeting. Start your year with this leadership team meeting. Separate the agenda into three parts:

  1. Strategic
  2. Building the leadership team’s esprit de corps.
  3. Execution of business objectives.

Patrick Lencioni does a great job explaining the rationale of this type of agenda in his book, “Death by Meeting.” If you aren’t meeting with your leadership team regularly, I recommend you start with this book.

The goal of the two-day meeting is more than just developing your annual business plan. First, you want to develop or review your long-term vision for the organization. Start by confirming or identifying your core values, establishing your 10-Year BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal—Jim Collins), and diving into your environment with a SWOT (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) analysis. 

Day 1: Strategic

The brain struggles to switch quickly between strategic thinking, long-term thinking, and tactical execution thinking. So, make Day 1 strategic only. Plan a team activity or exercise to help build team comradeship. 

Most important, make sure your leadership team members understand that their roles require them to put the good of the organization above their functional area goals.

Day 2: Execution

Start with your three-year direction. What will you need to do to work toward the Big Hairy Audacious Goal while living your core values? Then develop your one-year annual initiatives, from three to five, max.

Finally, break the action items into 90-day increments (we call them “rocks”). Then the question is: how do we hold ourselves accountable?

The most critical thing you can do to ensure accountability is to develop an effective meeting rhythm. This means having effective weekly meetings and full-day quarterly meetings.

The weekly meetings should have a consistent agenda, be held without fail, and focus on staying on track. The quarterly meetings review the 90-day rocks and establish rocks for the next quarter. The rocks must always align with the annual initiatives and budget. 

Finally, after every meeting – weekly, quarterly and annual – develop a set of cascading messages for the rest of the organization. And ensure everyone on the leadership team speaks with one voice and supports those messages.

It may sound overwhelming, but it’s simple and easy. In my next column, I’ll dig deeper into what makes a great offsite meeting.

If you’d like some free tools to help you get started, email me. I’d love to hear from you. Or if you wish to learn more, tune into my podcast, “The Best Business Advice You Will Ever Receive,” on Apple Podcast.

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As a serial entrepreneur, business and community leader since 1983, John Howman has led a variety of businesses, from technology to consumer products companies. He leads two groups for Vistage, a professional development group of CEOs, presidents and business owners. He can be reached at

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