Five Disciplines for Leading Better Meetings

At some point, every leader has felt like their meeting didn’t live up to its potential. As an Expert EOS Implementer™, I lead meetings all the time where I serve as a teacher, coach, and facilitator to business leaders. And yet I still walk away from some sessions that are rated as low as a 4, thinking: “What could I have done better?” Truth be told, this is normal. Not every meeting is going to be a perfect 10 rating. Over the years, I’ve learned a few disciplines to overcome Kanter’s Law to make changes that lead to better meetings. Below I’ve included a few questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re on track.

1. Define Roles and Expectations

Before every meeting, make sure you fully understand its purpose and goals. Then get clear on your role in the meeting. If you’re leading the meeting, set expectations for the other attendees too.

Companies Running on EOS™ use the Level 10 Meeting™ agenda to keep their meetings structured, productive, and efficient. But for meetings that fall outside the Level 10 Meeting, you may have to go to the next level and pull out the “Off-Line” Meeting Track™ tool. By establishing the objectives, agenda, and prep work ahead of time and sharing them with attendees, you’ll take back control of your meeting.

Ask Yourself: Could you better define participant roles and expectations ahead of your meetings?

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2. Align with Core Values

Do your actions and your attitude in meetings align with your company’s core values? Asking yourself this question might cause you to realize there have been times when this was not the case. It helps to remember that every meeting should be conducted with the greater good of the organization in mind.

You can operate more seamlessly when your personal values align with your company’s core values. I like to offer The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom as a helpful reference when someone is defining their personal values.

Author Don Miguel Ruiz outlines this ancient set of personal principles in his bestseller:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

Ask Yourself: Do your actions and attitude in your meetings align with your company’s core values?

3. Build Team Trust

When team members trust each other, they become a great team. And great teams can solve any problem that comes their way.

Leaders can build trust by admitting their mistakes, weaknesses, and failures. When leaders take responsibility for problems in meetings and openly depend on other attendees to help solve them, it shows humility and creates an environment of emotional safety for their team.

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and founder of The Table Group, calls this vulnerability-based trust. As part of this trust, he says leaders also “recognize the strengths of others even when those strengths exceed their own.”

Ask Yourself: When was the last time you admitted your flaws or commended someone else’s achievements in a meeting?

4. Enter the Danger

Calling out a situation that’s creating an issue takes courage. When leaders trust their colleagues, they can more easily muster the courage to discuss uncomfortable topics. Then, by confronting a situation head-on and asking for others’ help, they can solve the problem faster and move forward.

Issues left unspoken and problems left unaddressed don’t magically go away. Instead, they fester and get worse. Like cancer, they spread and cause bigger issues. But sometimes people just can’t bring themselves to enter the danger.

To address this, another Expert EOS Implementer taught me a great technique. At the start of a session, I remind everyone that they need to share everything on their mind with the team. If they’re unwilling to express something, I ask them to write it on a piece of paper and there will be no effort to “force” them to share it. My hope is at some point during the session, they’ll find the courage to say it. Because whatever they’ve written on that paper is holding the entire team back.

Ask Yourself: Have you held back discussing an issue in a meeting where others had similar concerns?

5. Enlist the Help of a Coach

Every successful leader needs a stable of coaches behind them. Coaches help you find ways to fully utilize your strengths and bolster weaknesses. For example, I have coaches who help me with tactical empathy, facilitation, and emotional intelligence.

Early in a company’s journey to Running on EOS, its EOS Implementer® will commonly observe their leadership team’s Level 10 Meeting. Then, immediately afterward, the EOS Implementer will do a “hotwash,” offering feedback to the team on improvements. The team discusses outcomes in the room, and the EOS Implementer will coach a leader on improving their use of EOS Tools and concepts.

Ask Yourself: Could working with an EOS Implementer help you learn how to lead better meetings?

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