One of the most important opportunities we have as to make our team, our business and our department more effective is a longer monthly meeting. If you’re in charge of facilitating, chairing or setting up one of those meetings for success, then I’ve got some tips for how to do it much more effectively.
Open With Clear Objectives
The first thing is to start with clear objectives for what a monthly meeting is all about.
When you bring your team together for a full day (if you’re a leadership team), or maybe a half day a month, the purpose of that interaction is really to look for ways to not be working in the business.
A monthly meeting is NOT the same as a weekly operational meeting where you’re kind of rolling up your sleeves and working in the business. I’ve got lots of tips on how to do a great weekly meeting.
A monthly meeting has a different purpose. You’re going to pull out, zoom out a little bit. What you’re looking for is ways to work on the business. I like to think of these monthly meetings as ways to improve the capability, capacity, resilience, and agility of the team. Those are four things that can really become a priority in weekly meetings, especially in our very busy world.
Often we tend to just be solving problems, not actually understanding issues. We’re not looking at anything systemic to make our team or our business more effective – that’s why you want to have this monthly meeting.
I actually refer to these meetings as business builders because it’s the chance to make our business stronger.
What Belongs in a Monthly Meeting?
So if the objective is to increase the capability, capacity, resilience or agility of our business, what are some of the things that belong in a monthly business builder meeting?
Starting the Meeting
Certainly an introduction from you around the state of the business would be beneficial. It may be that you have some kind of KPIs or metrics you use to assess the health of the business. That’s a great thing that you can start with.
You then want to have a round table, a time for folks to check in. But, the round table question is very different than what it would be in a weekly operational meeting. The round table questions are really about the things you think you need to do to improve and strengthen your business. What’s going on in your team with a longer time horizon?
In general, the business builder time horizon should be pulled out to something like a year to 18 months of thinking about your business. Whereas that weekly operational meeting can be sort of quarterly focused or even just what’s happening today. We want to pull that time horizon out much further in a business builder meeting.
Talk About Enabling Functions
Then, it’s time to talk about the kinds of things that are really appropriate. Any one of your enabling functions.
Make time to talk about talent, your technology and how it’s enabling sales, marketing, all of those sorts of things. Create the chance to really do a quarterly review on talent, and how your go-to market strategies are working. If you’re in an IT team, these bigger topics may include talking for a couple of hours really deeply about data security or privacy. In a monthly meeting, you want fewer topics that you can dive into much deeper.
I’m going to say the average agenda item should be one or two hours long so that you’ve got time to really have some productive conflict around these issues and look at them from very different perspectives. Use that time to discuss some of the things that increase the capability or the capacity of your business, like go-to market strategies or talent or technology.
Monitor Strategic Projects
Another thing you want to put in a business builder is monitoring and course-correcting any of your strategic projects.
Those are things that, hopefully if you truly have a strategy, are the things that you’re doing to increase the capability, capacity, resilience and agility of your business. They should then fit perfectly in a business builder. Maybe you have six strategic projects and you’re going to look at two of them each month on a rotating basis to get a deep dive, asking questions such as:
- How’s it going?
- Do you need any different resources?
- Do we need to change the plan a little?
That’s another really effective thing to put in a business builder. Spending one or two hours on a small number of topics is going to get you to have more of that healthy tension and more of an understanding of what’s going on. You want to structure your meeting with lots of time to go deep on a variety of topics.
Reserve Meeting Time
However, as with any meeting, I’m going to encourage you to save 10% of the time to do an effective close.
For example, if you’re spending an eight hour day in a meeting, you’re going to want to keep 45 minutes for an effective close. That’s to say, “What did we commit to?”, “What are the action items we got out of this?” and “What are we communicating?”
Often in a business builder monthly meeting there are some things you’re ready to communicate and others that you’re not. Being really explicit such as, “we’re going to communicate this and you need to tell your team by such a date”. Or saying, “we are not ready to go public with this so please make sure you don’t mention this to anyone on your team”.
Evaluate the Meeting Quality
The tool allows you to question, “did we put the right things on the agenda and did we add the right value when talking about them?” When you’re going to invest a day or a half day in a meeting, you want to go to the effort to say, “Was it worth it?”
Finally, you may want to talk about any issues that were mentioned or that started to come to light that should be on your next monthly meeting agenda. This can include things you consider as major changes or transformations that you may want to put into strategic meetings.
Structuring a really effective monthly business builder meeting is certainly about opening with context. Getting a round table so that everyone is starting to think about one another’s teams more like a year out, that kind of time frame. Having a small number of topics means you can spend one to two hours per topic and focus on things to increase the capability, capacity, resilience or agility of your business. Be sure not to leave the room without a really effective meeting closer. That’s how you stick the landing and make sure that something is going to be different because you had the meeting.
That’s how to structure a really great monthly meeting. If you need to do the same for your weekly meeting, it should feel totally different. Here’s my tips on how to have a really great weekly operational meeting.