Best Practices

Best Practices


In this world of polarized politics, I have been trying to listen to different news stations in order to hear both sides of the story. What I have been struck by is that not only is the point of view different (as expected), but notably, the particular news stories covered by the stations on the right and the left are different, as well. This has made me think about how important it is to control, or at least more consciously manage, the agenda for our important company and staff meetings. Here are some thoughts about how to do that.

Start by ensuring that you have a regular schedule of meetings set up early in the year. You may want to schedule one company-wide or division-wide meeting this year. If so, get this on the calendar now, and set up a team to orchestrate the meeting. Next, schedule your own staff meetings for the rest of the year or at least for the first half of 2018. Beyond that, you may want to schedule one-on-one meetings or teleconferences with your direct reports, which may be weekly or biweekly depending on your preferences and your span of control.

With regard to your own staff meetings, I suggest you own the agenda, although it is always wise to request agenda items from your staff members, as well. Have a set of regular items on the agenda. My recommendations on those items:

Safety. Why not start with safety statistics and safety observations? This sets the tone for your team, and indeed for your entire organization, if you place it first in your agenda. You can invite a safety leader from your organization to cover an important safety topic, or to report a summary of safety surveys or the outcome of an investigation into a recent incident.

Macroeconomic Outlook. Have a regular discussion of key developments in the world at large, including gross domestic product information and any political developments. This should also include a regular update on your watch list of global and regional or industry risks.

Financial Results. It is crucial on a monthly or quarterly basis to compare key financial metrics such as sales, profitability and costs against your annual plan and versus the prior year or prior period. Ensure your leadership team is prepared to comment on any anomalies.

Customer Satisfaction and Input. Ensure that the voice of the customer is in your meeting, regardless of the function in which you work. There are various ways in which you can accomplish this objective: reviewing customer satisfaction surveys or statistics; reviewing key metrics such as customer complaints as well as resolution and on-time deliveries; having salespeople from your organization discuss a particular customers activities and concerns, or even having a representative from a key customer attend part of your meeting personally to discuss their needs.

Competitive Update. Has anything changed in the competitive landscape? Are competitors entering new product or geographic areas? Has any key business changed hands? How are competitors positioned for upcoming specifications?

Supply Outlook. Discuss any areas of developing or ongoing risk and plans to address them. You may want to include upcoming bids for materials or services that your team procures. A discussion of inventory management is also prudent on a regular basis. I suggest you also talk about the status of any significant product rollovers or new product introductions, as these are likely to have a major impact regardless of your function.

People Update. Share any new information on people departures (who is leaving and why), open positions, personnel development opportunities, any high-impact personnel issues such as those related to harassment (with human resources and legal advice) and any other topics, including annual employee surveys, diversity statistics and plans to address diversity issues.

Once you have covered the regular topics, you should consider including an update on the agenda about any key projects that you are responsible for or which have a significant impact on your function. These could include major capital projects, cost reduction activities, culture change or reorganization activities. Also discuss any topics that have been brought forward by your team. They may belong on the agenda if they illustrate good work or if they have a wider impact on your function or on the overall company. Consider inviting high-potential people from your organization to appear in front of the leadership team as a way of observing the quality of their work and how these folks handle themselves.

Staff meetings are also a good opportunity to promote the bonding of the team. Think about how to incorporate team building activities into your agenda, such as a team dinner or activity in the evening. You may want to rotate the venue of your staff meeting so that you and your team can interact with people in another function or at another location. Offer up some time for your team to do a question-and-answer session with a wider audience for the purpose of openness, visibility and information sharing.

Be sure to appoint someone to take minutes of the meeting. It is a good practice to review the action items from the previous meeting and agree on any new action items. Keep the list limited to those action items that are really important; otherwise you will end up with a list that is too long and not worthy of your teams time. It is a good practice for the minutes to be circulated as promptly as possible after the meeting while memories are fresh. When reviewing minutes, ensure that any decisions made at the meeting are clearly documented and unambiguous.

Conscious management of your meeting agenda and follow-up can lead to better team efficiency and productivity.

Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. Email her at or phone (908) 400-5210.

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