In nearly two decades of working with small- and medium-sized businesses, I have found that many management team members are often dissatisfied with the operations of their teams. This dissatisfaction often stems from the way meetings are run and how team members stay engaged with each other and with senior leadership.
Obviously, you can’t run a successful company with a dissatisfied management team. Fortunately, there are some effective ways to get everyone on your management team aligned and your meetings to actually be helpful to your business.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
The most common management team meeting mistakes include how meetings happen, what the meetings involve, and how the meetings are conducted. A poorly structured meeting does more harm than good.
When team members feel that their involvement in meetings equates, for instance, to participation in a “show-and-tell” session for senior executives rather than purpose-driven engagements in which they are treated as valued stakeholders, it leads to trouble.
Unfortunately, intensely negative reactions happen when management team operations are not well coordinated, not collaborative, or are operated by outside parties on a regular basis.
Side note: The only time that I recommend utilizing outside consultants or other subject matter experts for management team activities is to support the learning process. On the other hand, engaging outside consultants in management team reviews, discussions, and decisions, more often than not, will make your team members feel disrespected and undervalued.
Focus On Priorities
What is the best model for operations?
Unlike governance team operations, there is often no formal legal requirement in the bylaws or operating agreements for management team operations. Usually, you have more latitude for decisions about management team operations than governance team operations.
Simply put, the best practices consist of a regular schedule of meetings with collaborative development of agendas. Meetings should focus on critical priorities for your management team, including the following:
1. Learning through contextual and meaningful education
2. Reviewing monthly performance results
3. Discussing needs for potential adjustments
4. Deciding about next steps and future activities
Make Meetings Count
If you feel that there is not much to learn, review, discuss, or decide (at any moment in time), do not force the meeting to occur. Time is too valuable to meet without a compelling reason.
But when you do meet, make sure that some things are clearly understood and executed. Everyone on your management team should have input on the meeting agendas.
Also, everyone on your management team should be encouraged to speak and bring ideas from the members of their functional teams to a safe environment for sharing and discussion. Action items and decisions should be chronicled and confirmed in writing to make sure the items on the agenda are addressed after the meeting.
In addition, you should make sure your team is clear on what is and is not appropriate in terms of communications from the management team meetings to the broader team at your business. Any confusion will mean unequal access to information and ultimately lead to troubles with team dynamics and business culture.
One-on-One Meetings Are Also Essential
In addition to the regular meetings, one-on-one meetings should be convened on a regular basis with each functional leader and the top executive (or executives) to assess the alignment of the meetings and the needs of management leaders.
When you have a sense that internal conflict is brewing between management team leaders or functional teams, you should have special intervention meetings to address the issues—quickly. If the issues go beyond personalities, they should be on the agenda for the next management team meeting.
Communicate Beyond Meetings
Since meetings are only one of the ways that management teams should stay engaged with one another, you likely will want to develop a plan to transmit information in a way that allows your management team to help your business succeed. The plan you choose should not lead to information overload that minimizes their ability to perform their daily functions.
Technology is constantly evolving, and the workplace communications needs of teams differ from one team to another. Therefore, it is important to decide as a group the best way to communicate between meetings and to support actions that flow from decisions that come from the management meetings.
Your management team operations—outside of meetings—should also be driven by the will of your management team.
Conclusion: The Key to the Success of a Business
In summary, management team operations are key to the success of a business. Make sure that all management meetings count and that each participant feels valued and able to communicate their ideas.
Action items and decisions should be chronicled and confirmed in writing, and information to be communicated to the rest of the organization must be clearly identified.
Outside of formal meetings, meet one-on-one or in special intervention meetings as necessary, and agree to communicate between meetings in a way that is most effective for everyone involved. In short, you need to play the way your management team wants to play—or pick a different group of teammates.
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Patrick Esposito, author of THE STRUCTURE OF SUCCESS, is CEO of Initiative Labs and President of ACME General Corp. He also serves as counsel with Spilman Thomas & Battle law firm. Esposito has helped found, led, and advised businesses in technology, consulting, and other sectors. He was co-founder of Augusta Systems, Inc., which was acquired by Intergraph Corporation and was co-founder of Resilient Technologies LLC, which was acquired by Polaris Inc. His latest venture, Initiative Labs, helps leaders apply the approaches and tools in his new book. You can learn more at www.patrickesposito.com.