Effective Leadership: Meetings Are Meat, Not Potatoes

A recent message from a contact mentioned a wonderful retreat he’d experienced because the organization’s new leader brought in a “motivational speaker.” 

What a bunch of crap! You take over an organization and hire a motivational speaker because you have nothing to say?!

Business should be fun, but don’t waste the opportunity to engage your people in real conversations about the company’s purpose, vision and strategy by hiring a motivational speaker! Send them home to watch cat videos on YouTube; you’ll save lots of money.

At a recent conference I attended, I heard a fantastic speaker. He was poised, funny, charming and passionate. I’ll be darned, however, if I can remember what he talked about! I didn’t go to the conference to get entertained; I went to learn.

A leader in a large organization asked me a few years ago to talk at his annual company meeting. “What’s the meeting’s purpose?” I asked. After a few minutes of conversation, he admitted that they were holding the meeting because they had it yearly and needed to fill some slots. I suggested they cancel it, save the million dollars (hard costs and opportunity costs) and wait to produce some content that reinforced their strategy. He didn’t like my idea and no doubt hired a motivational speaker.

Getting people together is a great idea. The more face time the better. I also support entertainment and lots of downtime to let people get acquainted. (By the way, in a healthy organization with committed people, they usually talk about work.) But for a leader to miss the opportunity to communicate real content is a shame. 

I run into many organizations where HR is forced to patch together a discombobulated agenda for company meetings. That is about as appropriate as having IT in charge. “Hold on to your seats, because our next motivational speaker will address the fascinating topic of legacy system upgrades.” 

One of the largest expenses and biggest opportunities a CEO can influence is the time people spend together in meetings. They should be well-conducted and support the company’s strategy and priorities. Or you could just show cat videos …

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