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Leadership 101: Three Reasons why Leaders must be Meeters

There’s a growing leadership discussion about minimizing meetings.  The argument goes this way, “meetings are a waste of time” “nothing good happens in meetings” “meetings keep me from doing my real work as a leader.”

Let me be perfectly clear: I vehemently disagree
Leaders: we must be “meeters”

I will go so far as to say that one of the most important jobs of a leader is to be in meetings.  Lots of meetings.  Meetings with direct reports.  Meetings with skip-level reports.  Meetings with front-line workers.  Meetings with customers.  Meetings with key vendor partners.  Meetings – lots of them – should consume the schedule of a leader.

Why do I think effective leadership is all about the meetings we are in?

First of all, one of the truisms of effective leadership is that you and I are “force-multipliers” – we invest a strategic, focused amount of time and energy in team members around us, who then take our investment and use it to increase their own effectiveness.  One 30-minute meeting with a key subordinate can impact their effectiveness for the entire week or even month.  Meetings are for your team members and they are for you to share with them what needs to happen.

Secondly, meetings are for you, leader. Unless you are a 1-person shop, you can’t know everything that is happening.  That why you must meet regularly with the people under you and around you who are making it happen. Meetings, then, are also for you and are about what happened.  You need meetings to keep your pulse on the organization.

Third, meetings are about culture.  If your job, leader, is to a great degree “Chief Culture Officer” (and it is!), one of the very best ways you can fulfill your job description is by revisiting and reinforcing your company’s core values in every meeting.

I do a monthly audit at each of our facilities.  While the audit form is a 3-page list of check-boxes pertaining to operational details that takes us several hours to cover, most of my focus is on the very first bullet: “Do our team members know our seven core values?”  I make this a light-hearted and fun discussion, but all of our managers know I’m going to ask about them.  If team members are close by when I’m doing the manager’s audit, I’ll even ask them – without putting them in an uncomfortable position – how many of our core values they can remember.  While I know that “knowing our core values” and “living our core values” are two different things, I find that by bringing the discussion to the front of the manager’s monthly audit meeting, it keeps culture front-and-center for our entire team.

If you’ve fallen victim to the “no meetings” mentality, I want to challenge your leadership thinking: when can you get that next meeting scheduled?  Your team needs it, and so do you.