Friday, March 8, 2013

The Meeting Before the Meeting

John Maxwell says, “the secret to a good meeting is the meeting before the meeting." He credits his meeting management wisdom to Olan Hendrix, the first president of ECFA.

In 10 quick-reading pages in his book, Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading (read my review), Maxwell builds the case for turning routine meetings into productive action-oriented gatherings.  Following the counsel of Hendrix, he writes that the meeting before the meeting: 
   • helps you receive buy-in
   • helps followers to gain perspective
   • increases your influence
   • helps you develop trust
   • avoids your being blindsided.

The “no surprises” rule is critical for certain people in each meeting—and typically, that means you must meet with them in advance.  Maxwell preaches: 
“If you can’t have the meeting 
before the meeting, 
don’t have the meeting. 
If you do have the meeting before the meeting, but it doesn’t go well, don’t have the meeting. If you have the meeting before the meeting and it goes as well as you hoped, then have the meeting!”

Many CEOs, board chairs and committee chairs can profit from this counsel. Board members who are not on the Executive Committee or part of what C.S. Lewis called “the inner ring,” often do feel blindsided or ignored in the decision-making process—and that’s deadly.

CEOs sometimes whine, “What went wrong?” when their 30-slide PowerPoint fails to persuade board members.  In retrospect, the meeting before the meeting would have alerted leadership to opposing viewpoints, the need for more data, or the appropriate timing of a new big idea.

Proverbs 11:14 (The Message) says, “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.”

QUESTION: How will you know the perspective of your board members, if you don’t have some form of “the meeting before the meeting” (lunch, phone call, Skype call, etc.)?

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