3 challenges facing senior leadership meetings  

Internal Comms

Ben Waugh
by Ben Waugh
 3 challenges facing senior leadership meetings  

Leaders in all kinds of organisations play a crucial role in making key decisions and putting together strategies to help shape the future of their business. There can be lots of pressure on senior leadership meetings due to making the right decisions efficiently, effectively and inclusively.  

However, there are some clear challenges that are cited by CEOs and senior leaders that we will be revealing below that prevent these meetings from being more successful.

Why not drop me a line on LinkedIn and let me know your story and the challenges you face in your senior leadership meetings. 

1. Lack of clarity  

According to many studies, including a University research publication entitled "Strategy implementation: What is the failure rate?" its claimed that “50 to 90% of all strategic initiatives and decisions fail”. One of the main reasons and theories as to why the implementation of leadership decisions fail is due to adoption and a lack of clarity of what the decision means. Indeed, leadership meetings require complete focus and discipline but when making informed decisions and potentially very time sensitive decisions, then making sure everyone is on the same page in that moment of time is crucial. 

If there is any uncertainty or disagreement with the decision they need to be made at that moment in time. Double-checking with key stakeholders and getting their agreement is key to getting decisions to stick. As stated in the Havard Business Review article on senior leadership meetings “unless strategic decisions are translated into something tangible, they can become subject to reinterpretation or, even worse, fall victim to the silent veto”.  

According to the Havard Business Review studies, “companies like Barclays also make the strategic decision-making process consequential by tying resource allocation to strategy approval. At ABN AMRO, Alcan, and Cadbury Schweppes, for example, the outcome of strategic planning is a formal performance contract, which specifies the resources (time, talent, and money) required to execute the strategy, as well as the financial results that management pledges to deliver. This process makes strategic decisions stick in two ways: 

  1. It enables the organisation to be firm on the final decision and clear on what it means. If there is uncertainty about resource and tactics to implement the strategy and what the results should be, then the leadership team can delay a final approval until those things are in place. "In effect, tying decisions to resources means the leadership team must formally approve each business unit’s strategy." 

  2. Performance contracts makes it more effective and easier to measure the strategy. A contract can then be used as a point of reference for reviewing a business unit performance. This enables the leadership team to review contracts and assess a chance of path should performance contracts fail. This also helps to remove doubt or misinterpretations. 

Getting verbal confirmation and running a live poll in a meeting provides that chance for people to confirm they've undertstood the options to make a decision. Resource allocation, contracts and responsibility statements put emphasis on the ownership or decision making process, but using the right tools or techniques in the meeting helps to kick of that decision making process in the most effective way. 

2. Trust

A lot of leaders in business functions might not spend lots of time together, let alone in a remote environment. When it comes to these leadership meetings, it's therefore key that time is used effectively to focus on making decisions rather than it being all discussions. Agendas need to be clear, well-kept to and everyone needs to know their role.

Havard Business Review research suggests that "80% of top management’s time is devoted to issues that account for less than 20% of a company’s long-term value. At one global financial service firm in the survey, for example, a senior line executive reported that top executives spent more time each year selecting the company’s holiday card than debating the bank’s strategy for the entire continent of Africa (where they had made significant capital investments)". In addition over 65% of senior leadership meetings aren't structured in a way to make decisions but to share information or for group discussion. To commit to decisions and make them work across the business, each leader needs to trust in a decision making process and each other. 

3. Inclusivity 

Having a group alliance and understanding of how everyone can be involved in decisions is key. But just as important is giving everyone an equal say in decisions especially when the decision impacts their business unit that they lead. Anonymous voting and Q&A tools can be a useful way to build complete inclusivity without any fears of judgement or biases and it gives an opportunity for people to voice their thoughts instantly. Healthy conflict can be helpful to explore different paths or views in that moment in time to make quicker, effective desicions rather than burying unhealthy conflict down the line. Listening to these different options allows the group to understand the potential strategy routes and to make a decision as a group to then "present a united front to the rest of the organisation" (Havard Business Review).

By creating an environment of trust, clarity and inclusiveness including a framework of decisionmaking processes and standards it enables leaders to be in the right frame of mind to make decisions effectively in these high-stake meetings and to honour these decisions as group commitments. Senior leadership meetings are vital to the success of a business so getting the correct planning, culture, techniques and tools in place should be a priority for many organisations. As well as reviewing this overtime and making adjustments as the business changes itself.  

For ensuring adoption of your new comms meeting tool, read our blog "5 steps to secure buy-in from management"