Friday, June 14, 2024
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CEO Agenda

The Best CEO Forum Hack? Preparation.


When I began leading workshops for CEO forums in late 2016, most groups displayed a check-in sheet on an easel, which included sections to note how each member felt on a scale of 1-10 in business, personal, and health. The check-in also included enough space to note whatever challenge, opportunity, or decision that member wanted to raise with the group that day, followed by a space to indicate whether the topic was A (important and urgent), B (important not urgent), or C (neither important nor urgent).

It took only a short time to notice that this check-in took longer than it should, as members would wait in line for the other members to fill in the space designated for their topic of the day. Why? Until they got to the meeting, most of the members hadn’t given it a second thought, so many of them just paused at the easel and eventually filled the space with whatever popped into their heads and marked it a “C” topic. Considering the importance of what each member is expected to contribute at the meeting, this all-too-common occurrence was hardly a recipe for productive engagement.

What Happened When I Asked 

In a piece I wrote for CEOWORLD Magazine in September 2022, I recounted a brief story from a workshop I led in 2017, where I pointed out to the members what I observed about their check-in, mainly because the point of these workshops is to help them maximize the value of their experience. One of the members (let’s call him Jim) announced that he regularly showed up to this gathering less prepared than for any other meeting on his calendar. It’s as if Jim realized what that meant just as the words left his mouth. He said he would never consider going to a board meeting, staff meeting, or client meeting as ill-prepared as he is for his group gathering. It also prompted the other members to think about what Jim said and jump to the same realization. Then Jim pointed to one of his fellow members and stated, “Helen, you are always prepared for these meetings – noticeably better prepared than the rest of us. How much time do you dedicate to that?”  Helen responded, “About 15 minutes.”  The aha moment for everyone in the room was that it would exponentially improve the group’s productivity and efficacy if they all adopted Helen’s approach.

It’s been the case with every group with whom I’ve followed up on that point. Moreover, I’ve shared this example with every new and experienced group I’ve worked with since that 2017 meeting. New group members don’t necessarily understand how best to prepare for such a meeting, so getting the members into the habit early can accelerate their progress. Experienced groups or forums that have plateaued, often do so because they become so comfortable with themselves and their environment that they don’t prepare properly for their meetings. The good news is that while lack of preparation is among the biggest obstacles to group productivity, it is among the easiest to fix. Each member can contribute to a more productive and efficient group dynamic by being better prepared for their meetings without much heavy lifting.

How to Prepare and Why It Matters 

While I encourage everyone to prepare in a manner that suits them best, here are my thoughts-starter suggestions:

  1. Review your notes from the last meeting and consider any topics you’d like to continue discussing or areas you believe deserve follow-up to build continuity.
  2. Review the meeting agenda and guest speaker info (if applicable), and carefully consider the opportunity, challenge, or decision you’d like to bring to the group. The more substance you bring to the conversation, the better for everyone.
  3. Do what you can to clear your head of whatever may be preoccupying you so that you can be more present during the meeting and participate more effectively.

This approach sounds quite simple, which is good news. The ripple effect is even better.

  1. Attendance – People tend to show up for meetings they’ve taken time to prepare for. Consistent attendance at group meetings matters a great deal. Consider peer advisory groups like a Jazz ensemble; you can’t remove instruments and expect the ensemble to deliver to its full potential.
  2. Improved Psychological Safety – I recall several days in high school when I failed to read the homework assignment, only to sit in class the next day with my fingers crossed, hoping the teacher wouldn’t call on me – not a psychologically safe feeling.
  3. More Active Participation – Conversely, if I had read the assignment and felt some command of the subject matter, I would raise my hand and actively participate. (Clearly, it was a big tell when I didn’t engage in the discussion).
  4. You and Your Members Will Bring Your Best Selves 
  5. Greater Value—Nothing is more accurate for a peer advisory group or forum than the statement, “The more value the members bring, the greater the benefit everyone receives.”

Call to Action 

Send this article to your members before your next forum meeting. Ask them to commit to taking at least 15 minutes to prepare for every meeting and watch what happens. If you’ve tried it already, tell us how it has made a difference. If you haven’t, secure your members’ commitment and get back to us in six months to share your success story. By the way, this simple approach works for better company team meetings, too.

Written by Leo Bottary.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Agenda - The Best CEO Forum Hack? Preparation.

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Leo Bottary
Leo Bottary is the founder and managing partner of Peernovation. He is a sought-after thought leader on Peer Advantage and Peernovation, emerging disciplines dedicated to strategically engaging peers to achieve personal and organizational excellence. A popular author of three books, including Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-performing Teams (Archway; October 16, 2020), he is also an author, keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and thought leader on the topic of peer advantage.

Books by Leo Bottary:
Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-performing Teams.
What Anyone Can Do
The One Advantage: Introducing a Peer-Powered Culture of Agility to Your Organization
The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth, and Success

Leo Bottary is a member of the External Advisory Board (EAB) and Executive Council at the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn, for more information, visit the author’s website CLICK HERE.