January 24, 2019

How to Lead Effective Nonprofit Executive Team Meetings

Avoid these common mistakes and establish good practices to transform your nonprofit executive team meetings from time sinks into engaging opportunities to really get things done.

By: Libbie Landles-Cobb

Ineffective meetings stood out as a major pain point in Bridgespan’s research for “Increasing Nonprofit Executive Team Effectiveness.” Only 17 percent of nonprofit executives surveyed strongly agreed that their meetings were effective. Disappointing considering these meeting, notes Patrick Lencioni, best-selling author on leadership and organizational health, are part of “where everything comes to life, and where you demonstrate whether you are an effective team or not.”

Patrick Lencioni
Patrick Lencioni, Author of Death by Meeting
How does an organization ensure its executive meetings turn from ineffective time sinks to ones that engage and meet their intended purpose? To start, nonprofits can establish some good practices to help prepare team members for productive discussions: offer adequate advance notice, set a clear purpose and agenda, and share pre-reads, when relevant. During the meeting, you also can practice good time management to ensure executive team priorities aren’t crowded out by urgent issues (see more in "Increasing Nonprofit Executive Team Effectiveness").
Lencioni further suggests in his book, Death by Meeting, avoiding two basic problems that meetings frequently suffer from: they’re boring and they lack context and purpose:
Problem 1: Meetings lack drama, which means they are boring.
Solution: Put the right issues—often the most controversial ones—on the table at the beginning of meetings. By demanding that people wrestle with those issues until resolution has been achieved, you create genuine, compelling drama, and prevent your audiences from checking out.
Problem 2: Most meetings lack context and purpose. Meetings can be a confusing mix of administrivia, tactics, strategy, and review, all of which creates unfocused, meandering, and seemingly endless conferences, with little resolution or clarity.
Solution: Differentiate between different types of meetings. Rather than throwing every possible conversation into one long staff meeting, tailor meetings to the content that needs to be discussed. Lencioni highlights four different types of meetings for different content: daily check-ins, weekly tactical meetings, monthly strategic meetings, and quarterly off-site reviews.
Lencioni and The Table Group offer a number of free resources to help you improve your executive team’s meetings. To read more and to download tips and tools, visit the Death by Meeting resource page.

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