The goal of leadership meetings is to make decisions about the business, utilizing its most savvy and strategically-minded talent to set the vision, strategy, and path toward execution.
Yet, research indicates that few companies utilize executive time in a disciplined way. Managers overspend time on issues that have little impact on company success.
So while the free executive meeting agenda templates on this page provide frameworks for many common types of leadership meetings, as you fill the agendas in, consider the topics you are adding. Address only high-value topics and try to delegate lower-level problems to lesser organizational levels. Be judicious with your executive team and the time they spend together. Make sure every agenda item reflects a priority for your business.
Ideal Executive Meeting Team Size
For best results in each meeting, consider the size of the group. As group sizes increase, often so does the duration of the meeting and its relative cost to the organization.
Is everyone's contribution required at every meeting? You want to avoid unproductive meetings by involving too many people. So, who participates in executive sessions?
The purpose of a meeting often will help determine who should attend. Some meetings are best capped at a certain level of seniority, such as a weekly meeting where department heads coordinate on large issues that may cross their various departments.
Others leadership meetings require specific knowledge, requiring some departments to be present, but not others. A product planning meeting will need leaders from the product and developer side of an organization, but leaders from marketing and sales may better be involved before and after the meeting for feedback (but not during).
Keep Agenda-Setting Focused and Disciplined
Many leadership meetings either have exactly the same agenda every recurring meeting (weekly, monthly, etc), or an agenda that is totally ad hoc. Both are problematic.
When you focus on the most relevant matters, the agenda is going to change from meeting to meeting. Sure, the format may remain the same, but the individual topics will range across all of the important issues that need to be addressed. If you're continually discussing the same topic, you're not an effective leadership team because you're failing to make a decision that sticks.
The purpose of any agenda item for your leadership meeting should be either:
- Making decisions
- Bringing up and solving problems
- Aligning cross-functionally across departments
If it doesn't fit into one of these areas, such as giving a simple status update, a meeting may not be the best place to share this information or have this type of conversation. Share status updates in advance of the meeting so that the group can stay focused on issues and challenges that require conversations—the one thing you can only do in a meeting and no where else.
Deal with Operations and Strategy Separately
Strategic and operational issues require different modes of thinking. These are best kept separate, either in separate meetings, or in separate discussions at least. If you find a discussion is blurring the lines between strategy and tactics, call it out to the group and ask which is being discussed. This will help make it clear to the group what issue is actually on the table. Speaking of which...
Put Real Choices On The Table
If your leadership team struggles with long meetings, it can be helpful to focus on the decision-making part of the discussion. After a brief analysis, encourage members of the group to start to lay out real solutions. Give concrete examples. Propose a specific course of action.
People can debate theories for countless hours. But by keeping the meeting rooted in tangible ideas, you make it easier to discuss and decide.
Great leaders meet better. Learn how.
As a manager or leader, you don’t just set the meeting agenda for high-level meetings. You set the tone, tempo, and expectations.
So in addition to the executive meeting agenda templates you can download on this page, we’ve compiled several resources to help you run better meetings. Those resources are contained in the sections that follow, where you'll find:
- Meeting secrets from executives like Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO) and Oprah Winfrey (OWN CEO).
- How to run a meeting as an executive, plus common one-on-one meeting mistakes to avoid.
- Previews of our collection of agenda examples.
- Frequently asked questions about leadership and management meetings.
Meeting secrets from 5 top executives
If there's one overarching takeaway from the top executives' approaches to meetings that we studied, it's that there's no single, best approach.
In the section below, pick up a few nuggets of meeting wisdom from Facebook, Disney, Twitter, OWN, and Netflix executives.
- Start all meetings with each attendee getting a chance to discuss their emotional and professional state.
- Set a clear goal for every meeting, i.e. to make a decision or have a discussion.
- End meetings early if all items are completed, which should happen often.
- The leader’s primary role is to "reduce blocks to candor."
- Reduce the fear meeting attendees may feel in anticipation of being wrong, offending someone, or triggering retaliation.
- Encourage exploration of myriad trains of thought, in an additive (not competitive) manner.
Oprah Winfrey, OWN CEO
- Kick off each meeting with three questions: What is our intention for this meeting? What's important? And what matters?
- Minimize time in meetings.
- If it can be done through an email, don't hold a meeting.
Jack Dorsey, Twitter and Square CEO
- Dedicate each day of the week to a different area of focus, i.e. Mondays for leadership meetings, Tuesdays for product meetings, etc.
- Build repetition into your schedule.
Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO
- End each meeting with this question: “Have we made any decisions today, and if so, how are we going to communicate them?”
- For senior management meetings, board members may occasionally observe, but not participate.
- Prioritize memos over presentations for board communications with directors.
Management Meetings: Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Structure a Management Meeting?
Here’s the agenda we’d recommend you use to structure your management meeting:
- Review Metrics/KPIs - Start with high-level data to keep the pulse on your organization. How are these key metrics tracking?
- Company Update - Any major topics work spending time on with this important group? What issues are impacting employees the most?
- Department/Team Lead Roundtable - Have team leads give a quick overview related to recent wins, current priorities, and anywhere they are stuck or need help
- Problem-Solving Session - Choose one major challenge or opportunity that aligns with your priorities. Give an overview and ask your team for insight on how to improve performance for the business
- Next Steps - Always leave a spot on your agenda for next steps as a reminder to document and assign all tasks from the meeting
What Should a Manager Say in a First Meeting?
In the first meeting with their new team, a manager should—above all—get to know her team. Other important things to cover are:
- Setting Team Expectations
- Feedback (for you as a new manager)
What Do You Talk About in a Leadership Meeting?
In leadership meetings, the top management team meets to make strategic decisions about how to approach the most important opportunities and problems the company faces. If the decision can’t be made during the leadership meeting, the team discusses when and how they’ll reach a decision and who must be involved in granting final approval.