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Planning Your Next All-Hands Meeting? Learn What Not To Do


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Recently, I observed Matt, a senior executive, as he led his quarterly all-hands meeting for his entire staff.

What a great opportunity to communicate key messages, report on successes, and recognize the great results achieved by his direct reports and their teams. The agenda looked good, the huge auditorium was filling up, and many more were watching over video. Energy was high and people were smiling.

The meeting started out strong; Matt was connecting with the extended team powerfully and with a purpose (to help the entire field understand what was going on behind the scenes and how the managers were working on the problems the field had surfaced to them months before). So far so good, I observed.

As each of Matt’s managers was introduced it was apparent they were following a template: recognize their people, check. State their key initiatives going forward, check. List their great results, check. Declare a call to action, check.

But as the presentations progressed, Matt was interjecting and adding more and more color commentary to his managers’ presentations. A few comments here and there are okay for emphasis or context, but this was too much. It was hard to look at the dejected faces of each manager who was interrupted by the boss several times.

This detracted from the managers’ presentations and made Matt look like he was in charge of every department. I could tell from the audience’s body language that it made people feel uncomfortable; they shifted in their chairs and some whispered comments to their neighbor.

An executive needs to make his or her team look like stars. Their managers are in charge; they are empowered, credible leaders in their departments. If the punch line or supporting detail is coming from the executive sitting on the sidelines, it diminishes the manager, undermines him or her and makes the executive look like a micro manager.

When we debriefed later, the executive told me he hadn’t wanted to take the time to go over everyone’s presentations to suggest points to emphasize. I asked, “How will your managers look like competent stars to their peers and direct reports, and how can you set them up for the utmost success?”

In Matt’s defense, some of the managers were new and truly did not yet understand the context and relevance of certain issues the organization was dealing with, but that is exactly why Matt could have taken time to review expectations and prep those managers with the key strategic messages.

In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith tells us there at 20 derailers that can hurt leaders’ credibility and success. Three of those 20 were evident here:

#1: Winning too much – Matt looked like he had to be right and have the last word.

#2: Adding too much value – Matt did not need to embellish or add commentary.

#6: Telling the world how smart we are – Matt certainly did not intend to do this, but it came off that way since it was his manager who had the floor when he interjected too much.

Luckily, Matt did not intend any harm, and he received this feedback openly from me. This was a big “A-hah!” moment for him, and hopefully for you as well.

What makes you feel like a star? On the other hand, when have you felt overshadowed by a boss who acted the same way as Matt? How does this inform your own leadership? Please add your comment below, or share with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or email.

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