The ultimate CEO toolkit
And why facilitation is the most important tool in the box
Successful CEOs need a few God-given traits, some skills and the right behaviors. General intelligence is good. Emotional intelligence is very good. Assertiveness, conscientiousness, communication, decision-making skills, and the ability to properly frame issues make my list of top CEO skills when I consider the most successful CEOs I’ve coached.
Facilitation, however, doesn’t often show up on the “best skills for CEOs” lists. Unless CEOs structure a company where people all work independently and make unilateral decisions, they must learn how to facilitate successful team conversations.
The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model says that leaders must either tell, sell, participate or delegate when decisions must be made. Outside of telling, all leaders require the skill to engage teams in a discussion, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
It’s common for me to hear CEOs say they don’t like meetings—especially ones they own. Like it or not, meetings are a primary means to make decisions, build alignment, solve problems and set direction. If you feel like they’re a waste of time, look in the mirror!
CEOs often meet with their teams to make decisions — they’re either looking for feedback and then making the decision themselves or facilitating the group so that they can make the decision. CEOs’ overall objectives for the meeting are to make an informed decision, elicit information from the team to do so and ensure commitment. CEOs should shoot for collaboration, not consensus.
To accomplish these objectives, there’s work to do. Here’s a facilitation checklist that should help.
- Have a clear agenda beforehand with objectives clearly stated.
- Ask people to come prepared to discuss and share what they know. Emphasize facts versus opinions.
- Prepare in advance any questions you want to ask your team.
- Ensure that everyone participates. If they don’t volunteer, ask them. Lack of participation typically means opposition.
- Conflict over the idea (not personalities) is healthy. Allow it — in fact, look for it.
- Offer your perspective last; otherwise, the decision will suffer from groupthink. To eliminate this, ask participants to share thoughts in writing (Google “brainwriting”).
- Be assertive and keep the conversation focused on the objective.
- Don’t let verbose people hijack the meeting. For example, “Let me stop you there, Bob. What I hear you saying is …”
- Summarize periodically.
- If there’s an even split or several strong opinions, make the decision. That’s why you get the big bucks!
- At the end of the meeting, identify:
- What actions the team is taking.
- Who is accountable for what.
- By when are they accountable.
- How you will monitor it.
- When everyone will report back.
- State your expectations around commitment.
Effective facilitation takes some methodology and practice. If you (and your people) think your meetings suck, you’re probably not facilitating well. That’s fixable.