Now let’s be honest, when was the last time that you came out of a meeting feeling satisfied? I bet it has almost never happened. Do you have any idea why that is? Probably not. If you are not satisfied but don’t really know why, that is telling me something. I’m pretty sure the reason is that your meetings usually take longer than necessary. That is because most meetings are really about nothing. Yes, they are about formal trivia such as minutes, announcements, presentations of figures and so on. They are meant to last two hours so that’s the amount of time that is filled with talk, and sometimes even more. This is really irritating. The leaders of the company (management board and supervisory board) gather together and waste each other’s talents and time. On a structural basis, over and over again. “But having meetings is a must.” No it isn’t, what nonsense!

Task 1: discuss the quality of meetings as the first item on the agenda in your next meeting. There are simple rules of thumb and tricks to immediately improve that quality by 500%. For example: scrap all formalities such as setting and approving the agenda, going over the minutes and presentations on progress. All of these things can be done in advance by email. Whoever wants to bring up an issue based on the minutes will have to announce that by email prior to the meeting. The chairman can then put it on the agenda.

Task 2: make it a matter of principle to talk at each meeting for at least half of the time about a strategic and business related topic. This topic is selected and prepared by the management. The recurring theme is: how can the management benefit optimally from the thinking power and experience of the members of the supervisory board where it concerns the development of an initiative, acquisition, expansion or negotiation? Please be aware that those supervisory board members do not determine what is ultimately decided. With their ideas and input they only contribute to the deepening of the management’s final decision.

Task 3: make the question ‘what issues really worry the management?’ a permanent item on the agenda. Talk about these issues for at least half an hour and offer the management your thoughts, ideas and advice. Please note that it is up to the management to decide what they do with it. Obviously this means that there must be a relationship of trust between the management and the supervisory board. It happens all too often that the management is reluctant to ask the supervisory board for advice. The reason for this is that they fear, whether this is justified or not, that the advice will not be given without obligation: if they don’t follow the advice, the supervisory board will be dissatisfied. As a supervisory board, discuss in advance with the management that you don’t want to fall into that trap and that everyone will be held to that both individually and as a board.

Task 4: limit substantive discussions about issues on which decisions must be made. First of all, set a fixed time for the discussion of each topic in advance. In addition, prioritize the topics on which decisions must be made. Assign a number between 1 and 10 to each topic, for instance: 1 is not really important, 10 means that it is essential that a decision is made. This is something that the chairman can do in advance. You can take five minutes during the meeting to change the order if needed. Ensure (task for the management) that there are several alternatives for each topic and every proposed solution. They shouldn’t be variations. They must be real alternatives, i.e. different choices.

Task 5: make sure that every decision is executed. Obviously this is the responsibility of the management, which can immediately assign a roadmap for implementation to each decision.

This will make meetings actually worth your while! Honestly!

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Do you have a question about corporate governance yourself? Please e-mail it to governance@ekvandoorne.com and perhaps your question will be discussed in the next blogpost.

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