A few months ago, I had the privilege of being the concluding speaker in the Starbucks EMEA Women’s Impact Network speaker series to round out women’s history month. As a girl from Seattle, who worked just across the street from the original Starbucks’ headquarters for 3 years while at Amazon in the early 2000s, this was an extra joy.
We talked about lessons in innovation and the few of the common denominators between all of the amazing CEOs I work with.
After the talk an experienced executive who had just joined the Starbucks team approached me and shared how he enjoyed the theme from my career of betting on myself and being brave in my approach to my career and willing to contribute new ideas. As a new manager, he wanted to know how he could encourage this kind of proactive culture within his teams and make them feel like they’re not only allowed but empowered to participate in the discussions regardless of their title or seniority.
My answer surprised him. Getting his team to be brave and offer up ideas started with one seemingly small but game-changing tweak to how he ran his meetings.
If you want your teams to be creative, speak up and collaborate they need three things in advance of the meeting.
☑ First, they need to know what is being proposed and debated in this meeting. What is the problem to be solved?
☑ Second, they need to be provided with the full context and data upon which decisions are being based so that everyone starts on equal footing.
☑ And third, they each need to have a clear understanding of the things you will be asking of them.
The secret to having a powerful team collaboration starts before you enter the room/Zoom with each other. The power comes from a clear meeting agenda.
When I observe meetings with my CEO clients I notice that very few have an agenda at all, let alone one thoughtfully prepared, sourced and announced in advance. Teams can’t know what success looks like for this hour together without a clear plan for what they’re aiming to accomplish. This is why so many meetings feel like just a “weather report” which would have been better as an email.
Meetings should center around the 3 Ds: discuss, debate and decide. If meetings feel like reports, many employees will be passive, bored and disengaged and worse, the same loud voices will just fill the time enjoying hearing themselves speak but without accomplishing anything, further exacerbating the disengagement.
Sharing the agenda and materials in advance allows your employees time to plan, prepare, and think about what ideas they could bring that would serve to achieve the end result of whatever success goals are outlined. This makes a dramatic difference for all levels of seniority in the room.
A week after this conversation, this Starbucks manager sent me an email saying that implementing this shift in meeting structure has completely changed how his team comes together. Yes, this higher quality meeting required more of his attention and time in advanced preparation. But the results are unquestionably worth it.
If you want to implement this in your team, you can start small.
Simply sending an agenda with a single sentence clearly stating what we’re solving for in this meeting and with a clear call to action to come prepared with ideas, thoughts, and data that can contribute to that goal.
This invites engagement and teaches your team to be proactively engaged before you even sit down. In my experience people will start showing up with notebooks full of concepts, questions and ideas to discuss as this pattern continues and their extra effort is heard, appreciated and rewarded. This allows you to spend the whole meeting going through proposals and debating key issues rather than him trying to pull ideas out of them – or worse, not accomplishing anything meaningful at all.
This email made my entire week and added so much purpose to that trip. I’m grateful to connect with Starbucks and their teams and share ideas that, when implemented, can make this immediate impact.
If you would like to have me participate in a leadership training event for your team, as I did for Starbucks, feel free to contact me. I love sharing highly tailored playbooks for innovation through purposeful culture, hiring & retaining top talent, c-suite optimization, forward-thinking leadership and more. I offer company training events, keynote speeches and retreats all across the globe. I have had the pleasure of working with leadership teams at Amazon Web Services, Siemens, Prudential, Telefonica, Beauty Pie, Tech Nation, Meta/Facebook, Google, World 50 and many more. I’d love to connect with you!