“Who’s Missing from this Meeting?”

Rockwell speech

Most business strategy and operations meetings are packed, standing room only, mainly because everyone wants to represent their function, protect their departmental budgets, and push for their ideas on strategy and products.  The room is full of people, ideas, and agendas, some open and obvious, several hidden.  Running a successful meeting is not for the faint of heart and it is during such meetings that an observer can easily determine the level of alignment, teamwork and shared objectives, or not!

There are numerous books and HBR articles written with excellent “do’s” and “don’ts” about how to run an effective meeting. One of the best I have found that is full of practical insights on the human side of meetings was written many years ago by a colleague of mine, Robert Kausen.  The book is: We’ve Got To Start Meeting Like This!: How to Get Better Results with Fewer Meetings.

I must say that over my 35+ years of supporting strategy execution and business performance, no matter how may people there are in the meeting, there is almost always one important voice missing!  The Voice of the Customer!

It’s not far off to say that 95% of most meeting time is taken up with internal issues. Costs, telescopebudgets, schedules and sales usually lead the way and it is this type of inside-out thinking and behaviour that tends to create more problems than it actually solves. Many years ago I supported a very talented new General Manager, Ian Walsh, turnaround a nearly bankrupt, once market leading aircraft engine company, Lycoming Engines. One of the key issues that Ian and his leadership team focused on was, Voice of the Customer.  In fact, their vision was written as: “Return to Profitability by Listening to the Voice of Our Customers”. And they did, on both.

Let’s face it, who pays your salary?  If you say the company, you have failed business 101A! The customer pays our salary! Without customers buying our products and services, and telling their friends and social networks to shop at your stores or use your services, your business will stagnate.

I often evaluate senior leadership teams on their focus and alignment around key business issues.  And in nearly every case, no matter what the industry, issues about customer insights, customer data, customer information, customer wants and needs, tend to score the lowest.

It’s never too late to take an Outside-In look at your business.  You might be pleasantly surprised at what you learn.

Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

Just published: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   
FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution



About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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