With Martin G. Moore

Episode #111

The Leadership Meeting Cadence: Bringing the concepts to life

This may be our most practical episode yet. I’m really excited to get your feedback on it!

If you took a poll of 100 leaders, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who’d say that they’d like more meetings in their lives, especially these days where ‘Zoom fatigue’ has become a factor.

However, meetings can be a powerful construct for setting standards, making decisions, and lifting performance. If you’re spending a lot of your time in meetings, you want to make them count!

This week, we talk about how to bring together all aspects of the individual AND group meetings that drive your execution tempo, as I let you in on my proven leadership meeting cadence.

If this helps, make sure you share it with your team so that you’re all working from the same playbook.


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Episode #111 The Leadership Meeting Cadence: Bringing the concepts to life

If you surveyed a room full of leaders, you’d struggle to find a single one who’d say they needed more meetings in their lives. After all, meetings are much maligned and many leaders see them just as a necessary evil, where time is wasted and value disintegrates before their very eyes. Now that Zoom and Microsoft Teams dominate the corporate meeting environment, they’ve become even more dreaded. However, if used properly, meetings can be a powerful construct for setting standards, making decisions and lifting performance.

We covered off the topic of performance reviews in Episode #96, a few months back, but I want to broaden this out a little to talk about how to bring together all aspects of the individual group meetings that drive your execution tempo.

I’m going to let you in on the leadership meeting cadence that I developed over the last 10 years or so of my executive career. It’s a very practical topic, so we have a downloadable, which you can get for free here.

  • We’re going to start with a look at the one on one meetings that you can use to challenge, coach, and confront your people.

  • I’ll then share the different types of group meetings I used to manage team performance with my leaders.

  • I’ll finish on some tips for using meetings to improve your decision making capability.

Now obviously, size matters. What I’m talking about here today is the cadence that I used in a large organisation, where I had many, many layers of leaders. It’s going to be very different for you if you’re running a micro startup business, but the object of the exercise is to take the concepts here and adapt them for your environment. You’ve got to make it fit for purpose.

One on One Meetings

Let’s start with a humble one-on-one. I want to preface everything by saying leading people competently requires high order communication skills. These skills are leveraging all types of situations. The one-on-one conversations, town hall meetings, where you might be addressing a large group of people, smaller group meetings, where issues are discussed and decisions are formulated as a result, reporting meetings to board and shareholders and presentations of all types.

We have to master the art of both written and oral communication. Whereas you can pay people to help you with your written communication, when you communicate verbally, you’re working without a net. You have to master the art of getting your point across clearly, and with a level of engagement and, often forgotten in the communication process, is the art of listening. As a leader, you’re going to need this in spades.

One-on-one communication is often the hardest. These conversations put you eyeball to eyeball with another human, and you’re not always going to see things the same way as each other. These meetings have the potential for conflict, discomfort and heightened emotions.

I’m going to reference a number of past episodes today that fill in some of the gaps of the content I’m covering. First, we look way back to the start of the No Bullsh!t Leadership journey in 2018 to Episode 6, which was The Psychology of Feedback. When we talk about one-on-one communication, this episode talks about overcoming the psychological barriers that are going to prevent you from giving feedback. After all, this is 90% will and 10% skill. But it’s these conversations, normally conducted as formally scheduled meetings, that determine how your people perform. Yup, you did hear that right.

One-on-one meetings will determine the level of performance you get from your people. Why? Because this is your forum for challenging, coaching, and confronting the individuals who work for you.

So of course when we talk challenge, coach confront, you’ll need to go back and have listened to Episode 57, which was titled the same way, even if you already have, this is the secret to driving your people forward and getting the best performance out of them.

It’s this process that also enables your people to answer the three important questions that they want to know:
Question one: what are your expectations of me?
Question two: how am I performing against those expectations?
Question three: what does my future hold?

This is where you set standards, through many interactions, for both behaviour and performance. It’s also where you empower your people by offering them support, guidance and encouragement.

The structure of one on one meetings

If you haven’t listened to Episode 96 on Performance Reviews, I’ll just give you a really quick recap. The first thing is you need a baseline to work with. How do you create a common platform to have the performance based discussions you need to have? You need to have a way to measure your leader’s performance based on both their results and their behaviours. You’re looking for the what and the how, and you need to communicate that in a way that’s tangible, practical and clear. I broke down the example of how I used a wide-ranging performance agreement template that had the following characteristics.

#1. The behavioural component
Is the leader performing in accordance with the company values? Is she demonstrating the behaviours that model the desired approach for those around them? A high level of accountability, a drive for excellence, calculated risk taking, focus on value creation, and high levels of integrity, to name just a few.

#2. Assessment of the day job
How are you performing in the key result areas that have been defined as important for your level? Now every leadership level has the same performance categories, but obviously a different focus on each, depending on the scope and time horizon of the role.

For example, as Chief Executive, I was assessed on my commercial performance, as was the frontline supervisor. For me, that assessment might have involved a measurement of how all the new investments the company undertook performed against the internal rate of return hurdles that the board had established. For the frontline supervisor, that same measure might simply be meeting their OPEX budget.

#3. KPIs
What are the specific initiatives and results that you’ve committed to delivering? These are generally annual targets for key deliverables, that create value over and above the day job. They often have short term incentive bonuses attached to them so they give you an incentive to achieve over and above.

Normally, people tend to create too many KPIs, so just be careful of this. You want somewhere between two and four measurables here, and they’ve got to be big ticket items.

#4 An individual development plan
What does the leader need to do to reach fuller exceptional performance in their current role? And how do they build capability for their next role? This answers the question, what does my future hold? Now I said in Episode 96, that every one of my direct reports had a performance meeting based on this standard once per month. Then twice a year, a formal assessment would be undertaken against these scorecards and become part of the annual review process. When it comes to one on one meetings, they should be a combination of these performance based discussions that we mentioned and opportunities for your people to seek guidance.

I handled this in my meeting cadence by using alternating fortnightly agendas. The first meeting of the month would be based on their agenda, and the second meeting of the month would be based on mine.

We know what my agenda held, but their agenda was rather loose. They could come to me with anything they wanted to discuss. A major initiative, relationship issues they were having with their peers, how to influence one of the directors on the board, one of their staff that perhaps wasn’t performing up to scratch, they could put anything on that agenda that they liked, and I was basically in mentor mode. You throw it at me, and we’ll chew the fat, and see if there are some solutions to the problems you’re facing at the moment. These meetings were fantastic and they fulfilled a number of functions.

The first, was for the individuals to get support from me, so that anything they were unsure about, they could tap into my brain space. I had to be a little bit careful not to direct them, but rather to give them some guidance about how they might think through a problem, which is a slightly different thing. I also got the opportunity to see up close and personal what their capability was like, how they focused on problems, and what they did to process and solve them. Basically getting a window into their capability and performance, massively, massively valuable for me as the leader. But on top of these formally scheduled one-on-ones, twice a month, once on their agenda, once on mine, we also had drop-ins all the time. This is one of those things that I think we’re losing with remote working.

I used to be able to walk around the floor and just pop into someone’s office, close the door and say, “Hey, let’s have a chat for five minutes.” We could cover some stuff that might be topical, it might just be some general stuff, it might be personal, but those are the things that build the relationship with your people, and so losing that will be an awful shame. Instead of sending an email, I always used to pull up a chair.

These days, it’s pulling up a screen. Make sure you get that contact as much as you can. All of these conversations, from the formal one on one meetings on performance, all the way through to those informal drop-ins where you’re just talking about the footy on the weekend, these all collectively form part of the leadership dialogue you have with every individual in your team.

This is where you challenge, coach, and confront your people. Where you stretch them to bring out their best, and when you support them to deliver the things they have to deliver. The importance of these meetings simply can’t be underestimated, and if you’re not doing enough one on one meetings, that’s something you want to get on top of straight away.

Team Meeting Cadence

There’s only one reason why you bring teams of people together and that’s to improve the performance of the team and the business. I would bring my executive team together at least once a week to discuss performance.

Every week, we would meet for two hours on a Monday morning. These would all come with a formal agenda, pre-meeting briefing notes, and it was the forum for robust discussions. This was where we brought to bear all of the constructive tensions in the team and turn them into a better understanding of how to create value.

One of those meetings each month, one of those weeklies, would turn into an extended, half day, strategy session. There we would examine the results from the prior month, when the financials have been collated, and we’d look forward to the next month to see what was going to happen there and to predict what the performance was going to be and what sort of issues we were going to run into.

These meetings were enormously beneficial for the executive team who is steering the organisation. Remember, each member of my executive team is already getting the one-on-one meeting attention every fortnight, and I see them every day or two, when one of us isn’t travelling. Oh, weren’t those the days when we could travel!

The next forum I held was what we called the Quarterly Business Reviews. We held those once a quarter, as it might suggest, where we get the executives to bring their leadership teams in, so two levels below me, to talk about the performance of their part of the business for the quarter.

It was a very standardised format and template that we used, but this is where we found out what the performance of the business was truly like.
– What did you say you were going to do?
– What did you actually do?
– And what are you going to do?

We’d get the leaders of each of these functions underneath the executive to present on their particular area. It gave them some exposure to me and the executive team, the broader team, but it also gave us a look at who was doing what and helped us with our assessment of talent.

These were pretty serious sessions. We had two hours allocated for each functional division and a half a day for operations, and this sucks up a lot of time to prepare and hold these things.

You’ve got the finance team who’s working really, really closely with everyone who has to present to make sure their numbers are right. You’ve got the executive team that’s taken out for probably a day and a half, and you’ve got every individual, some of whom have to come in from their operations, to present, sometimes for only 15 or 20 minutes. But really important in terms of visibility, and this is the thing that drives performance.

Now, a lot of people who’ve had to go through those quarterly business reviews, hated them. They actually dreaded them. Why? Because there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, you have to live or die on your performance. And so over a period of time, you change the culture of the organisation from being one where, okay, the results were the results, and we shrug our shoulders and move on, to one where we go after performance, we go after value creation and we’re fanatical about it.

When we don’t meet our performance standards, that we’ve set, we want to know why, and we want to know why in some detail, and we want to hold people to account for that.

You can imagine why that might be a little bit uncomfortable for some of the participants, particularly when they’re not performing and they don’t know how to perform. But don’t get me wrong, you don’t use these to ever criticise or to belittle someone. These are meetings where you’re talking about group results and performance, and of course, if you’ve got any individual work to do, that’s done in private.

Always praise in public, always criticise in private, basic rule of thumb.

When we had everyone in the central location for the quarterly business reviews, I used to run what I called a CEO Forum. We’d pull maybe a day and a half or two days together with the top 50 leaders in the company, and this was where we would communicate key objectives, key principles, and important messages. From this, a comms plan would be developed that the leaders would take back out to their parts of the business so that they could give their teams the same message.

You may have heard me say before, the communication and intent are diluted every layer you go down in an organisation. When it comes from the CEO’s office, it’s pretty clear, it’s pretty direct, and it’s pretty forceful.

By the time you get down to layer three, that message has been diluted in a way that sometimes is completely unrecognisable. So the CEO Forum formed a really important part of this in terms of getting clear messaging, consistent messaging, and making sure that we had a better chance of getting a good, strong message through the lines in the organisation.

On top of that meeting, we had a board preparation meetings where the executive team will get together once a month. In the lead up to the board meeting, we’d work out what we were taking up and why, and we’d make sure that our key messaging and tone was exactly right. So we talk about that. When you’re dealing with a board, you have to give them the respect, of preparing well for them, which we always did.

Finally, there were some things that I thought were important enough to have me as the chair of a meeting. There were two things in particular at CS Energy. The first thing, was the central safety committee. This spoke to the safety of the individuals and assets under our care. I wanted to send a message this was the most important thing to me. If you lose $1mill or $5mill or $10mill, in five years time, you won’t even remember how much it was, but if you see someone who’s severely injured or killed on your watch, you will never forget that. It’s with you for your whole life. I found that putting the emphasis on safety was the most important thing I could possibly do, and I chaired that central safety committee meeting.

I also chaired the market risk committee and this spoke to our licence to operate. We had to make sure that we were painting within the lines in terms of both our risk and our trading strategy. I didn’t chair or participate in the capital investment committees because I’d get enough information from the approval processes that we had in place, and the fact that any major investments had to make their way to me, at least, and sometimes to the board, meant I always had a bite of that cherry. I didn’t need to be involved day to day.

Finally, I’d go out once a quarter and visit all of the operational sites to give them an update on how the company performed and what we needed from the organisation over the next three months.

All of these group meetings were designed to focus on value delivery and performance. They serve to improve communication between the silos. To calibrate and pressure test information from different sources. To ensure consistency of message throughout the company. In the case of the town hall style meetings, to do people a courtesy, of showing that what they do is important enough for me to be on the ground talking to them, not just sitting in an air conditioned office somewhere, judging them by the reports that turned up in my inbox.


A lot of meetings are held to discuss issues. Sometimes, the purpose is simply to gather information. Sometimes, people want to share a problem, so they don’t feel singularly accountable for solving it.

After all, you know what they say? A problem shared is a problem halved. And sometimes we just pay difference to people’s desire to know what’s going on and to contribute.

Conducting meetings to gather different viewpoints and inputs for key decisions is incredibly important. You want people to understand all the issues at hand and to robustly debate them. But there are smart ways to do this, which create value, and really dumb ways that choke the life out of your decision maker’s accountability, and kill any semblance of momentum that you thought you might be able to achieve.

Without strong, single-point accountabilities, you can fall into the trap of decision making by consensus. Decision making by consensus is insidious. You’re basically looking for everyone to agree and to find a point of compromise before you make a decision. But this develops into some really nasty habits.

Everyone feels as though they have a right to have their opinion heard regardless of how relevant it is. Some people even go so far as to put power of veto in place. So in other words, you can have 15 people in a room saying that something is a good idea, number 16, who might be a thought leader says, “I don’t agree with that. I don’t think we should do it”, and everything grinds to a halt.

This defacto power of veto will kill your decision making processes. But it absolutely doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek people’s opinion. With the right people in the room, participating actively in a conversation driven by the accountable maker to wrestle with key criteria, data and risks in the decision process can add a huge amount of value.

You’ve probably heard me say before that diversity, in all its forms, is incredibly important for moral reasons, if nothing else. But from a practical perspective, diversity is almost completely useless unless you can harness people’s unique perspectives, experiences, and opinions to bring greater insight and value to a decision.

How do you liberate your people in a way that allows them to contribute, without turning the process into an all care, no responsibility, shit show? Here’s a couple of rules to work off.

#1. Only people who can uniquely contribute to the decisions should be in the room: It’s not for tourists to have a gawk what’s happening.

#2. If it is important enough for you to be in the room, you’re expected to contribute and participate, not just listen.

#3. Any meeting of this nature has to be chaired and managed by the accountable decision maker.

This person’s accountable for decision making tempo and needs to balance consultation with speed, but ultimately this is what leaders are paid for. They’re paid to make those hard decisions, using all of the inputs they have available and to maximise the resources at their disposal.

People have to have a high level of trust for the accountable person, so they’re not hesitant to profit their opinions, judgement , and experience. They have to demonstrate a willingness and ability to listen and to change their position in light of better information. That’s how people are going to get the confidence to contribute because it’s not wasted.

Using some of these simple rules, you’ll be able to get the best available information and knowledge to make a decision really quickly.

But remember, never create a need for unanimity, you’re not looking for a cent and never allow the power of veto to rear its ugly head. A good decision from an accountable person goes something like this:

“Thank you everyone for your input. It’s really changed the way I think about this issue and I’m using it to shape my views and the decision I’m ultimately going to make. But now that we’ve got all of that, I’m deciding that we’re going to go here and we’re going to do this. Thank you very much for coming.”

This approach basically allows an accountable leader to balance inclusiveness and decisiveness.

We covered a lot of ground here, so let’s just finish with a quick recap:

  • One-on-one meetings should be happening constantly as this is how you make your people understand the expectations they’re operating under and also how you support and empower them to give them the confidence to perform. So you’ve got the formal one-on-ones every fortnight, one on their agenda, one on yours, but you stay connected all the time. Drop in meetings. You should have an open door policy and make sure that people are aware of what’s going on and can always tap into you.

  • With group meetings, they’re for alignment of objectives and assessment of performance to targets. They have to always focus on the things that drive the greatest value for the organisation, not the minutiae. You need to decide which forums are important enough and appropriate for you to be involved in as the leader.

  • For decision-making, use meetings sparingly and surgically. Get the right people in the room to give their views, but don’t let it slow you down or dilute the decision maker’s accountability. It’s not a democracy. Leaders are paid to make good decisions, in a timely manner, so don’t let well meaning people hijack the process.

Resources and related topics:

  • Download the free guide: How to Get Your Leadership Cadence Right

  • Episode #6: The Psychology of Feedback – Listen Now

  • Episode #96: Performance Reviews – Listen Now

  • Episode #57: Challenge, Coach and Confront – Listen Now

  • Explore other podcast episodes – Here

  • Take our FREE Level Up Leadership Masterclass – Start now

  • Leadership Beyond the Theory- Learn More


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