Workplace Issues

10 Steps to Effective Finance Staff Meetings

Frustration with meetings is rampant in the corporate world. Here's a playbook for making them work the right way.
Mitchell YorkJuly 18, 2019

First, a confession: What I’m about to tell you applies to meetings of any department in an organization, not just finance.

A high-functioning team needs to have a weekly meeting to make sure it stays on track with goals. That goes for finance, the company leadership team, the HR team, or any part of the company.

Once finance leaders understand how to make these meetings better in their own area, they can be heroes and teach everyone else how to be more productive and solve problems fast.

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The problems with meetings are numerous. Here are the biggest issues:

  1. Meetings are often held inconsistently — standing meetings get rescheduled or cancelled because the team leader has something better to do.
  2. When they are held, inevitably some people are late.
  3. Meetings all too often run past their scheduled end time.
  4. Most meetings are about reporting, not problem solving. “I did this last week, I’m going to do that next week. See, I’m earning my paycheck. Now leave me alone.” Maybe those aren’t the exact words people say, but that’s often the message they’re sending.

If you experience any or all of the above in your meetings, you have my sympathies. The good news is we’re about to fix them all, right now.

Here are the critical steps for holding a fantastic team meeting using part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), which I teach and facilitate. It’s called the Level 10 Meeting (you’ll find out why at the end of this article).

Step 1: The meeting starts on time and ends on time. If the meeting has a 9:00 start time, everyone is in their seats at 8:55. Those who are early are on time; those who are on time are late. Whether you have to lock the door, make latecomers put $20 in the pizza party jar, or just plain call them out for lateness, do it.

The Level 10 Meeting is 90 minutes long. So if it starts at 9, it ends exactly at 10:30. Not 10:31. The reason for time discipline is obvious, but just to state the obvious: we can’t respect each other and collaborate if we can’t do simple things like getting butts in seats and out the door timely.

While 90 minutes may seem like an arbitrary time frame, EOS instructors who have implemented the system in more than 8,000 companies over the last 20 years have determined that 90 minutes is the ideal length for a weekly team meeting.

Step 2: The meeting takes place on the same day and at the same time every week, forever. There are only two reasons to miss the meeting: vacation and death.

Step 3:  No electronics. Collect the phones, or insist on Airplane Mode. No computers on the meeting table. (If there are, people will say they’re taking notes but will actually be on email.) Don’t compromise on this.

Step 4: Have a segue. This is a five-minute segment of the meeting during which each participant gives the team one piece of personal good news and one piece of professional good news from the past week.

Not your idea of good meeting content? Trust me, there’s very good psychology behind this time-tested technique. Doing a segue gets everyone’s mind cleared from the many things they were thinking a nanosecond before the meeting started.

Step 5: Review the scorecard. Doing a scorecard review requires a scorecard. So what’s that? It’s a simple one-page spreadsheet that tracks the 5 to 15 most important numbers you need to know on a weekly basis.

These numbers should give you an absolute pulse on the business of your department or the company as a whole. For each measurable, there’s a column in the spreadsheet that says “Who” — as in, who owns this data point and is accountable for its achievement each week?

There’s another column that says “Goal,” which is the weekly goal for that data point. And then there are 13 columns to the right that are weeks of the quarter. When you review the scorecard, you simply ask the owner of each measurable, “Are we on-track or off-track?”

If the owner is on track, keep going with no further discussion. If the owner is off-track, drop the item down to the Issues List (more on that in a moment) — do not start discussing it yet. The scorecard review takes five minutes max.

Step 6: Rock Review. A department needs to have three to seven critical goals each quarter, and all individuals on the team also need to have their personal three to seven quarterly goals. We call these goals “rocks.”

The rocks must be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). Some person on the team owns each rock.

As with the scorecard, reviewing rocks is simply going through each rock one at a time — first the department rocks and then the individual rocks — and asking the owners if they’re on-track or off-track. If they’re on track you keep going, if they’re off-track you drop the item down to the Issues List.

Step 7: Headlines. This is a five-minute rapid-fire review of big doings since last week’s meeting that everyone needs to know. No long discussions, just headlines.

Step 8: To-Do List. At every weekly meeting, each participant will bring a to-do list from the prior week’s meeting. A to-do is an action that someone on the team must take to address an issue. Ninety percent of to-dos should be “ta-done” each week. This review also takes five minutes.

Step 9: Issues List. Now the fun, 60-minute part of the meeting. There is an ongoing Issues List of items the team needs to discuss at the Level 10 Meeting. Add items that come up during the current meeting when anything is off-track.

Then prioritize the list with the top three issues. Now you’re going to “IDS” those issues one at a time. Take the first issue and Identify its root cause. Then Discuss the issue, with each person stating their viewpoint once and only once — this is not a debate. Then Solve the issue, which means develop a solution where the outcome is one or more to-do’s that are assigned to people at the table.

When you’ve IDS’d the top three issues, if you have time, go back to the Issues List and select three more.  But stop wherever you are when there are five minutes left on the clock.

Step 10: Conclude. The meeting is almost over. Before everyone leaves, make sure that any to-do’s to be handled by someone not in the meeting are communicated by someone in the meeting. That’s called a cascading message.

Finally, each person gives the meeting a score from 1-10 with 10 being the highest. Record the average on your scorecard. The goal is to get to a Level 10 score, and over time, you will. And then get up and get the heck out of the meeting room before 10:30. You have just had the most effective meeting of your life.

Mitchell York, a former president of Lending Tree, is a Professional Certified Coach and Professional EOS Implementer. He can be reached via www.york.coach or at [email protected]