Recently, a CEO member in one of my Vistage Peer Advisory Groups, asked what I meant when I told him that 80-90% of a CEO’s time should be spent in meetings. If that sounds like too much, consider that anytime you are with another person and one of you is talking, it is a meeting.
A recent article by RAY FISMAN and TIM SULLIVAN Wall Street Journal Article by “In Defense of the CEO”, explains the answer to that question:
Meetings remain the focus of the CEO’s day because such personal interactions are critical to learning the information necessary to run a company effectively. After all, one of the most important jobs of managers is to decide what information gets passed up through the chain of command. If CEOs were to rely solely on written reports and data sheets from self-serving underlings, they almost would be guaranteed to make the wrong decisions. What manager wants to pass on bad news—so much easier to do in a report than when you’re being questioned in detail by your boss? This very problem was at the root of Toyota’s response to its problems in 2009 with sudden, unexpected acceleration in its vehicles: Managers were all too willing to paint a rosy picture for the CEO, which hampered his ability to direct the company to respond appropriately.
Harvard Business School professors Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria argue that the skill to extract from underlings the critical details that are needed to inform top-level decisions is part of what makes the best CEOs better than their peers. It works in reverse too. The information the CEO needs to convey is just as prone to being misrepresented and misinterpreted as it works its way through a corporation, across shareholders and among customers. So, in the vast majority of meetings, CEOs are not just uncovering information but also constantly refining their message.
As your organization grows, it is important that you transform from being the “doer” to managing results through your people. That can’t happen without clarity and communication. You have to constantly be talking with your employees, and do not think that you can tell them something just once! People need to hear the same message multiple times before they understand and remember it.
Where do you find all of this time for meetings? Review your calendar, to-do list and priorities. What can you delegate? What priorities require more clarity and communication? How much of your workday is spent talking with others? If it is not 80-90%, then you are probably too much of “Doer”, and you are spending less time than you should in your CEO role. Reflecting on how much of your day is spent in meetings, are there any changes that you can make today?