Business Management

You lead like a girl! My formula for hosting engaging and productive meetings that employees actually want to attend

Last week I wrote about my leadership journey, and some of the challenges I’ve faced as a professional business leader and woman. One of the greatest challenges was (and is) the lack of female mentors at the executive level to help navigate specific issues.  Because of this, I had to learn many things the hard way; through embarrassing missteps, trial and error, observation, and piecing together things through research. In my experience, the greatest challenges were in the areas of communication and boundaries, and nowhere is this more true than in the business meeting.

Holding effective meetings is a challenge for professionals of every type, male and female, but as a woman in several virtually all-male companies I felt even more pressure as the spotlight seemed that much brighter. Today I’m going to share some of the things I learned to do that changed my meetings from a dreaded, boring ritual to something my team genuinely looked forward to, and that made a difference in not only my team’s but also my company’s performance. This not only improved morale, but also helped keep employees in different locations engaged. I’m sure you’ll find this valuable, so don’t forget to download the free meeting resource at the end to help you plan and execute killer meetings.

So…meetings. I have to confess that I’ve never liked them. Most of the meetings I attend consist of people giving me handouts, and then reading the information from the handouts aloud. Sometimes there’s a slideshow and someone will read the information on the slides to me. Best case scenario is maybe a couple senior managers will get into a really awkward disagreement, to the delight of the other participants (oh, is that just me?) The advent of conference calls and web calls made this better only in the sense that it was slightly easier to multi-task without getting caught, but the value was just not there that I ever saw.

If I’m honest, my initial attempts at staff meetings weren’t much better. I conducted the meetings because I was supposed to, but I didn’t really understand the point. Then some things happened that changed everything for me, and ever since then my meetings have actually been the high points of the week for me and my teams. So what happened?

My need to figure out how to conduct effective meetings was the result of my team tripling, being given an immense, enterprise-spanning initiative, and being told that my department turnover was the highest in the company, and was I sure I wasn’t being too hard on people? So right off the bat, my goals were to train, to inspire, and to retain employees as we worked on some pretty high stress, but at times monotonous, projects. Fortunately, I was mentored by a pioneer in behavioral psychology and well-versed in the principles of positive reinforcement, so I had an inkling about how to create conditions conducive to high performance. The final piece in the puzzle was watching one of my other mentors in action. He had the gift of inspiring people and helping them see the bigger picture that I really appreciated, and worked on developing in myself.

A resource I highly recommend if you want to have more effective meetings is Patrick Lencioni’s “Death By Meeting”. This book helped me view meetings in a whole different way. Lencioni deconstructs the traditional view of meetings to make them more interesting and meaningful. It is helpful to understand the types of meetings Lencioni refers to. In this model, meetings are not conducted for meetings sake, and principles of conflict are surfaced as conflict is seen as the most important aspect of meetings. The idea is that conflict equals change and if the meeting is not surfacing or managing change, then it is probably not needed.  Click here to view Lencioni’s meeting model.

Developing my meeting formula was years in the making, but here’s the summary of what I do to create highly engaging and effective meetings that people actually wanted to attend. This is just the summary, all the details are included in this free download containing my meeting formula and checklists for planning agendas and for conducting effective conference calls.

  • Set and communicate the intention of every meeting
  • Be strategic when creating your agenda
  • Set and communicate meeting Ground Rules
  • Use a Parking Lot
  • Create a team purpose and code of operating
  • Turn meetings into leadership training classes
  • Don’t read information to people
  • Don’t wait for tardy people or catch them up
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously, but do take your team seriously
  • Change up recurring meetings

If you put as many of these practices into place as possible, with as many meetings as you can, I think you’ll be very pleased with how much more engaging your meetings are, and how much more smoothly they run. If you want to learn more, please click here for the full description of my meeting success formula, as well as some helpful tips for planning agendas, and for conducting conference calls. Based on my own experience, mastering this will do wonders for your leadership profile. Next…my number one secret for creating teams that will happily go to battle with you. 

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at

Business Management

You lead like a girl! The truth about women leaders that no one wants to tell you

As a woman of a  ‘certain age’ (okay, 45) I grew up being told that I could (and should) do it all. I could have a lucrative, fulfilling career, marriage, and kids. I think everyone was just so happy that women COULD work outside the home if they wanted that we instantly transitioned into SHOULD. I’m not complaining because otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered that I have a gift for leadership and coaching. Being a working woman, business leader, and Mommy (in that order, actually), provided me a lot of insight into what I’m great at, what I love, and what stresses me out.

For quite a while, I bought into the fact that in order to be successful in business, a woman simply had to do the job as well, or better, than a man the same way a man does. I didn’t know any different because there were no female role models for me. The only working women I knew were either administrative assistants, or in a completely different profession (doctor, pharmacist, teacher, nurse). The only woman boss I’d ever had was a highly emotional, frazzled woman who insisted we all keep track of her menstrual cycle so we’d know if she was approachable or not. Needless to say, she was not an inspiring leader, and she wasn’t particularly interested in mentoring any other women, either. Rumor was she saw other women as a threat but I don’t know if that’s true.

My leadership journey began within a Christian company, before I was a Christian. I had a pretty dim view of believers at that point and was so convinced they’d relegate me to coffee and note-taking that for five years I insisted I didn’t know how to operate the coffee machine. The one time I was asked to take notes, I refused and asked if they were asking me that because I was a girl. Despite my initial prejudices, my experience at this company was transformational. I’ve written about it elsewhere. In addition, I was provided management opportunity and mentored, giving me a solid foundation for servant leadership. From a male’s perspective.

For the most part, it’s served me well, but there were things I wasn’t taught because it would never be on a male mentor’s radar. Most of the difficult situations center around boundaries, assumptions, and expectations. For example:

  • Having performance improvement conversations with men without apologizing OR getting overly dramatic to get my point across.
  • Being around a man who is crying without wanting to evaporate off the face of the earth.
  • Telling a woman that her performance needed improving even though it would mean that she’d hate me or talk crap about me with everyone else
  • Having to talk about a woman about her office attire, and hearing later that she told everyone it was because I was just jealous of her.
  • Having employees assume my standards were lower, or that I welcomed interruptions just to chat for hours at a time.
  • Forcing myself to stuff down all my feelings because if I got frustrated enough to cry everyone thought I was weak and either patronized me or discredited me.
  • Being told I was intimidating, and having no idea if I really was, or if I just wasn’t conforming to their expectations of a ‘girl boss’.
  • The fact that no matter how much responsibility and status I shouldered at work, and no matter how much my husband helped at home, I’m still ‘the brain’ who needs to keep track of school stuff, and schedules, and likely gets thrown up on when the kids are sick and who needs to figure it ALL out.

Do my male counterparts face some of these challenges? Some yes, others no. And I know full well that they have challenges that I don’t have. And that brings us to the positives. After I stopped trying to act like the (male) leaders around me acted, or process things the way I thought they were processing, or feel the way I thought they felt, amazing things started to happen, and I felt free to:

  • Use my desire to connect with others and to connect others to form incredibly strong teams.
  • Acknowledge my and others’ emotions and using that to overcome problems and defuse situations.
  • Use the way I process information to come up with unique and innovative solutions
  • Encourage others to take risks

Once I embraced my gifts and accepted myself the way I was, my leadership was exponentially better and the people who reported to me would tell you the same thing, but it was a long and painful road. The only thing I would change if I could would be having more female mentors or colleagues to bounce ideas off of.

I’m writing about this today because more women than ever have been reaching out to me and sharing their stories, and it’s made me realize that this continues to be an area where women can support each other. I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunities I’ve had, but one thing life has taught me is that you can’t keep what you don’t give away.

How can you get involved? I was hoping you’d ask! I’m partnering with some powerful thought leaders, executives, and coaches to design some elite caliber leadership content to support this mission of women helping women. If you’re interested in the subject of women mentoring women for professional growth and development, please sign up here for our Women Business Leaders Newsletter so you can be on the front lines as this develops. As a thank you, I’ll send you my free e-guide 10 tips for managing multiple priorities.  Thanks, and as always  – if you enjoyed this article, please share the love!

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at