Blog article

Why the first five minutes of a meeting shape its outcome

Meetings that just happen by default waste precious time, invite poor decisions, add to exhaustion, and fray relationships. Given these risks, I proposed in a previous article that successful meetings are intentionally designed. The basic idea is that to support people and move critical objectives forward, leaders need to ask themselves four questions: Why are you meeting? Who needs to be there? What conversation needs to happen? And how can you create the conditions that will enable that conversation? In my experience, leaders are often able to answer the first three questions with just a little extra effort. But they usually come up empty when it comes to the last one.

The trouble starts before the attendees show up (or log on). Many people arrive at meetings prepared to be disengaged. Whether it is a recurring team call, a project team update, or a longer strategy retreat, participants often lack

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Will the C-suite empty out in 2021?

Given the world-turned-upside-down year we just closed out, it is probably wise to steer clear of making predictions. But it can be hard to resist the temptation in January to submit to this traditional exercise of forecasting the future.

We all know that the pandemic has changed the world of work for the long term, but one aspect of that change that may be underappreciated right now is the number of senior executives who are likely to balk at the idea of going back to the office full time. Once most people have gotten the vaccine, and companies decide that they want their leaders back at headquarters, there is likely to be a test of wills. I’ve heard countless stories from executives this past year who have reconnected with their spouses and kids and are healthier because they have more control over their schedule to build in consistent exercise. Flexible

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Practicing strategy in an uncertain world

Kristian Ebbesen Fjelde and his team knew that the executive committee meeting scheduled in mid-2019 to discuss the future strategy of their company was more important than most. Equinor had changed its name in May 2018 from Statoil to signify that it wanted to become a more diversified energy company and take a leading role in the long-term goal of transitioning out of fossil fuels. Equinor was Norway’s biggest energy producer, and its leaders understood that the structural shifts in the market necessitated a radical shift in the business that would require more than a simple rebranding. Instead of putting together a presentation, Fjelde decided to run a “strategic beliefs” card game. His team circulated 16 statements, each describing what might become a core belief of the company. They covered everything from the direction of commodity prices to the impacts of climate change. The executives were asked to reveal one

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How to be a great sponsor

As a senior leader, you have been asked to be a sponsor for a high-potential employee your company is seeking to develop and retain as part of its diversity-and-inclusion efforts. You agree, because you believe retaining underrepresented talent is important. And you are always willing to help young talent succeed, anyway; it’s the fun part of your job. You probably already sponsor a few people, but being assigned someone to sponsor is different. You may know the employee’s reputation, but you don’t know anything regarding his or her real strengths and limitations or ambitions.

Let’s say the sponsored employee is two levels below you. She reports to one of your peers in another area of the business. At your first meeting, she’d asked about the company’s China strategy, which is your area of expertise, and then about how she should deal with a direct report who isn’t pulling his weight

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Do you really want a CEO to be a role model?

When Fortune magazine named Elon Musk as the 2020 Businessperson of the Year, its CEO, Alan Murray, announced the news with palpable distaste: “I have never been a Musk fanboy; he is a mix of some of the worst characteristics of today’s leaders — more messianic than Adam Neumann, as allergic to rules and governance as Travis Kalanick, nearly as narcissistic as Donald Trump.” So why honor Musk? He has been extraordinarily successful at turning bold visions into successful companies. As a result, Tesla’s stock is up more than 1,000 percent since the summer of 2019, making its CEO and largest shareholder, with a nearly 20 percent stake, the second richest person in the world.

Musk is the latest in a long line of celebrated leaders who aren’t exactly paragons of good behavior. Steve Jobs was another notable example. In his acclaimed biography of Jobs, Walter Isaacson documented his subject’s

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India’s digital-first banker

When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi nationalized India’s banking system in 1969, more than 80 percent of the country’s bank assets were brought under government control. With liberalization in the early 1990s, the balance began to shift, and today private banks claim about 35 percent of the market — a figure that is poised to grow in coming years. At the center of this activity is Uday Kotak, CEO of India’s second-most-valued bank by market capitalization, Kotak Mahindra.

Kotak, whose early plans to play professional cricket were derailed by injury, founded a one-man financing and bill-discounting business in 1985 with a small loan from family and friends. He would eventually expand the business to include automobile financing, investment banking,

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