We continue our conversation with Mike Paton about the Entrepreneurial Operating System. We move from a general conversation to one on meetings. In many people’s worlds, when I mention the word meetings they cringe. The reason for cringing is one that makes sense, it’s what you do when you’re forced to spend time that you consider wasted.
In today’s podcast we’ll learn there can be a different way of approaching meetings. One where you’ll actually get stuff done that has a positive effect on your business. Here are some of the things we’ll be talking with Paton about today:
- What a meeting pulse is and why you should care.
- Why there is a huge difference between a 90 day meeting and a weekly meeting.
- Why having a lot of meetings is not a bad thing as long as you get useful things accomplished.
- How to bring vision into meetings that you have to insure everyone is on the same page.
- Learn why less is more should be your mantra as well.
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.
Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, Paton, how are you today?
Paton: Terrific, Josh. How about you?
Josh: I’m well, thank you.
Last time, we talked about the entire EOS system. Today, I’d like to drill down a little bit into what you guys call the meeting pulse. What is a meeting pulse and what do you mean by that?
Paton: A meeting pulse is a commitment. The leadership team of the organization makes the coming together regularly to do some important stuff that’s best done when everybody on a team is in a room, focused on one another, there to move the organization forward and solve issues. And in an EOS company, starting at the leadership team level, we establish a great meeting pulse that really has two components to it – a 90-day meeting pulse, full of quarterly and annual, full-day, off-site sessions, and a weekly meeting pulse. The 90-day meeting pulse is there to make sure the organization comes together regularly to take stock of what just happened, re-check it’s vision, set a plan for next quarter and move the organization forward. The weekly meeting pulse allows a set of leaders to check in with one another, identify and prioritize issues and resolve those issues on a weekly basis.
Josh: That sounds like an awful lot of meetings. Isn’t that too many?
Paton: You just quoted, verbatim, 85% of my entrepreneurial leadership team clients when I share this meeting pulse with them, in the early stages of our implementation, but the vast majority of them – in fact, I’m going to say all of them, very quickly start to understand that when you have a great meeting pulse and you bring issues into those effective, efficient, productive meetings, a lot of work that you’re wasting time on, spinning your wheels on – unproductive dialogue, hall chatter, late night e-mails goes away and you actually end up saving time with a great meeting pulse.
Josh: That’s really interesting. Can you give us an example of what that might look like?
Paton: You bet. Let’s start with the quarterly meeting pulse first. And so, what we say is, the quarterly meeting pulse creates a 90-day world for leadership team and, ultimately, everybody in the organization where every 90 days, after entrepreneurial leaders have been running like heck in the trenches of their business, we ask them to just take a deep breath, get in a room and come up for air. And in that meeting, very simply, we reflect back on the last quarter. And once a year, the last year, and we see how we did. We learn some lessons. We clearly identify what we did and didn’t accomplish from among our predictions for the prior quarter or year. And we learn some lessons about what we did that will make us better, stronger, and faster the next quarter.
Then we re-check our vision. Because in a fast-moving entrepreneurial company, if you’ve got a strategic plan, a strategic vision document, it does change from time to time, so we’ve got to get everybody in a room and we’ve got to go through every section of our strategic plan and make sure nothing has changed. We’re all still 100% on the same page. And then when we’re 100% on the same page, we’re able to spend the rest of that meeting, it’s generally half the day or more, setting a plan for next quarter or next year and solving a bunch of issues – the big, hairy issues that we don’t have the time to solve in the trenches, in our weekly meetings. So that’s the way that meeting runs.
Josh: So in the quarterly meetings, you work with a concept you guys call “big rocks”. What is a big rock? How many you should have? How do you use them?
Paton: So, first of all, credit where credit is due. Rocks is a term that Stephen Covey first used with his famous rocks in the glass cylinder exercise. And so, it refers to a 90‑day business priority in an EOS company. I would also say that Verne Harnish popularized the use of the term rocks as a business priority. And so, I want to give credit to those two great thought leaders when we can.
In an EOS company, a rock is just a 90-day priority. There are company rocks which are the three to seven most important things for your company over the next 90 days. There are departmental rocks which are the three to seven most important things for a department or a team for the next 90 days. And there are individual rocks, three to seven most important things for me over the next 90 days. And we just ask our leadership teams to, once a quarter, come up for air and be very clear and explicit about what their three to seven priorities are for the next 90 days. So, they start every single quarter with a clear set of priorities and a crystal clear picture of what done looks like 90 days from now.
Josh: So, I know one of the things that you guys recommend, which I think is true, is somebody has to own a rock. So, it sounds to me like there’s a potential for somebody to own seven, eight or nine rocks.
Paton: There is a potential but it doesn’t happen in an entrepreneurial company running on EOS because it’s frankly against the rules. The way we always teach it, Josh, is we say, “Your rocks this quarter are your three to seven essential life or death priorities” – hopefully closer to three. And then occasionally, we’ll say “One is Nirvana.” Because what we find is that entrepreneurial leadership teams are so much more effective if they can push two things, or four things, or sometimes five things over the finish line and then live to fight another quarter, rather than advancing 12 things, 40 yards down the track, never really getting the feeling of closure and success with any of their handful of priorities.
Josh: Yeah, that’s my experience also. By the way, you have a saying which I really love which is “less is more.” And boy, there is no place that’s more true than with rocks.
Paton: That is right. I speak from painful personal experience. I’m an over-committer like so many of my clients. I look at my issues list every quarter, Josh, and I see a bunch of stuff I want to fix this quarter. And it’s only through painful experience of not being able to say “done” at the end of the next 90 days, where I’ve learned that if I feel like I might have bandwidth for four things, it’s probably smart for me to sign up for two because, you know, in an entrepreneurial company, something’s going to come up and that discipline has served me well.
Josh: Yeah, you have a feeling about urgency and non-urgency. Can you talk a bit about that?
Paton: Well, urgent other instead of important is a mistake. It is impossible in most entrepreneurial companies not to have urgent issues which require a response immediately which is partly the reason we feel so strongly our leaders need to be engaged in a weekly meeting pulse on top of that quarterly meeting pulse that I shared earlier. There are no entrepreneurial leadership teams in the world who would feel comfortable setting priorities in June and then not talking again until September because you know in that three-month period, 30 things that require immediate attention are going to happen. And so, the weekly meeting pulse is where you come together often enough that there is a home for those urgent issues. And when you need to re-shuffle your priorities a little bit because something happened, it gives you a scheduled, relaxed, logical approach to re‑prioritizing and resolving those urgent issues. You’ve got to do both. You just have create a home for both, that’s all.
Josh: So this might be a good time for us to move into talking about level 10 meetings. What is a level 10 meeting? And what specifically happens at it?
Paton: Yeah. So a Level-10 meeting at the leadership team level of an organization is a 90-minute meeting with the visionary, the integrator and everyone who reports to the integrator on the leadership team. And very simply, it is a 90-minute meeting designed for 60 minutes or more of that meeting to be focused on the team solve, prioritizing and resolving its issue.
And so, I have numerous clients who, when I say our traction component is comprised of two things – rocks and meetings – a meeting pulse. And I describe the traction component as focus, discipline and accountability for getting more of the right stuff done every week. I’ve got a lot of people who’ve said to me, “Wait a minute, how do meetings help you get more of the right stuff done every week? Aren’t meetings where you go to avoid getting anything done?”
And the truth of the matter is, Josh, most meetings aren’t efficient and productive. There’s a lot of talking. There’s a lot of stalling. There’s a lot of debating. There’s not a lot of issue solving. There’s not a lot of activity. And that’s what a level 10 meeting does, is it brings discipline, weekly accountability, a pulse, clarity, an alignment to an entrepreneurial leadership team, and it does that in 90 minutes a week.
Josh: So what would be the components of this 90-minute meeting? What would happen in it? We walk in. We sit down and get a cup of coffee. And then what happens?
Paton: So, number one, they always start precisely on time and they always end precisely on time. They always follow the same high-level agenda so that the leadership team can get really good at the art and science of meeting by working together. It starts with a quick segue where everybody checks in. And then it’s five minutes each – reviewing the company’s scorecard, the rock sheet – everybody’s priorities and customer and employee headlines. So, in 20 minutes, we’ve checked in. We’ve validated whether or not we’re hitting our numbers every week. We’re validating whether or not we’re getting our priorities done. And when we’re not hitting our numbers or completing our priorities, we’re dropping those issues down to the issues list. And then the last part of that top part of the meeting, we call it “reporting only” is customer and employee headlines where we’re checking in to make sure our customers and our employees are happy. And we also populate the issues list with those headlines as well. And then we visit the to-do list. That takes somewhere between one and five minutes. A to-do is a seven-day action item that came out of last week’s meeting, owned by a single member of the leadership team. And we ask that owner to say “done” or “not done” so that if people aren’t keeping their weekly commitments to themselves and their leadership team, they have to say that out loud. It drives a little personal accountability. And then we spend the rest of the session IDS-ing – prioritizing and resolving our issues for long-term greater good.
The last five minutes of the meeting are reserved for what we call the conclude step of the meeting. And the part I like to share about that is, at the end of every EOS level 10 meeting, each member of the leadership team rates the meeting 1 to 10 – 10 is great meeting. And when the team doesn’t earn a 10, we ask each member of the leadership team to explicitly state why. “I gave today’s meeting a 7 because we didn’t start on time and because Sam and Sally got twisted around the axle and turned a 5-minute issue-solving session into a 20 minute personal war and we’ve got to quit doing that.” And so, in that simple little flip of the switch, we’re asking our leadership teams to work together in a healthy, cohesive way to make their meetings and make their team stronger.
Josh: So how many issues would you have on this issues list? I mean, I could see, in lots of companies I’ve been involved with, that could be 20, 30 or 40 items.
Paton: There’s a complicated answer to that question that I’m not going to go into right now. The simple answer is to say, the issues that populate your weekly level 10 issues list are issues that ought to be solved this quarter in our weekly meetings. And so, I want to say, on average, it’s somewhere between 5 and 20 issues.
There’s a long-term issues list where the big, hairy things reside and we solve those in the quarterly meeting pulse most of the time. And when you get good at prioritizing or resolving your issues using IDS as the tool and the discipline, what our teams find is they can get through 3, 6, 9, sometimes even 12 issues a week. And so, they’re really good at knocking those issues off and putting solve steps in place so the issues go away forever and they don’t end up solving the same frustrating – one of my clients has called a perma issue – over and over and over again. That’s the difference because you’ve got to learn to solve your issues. Your issues list is long because you never solve anything.
Josh: So what do you do with eight or ten issues you don’t get to?
Paton: They just carry over to next week’s meeting. And next week, if they feel like a priority, we’re going to prioritize and resolve them. And if, after a couple of weeks or a couple of quarters and nobody can remember what the issue is, we get to make the accurate observation and sometimes funny laugh line that “If you don’t remember what it is, it can’t actually be an issue” and the issue comes off the list.
Josh: Well, that sounds like a nice thing for me. I love issues coming off because I don’t do anything with.
Paton: Yeah, that’s right.
Josh: That will be a fun thing.
So you also have another term which you call LMA which stand for leadership, management and accountability. What is that? How does this fit into these weekly meeting or even quarterly meetings for that matter?
Paton: LMA is leadership, management and accountability. And the way I like to teach it is I like to teach the people who manage others that they can’t make other people accountable. The best they can do is lead and manage in a way that makes accountable people thrive and non-accountable people miserable.
Josh: I love that.
Paton: I had a HR leader in the room with me one time and she started laughing and she says, “Oh, that’s the holy grail.” Right? You want people to come into the HR person or the owner’s office and say “You people are crazy.” Actually, I’m accountable for hitting my scorecard numbers and completing my priorities and helping out when necessary. There’s something wrong with you. That’s what we’re trying to create in an EOS company.
It is something that happens in the weekly and quarterly meetings, Josh, but I think the important thing for your listeners to hear is that you’re LMA-ing all the time. And to the extent that you can maker yourself a better leader and a better manager. Using a lot of the EOS tools, you’re going to create that kind of environment, day in and day out. Sometimes, without lifting a finger. Sometimes, silence is a powerful tool for leaders and managers. And so, you know, when you wake up in the morning, you’re leading and managing. And when you go to bed at night, you’re leading and managing, you just maybe don’t know it.
Josh: I used to have the looks which my kids can tell you about.
Paton: Let’s just make sure we don’t connect our two sets of children to talk with one another. I think they’d compare notes.
Josh: Oh, I think, they probably would say the same thing although I’m known as the annoying person who asks too many questions so.
You know, Paton, I’m loving this conversation, I’ve got to tell you. But we’re about out of time and I know people will want to find out more about EOS and about traction. But before we get to the contact information, you guys have written a bunch of books, which one would you start with?
Paton: Well, it depends on what you like. So the three books in circulation today are Traction which is the go-to first book. That’s written by my partner, Gino Wickman. And that is a how-to manual describing what EOS is and how to strengthen each of the six key components using our simple practical tools.
The follow-up book to that is Get a Grip. Gino and I wrote that together. And that’s a business fable that illustrates an entrepreneurial leadership team implementing EOS with the help of somebody like Gino, or me, or one of our 130 EOS implementers from around the world.
And then the third book is called Rocket Fuel which is about the visionary-integrator partnership in an entrepreneurial company.
Josh: Cool. So, if you said that you only could read one, which one would read?
Paton: I’d read Traction first. One of the reasons, just so you know, we wrote Get a Grip is because the business fable does engage readers who learn more experientially than they do from a how-to manual. And so, if you like a story, if you like a fable, if you want to be drawn into watching a bunch of characters work together, Get a Grip might be worth your time as well.
Josh: Cool. So, I want to do the EOS, how am I going to start?
Paton: I’d visit our website www.eosworldwide.com You’ll find everything you need there to get yourself started.
Josh: Cool. Thanks so much for your time today, Paton. I really appreciate it and I’m looking forward to speaking with you soon.
Paton: My pleasure. Thanks, Josh.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.