Are Drop-in Meetings Sabotaging Your Effectiveness as a Leader?

A few years ago I was asked to coach the COO of a large regional bank. I was coaching the President, CEO, and several senior vice presidents on the leadership team. One of the COO’s goals for our coaching engagement was time management because he was consistently taking work home in the evenings and over the weekend. In addition, and more important, he was quiet at the top leadership meetings and felt unseen and out of communication with the CEO. His leadership in terms of being seen as effective at the top level was lacking.

In our initial conversations, I became aware of his caring and his expertise. In addition he had some ideas for the bank that he was not communicating due to his sense of inadequacy at the executive leadership meetings. As we went through his routine he began to talk about his open-door policy. As you might imagine, he was extremely well-liked by all and spent his day getting interrupted constantly. This, to me, is an example of the collaborative leadership premise that, one of the least successful modes used for communication; is the “drop in” meeting.

We all appreciate a sense of control over our lives, but in reality the drop-in meeting creates interruption, a lack of preparation, and can lengthen into a long period of time where the person who has dropped in has abdicated his/her responsibility for reflection, research and decision making.

Scheduled meetings on the other hand, even short ones, can be valuable and connective. It is clear that the mindset surrounding meetings will be part of the change that occurs in a collaborative leadership culture. The word “meeting” has from time-to-time been thought of with distaste, irritation and sometimes dread. But effective communication and connection can only happen within a meeting, where the meeting process is a focus prior to and during discussion of agenda items or initiatives. Leadership, in the context of the meeting process, and in general, is not a role as much as it is a behavior. Therefore, everyone in the room has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and to contribute to the meeting purpose.

As I worked with my client, we set up a new routine which included having available hours posted on the door so that appointments could be made for those times. A positive consequence of this routine was that the members of his team began to talk more to each other, and to arrive at his office with more organized thinking and with decisions for approval rather than beginning discussions.

In addition, my client was able to organize his day and set aside time on the calendar for thought projects that he wanted to do, which also gave him confidence to discuss his ideas in the Executive Leadership meetings.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss how the Process Focus of meetings can help you create more effective communication within your organization, please contact me directly at In the meantime, I’ll be discussing the process further in my next post.