The Meeting Before the Meeting - Part 1


I’ve long believed that more leaders mess up because of bad communication than because of bad decisions. Very few leaders fail because they made the wrong decisions. But many fail because they didn’t take the time to communicate their decisions to the right people, at the right time, in the right order. In my experience, I’d say 20 percent of leadership is making the right decisions. The other 80 percent is appropriately communicating those decisions.

During the depths of the recession, I had to eliminate eight positions entirely, and reduce hours for fifteen part-time workers. For a significant change like this, appropriate communication is vital. We had people who walked into work on a Monday morning with a job and left minutes later unemployed. We had remaining staff members who just learned they would no longer be working with their best friend. We had family members who were hurting for their dad or mom or spouse. We had eight people we loved and cherished now entering an unfavorable job climate—where one in six people were unemployed and looking for work.

Great communication is needed for challenging leadership transitions, but it is also needed for good changes like adding products, expanding distribution, or relocating your offices. You can make a lousy decision but do well with communication and implementation, and it can be a success. On the other hand, you can make a great decision and lose the battle because your communication is weak.

Communication isn’t an exact science. It requires strategy, assessment, execution, reassessment, more execution, and finally evaluation of what worked and what didn’t.

Strategies for Great Communication

In this 3-part blog series, we're going to talk about three important strategies for becoming an effective communicator for your organization:


I learned this tip more than twenty years ago from John Maxwell while sitting in a conference in Anderson, Indiana. With any change, there is only a handful of people in the room you need to convince. Chances are, you instinctively know who those influencers are; the change is going to go well if those people are onboard, and it’s going to go poorly if they aren’t onboard.

Such a person may not be the positional leader. She may not have authority over anything or anyone. But she is a major influencer. Perhaps this is because of how long your influencer has been in the organization, or the strength of her personality, or who she is related to. For whatever reason, that person influences many other people, and you need to meet with her before you meet with everyone else. You must have the meeting before the meeting.

This one principle will help you so much. It is timeless. You never have enough tenure for this not to be true. Anytime you want to start something new, make a change, add a program, or expand the budget, make sure you don’t skip the meeting before the meeting. Be sure to meet with every key influencer ahead of time. Ask them all what they think, tell them you need their insights, ask them what questions they have and what additional information they need. Not only will you rally each of them to your cause—you will also learn valuable information about how to communicate with the rest of the team or organization.

What situations have you been in that could have benefited from the meeting before the meeting? In what situations have you used this technique and come out stronger because of it? Make sure to subscribe to so you don't miss the rest of this 3-part series on communication.