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What is a Level 10 Meeting (and why is it powerful)?

Be honest.  Are your weekly Executive Team meetings a waste of time?  Do you sit there, bored as hell, as your leadership team drone on about all the things they’ve done the previous week?  Why is it always like this?  I see it time and time again in many different businesses. There’s no sense of forward momentum in these meetings.  Nothing gets fixed.  They’re just reporting exercises designed to frustrate even the most patient.

Yes, these meetings fill a couple of hours of your day and justify your existence.  But are they really a good use of your time?  Surely there must be a better way.

Let me introduce you to Level 10 Meetings.  Once you’ve seen their value, you’ll never look back.

Where does the term ‘Level 10 Meeting’ come from?

Level 10 Meetings are part of the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) toolkit.  And what is EOS?  A framework for building business, similar to the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up.  EOS tends to be used by the leadership teams of smaller firms and focuses more on execution.  In fact, it’s almost devoid of strategy tools.  Companies often graduate from EOS to Scaling Up as they grow larger.

After Verne Harnish authored Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm he was increasingly asked for help to bring in the Rockefeller Habits.  So he set up a consulting business – Gazelles Coaching International. One of his first certified coaches was Gino Wickman who then went on create EOS – so it’s not surprising it’s focused on execution.

Why are they called ‘Level 10 Meetings’?

Put simply, they’re called Level 10 Meetings because people are asked to rate them at the end of each meeting on a scale of 1 to 10. The first time I do this with clients, I notice that it’s common to give the meeting a score of 7 – not too high, not too low.  Hedging their bets.  I point out that they’ve been sitting there for 90 minutes acting like a passive victim.  What have they done to make the meeting a 10?  Nothing.  So next time, they need to take more individual responsibility.  This is a wake-up call.

The purpose of a Level 10 Meeting

How you run meetings is how you run your business. Your company culture will only be as good as the worst behaviour you tolerate.  If you don’t respect people’s time, they won’t respect yours.  If you turn up late, don’t expect punctuality in others.  Everyone knows the difference between a great meeting and an awful one.  But if you want to scale-up, you need a meeting framework that’s fit for purpose.

The aim of a Level 10 Meeting is to fix any stucks that haven’t been resolved in your daily huddles.  They operate at a more strategic level, ensuring the whole team check-in on company objectives and metrics on a regular basis, reminding everyone of their priorities.

How many people should attend a Level 10 Meeting?

I would always say, no more than seven people. Evidence suggests that an eighth person will tip the balance and won’t add any value to the meeting. Experiments exploring social loafing show that when a team of people pull on a rope, the eighth person has no effect on the collective pull. 

In my experience, six or seven is the optimum.  When I’m coaching a leadership team, four people don’t feel enough – we could have had other voices in the room. When the team gets to nine or 10, the discussion gets slower and not everyone’s at the same level so you don’t get the same quality of contribution.

A typical Level 10 Meeting agenda

Level 10 Meetings usually run as follows over 90 minutes:

1. Good News – 5 minutes

2. Scorecard/KPIs – 5 minutes

3. Objectives/Rocks Review – 5 minutes 

4. Customer/Employee Headlines – 5 minutes

5. To do list – 5 minutes

6. IDS – 60 minutes

7. Summary and score – 5 minutes

How long should Level 10 meetings last?

A Level 10 Meeting should last 90 minutes – no more and no less.  Items 1 to 5 on the agenda above should take 25 minutes, leaving 65 minutes for the IDS and wrap up.

Starting an EOS Level 10 Meeting

Whether it’s a Level 10 meeting or any other meeting for that matter, it’s good practice to start with a segue of good news.   This sets the tone, getting everyone to speak and say something positive. As part of Project Aristotle, Google found that one of the hallmarks of high performing teams is psychological safety.  This is a great way to encourage this.

Discussing the Level 10 Meeting scorecard

Monitoring the score on key metrics is fundamental to a good L10 meeting.  There are different ways you can tackle this depending on the framework you’re following.  My clients use a range of different tools from Shannon Susko’s ‘3HAG’ (3-year Highly Achievable Goal) process.  The key process flow map is one of these.  Clients map out their quote to cash and revenue generation processes, deciding three to six key metrics for each. The scorecard picks out any that are red or amber, adding them to the IDS list.  Green metrics are passed over.  This is how you focus on the priorities that need attention.

‘Rock updates’, customer/employee feedback and to-dos

If you’re using the Rockefeller Habits framework, then you move on to Rock updates (Rocks being the big organisational priorities for the quarter). These are directly linked to the company objectives for the year. Are any of these off track? If they are, they’re added to the IDS list. If they’re not, you don’t need to discuss them. This is not a time for reporting back on what you’ve done. 

The next part of the agenda is often the most controversial. Every member of the leadership team needs to speak to at least one customer and one team member from outside their functional team every week.  And this information needs to be fed in at this stage.  My experience is that, as companies grow, these conversations become less frequent and yet they’re fundamental.  If you’re using Friday Pulse (a great measure of staff engagement), then you could discuss anything from this week’s data. Similarly, if you’re running a good NPS (Net Promoter Score) programme, there should be a way to plug the leadership team into this.  Any potential issues are added to the IDS list.

The To-Do list concludes this section, taking no more than 5 minutes, and is carried over from the previous meeting to ensure nothing disappears. Don’t dwell here. Add any issues to the IDS.

What does IDS stand for in EOS?

Quite simply, IDS stands for ‘Identify, Discuss and Solve’.  This is the bulk of a Level 10 meeting, lasting for a good hour of the discussion. Once the leadership team have all the issues, they triage them to ensure the discussion is focused. Here we focus on the highest priority issue, discuss it in detail and solve the underlying problems. We have an hour and we may only fix one thing.

This depth is often lacking from discussions amongst the leadership team and having this type of meeting only monthly never seems to clear enough issues. Some items don’t get fixed and may need to be delegated to smaller, break-out meetings. Finally, all participants are asked to rate the meeting. 

Key roles in a Level 10 Meeting

Facilitating a Level 10 meeting is a skill so choose this person wisely. Some people are naturally better at taking the lead or shutting up extroverts so the introverts have equal airtime. You can rotate the role to give everyone experience. 

Decide on a note-taker who can capture the IDS and To-Do list. My preferred system is Google Docs Live because it’s shared instantly. You can see your commitments come up in real-time and agree on them in the moment. It also saves the need to write anything up later.

Also vital is a timekeeper. I can’t stress enough how important it is to start and finish on time.  Someone needs to keep the pace up and ensure conversations don’t run on too long.

Why are level 10 meetings so effective?

Once you’ve adopted the Level 10 format, you can use it in all your meetings, not just the weekly ones. If your team have fully embraced the Level 10 approach, it can have a profound impact on people’s desire to speak up and not waste time. Instead of sitting passively and waiting for the meeting to unfold around them, your team will realise that they’re in this together. Everyone is busy so there’s a need to make every minute of the meeting count. A collective sense of responsibility to make the meeting a Level 10.

Looking weekly at priority issues will keep your business moving forward.  Where things are smouldering, you can take action to stop them bursting into flames.  There’s a constant sense of issues being ticked off and dealt with, easing the debt of things that are broken and not fixed.  As well as resolving the smaller annoyances of everyday working life, there’s also a constant reminder of the bigger picture.  This will grease the wheels of execution, ensuring strategic priorities are kept top of mind.


Written by business growth coach Dominic Monkhouse. Find out more about his work here. Read his new book, ‘F**k Plan B’ here

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