Center for High Performance
CFHP Center for High Performance
Issue No. 20 February 20, 2013


Often, important topics—those that affect how your company is performing—are considered “unspeakable” at business meetings. Participants are afraid they will be fired for revealing that the emperor has no clothes; or at the very least, they fear offending the boss or others in the room.

Please read below for the steps you can take to encourage candor and make sure that the “meeting after the meeting” happens at the meeting.

Also in this newsletter, you can learn about CfHP’s new partnership aimed at preparing diverse candidates for the C-suite. Called CEOcraft, the venture ultimately will help companies spur innovation by promoting leaders who reflect their customers’ demographics.

Best wishes,

Hear what NetApp Vice Chairman Tom Mendoza has to say about the "meeting after the meeting"

Watch more CfHP videos.

Something to say? Say it during the meeting, not after

You know the scenario: You’re at a meeting of the senior leadership team and there are critical decisions on the table. A discussion ensues, the CEO states his point of view and everyone agrees with him. Or someone raises a concern and no one pays much attention.

It’s not until later, around the water cooler or in whispered conversations in the hallway, that the real discussion occurs. That’s the “meeting after the meeting,” and it’s where people say what they actually think. In every executive education class I teach, I see nods of recognition when I describe this scenario.

At the meeting after the meeting, people tell the truth. They say what they should have said in the formal meeting, whether it’s to disagree with a proposal, state a novel approach or confront an ethical dilemma.

Even when it’s difficult, leaders need to “speak the unspeakable.” I have observed again and again that successful companies deal with their problems openly and honestly. The companies that come up short pretend the problems don’t exist—or at least that’s what they do when they’re in the meeting room.

At NetApp, perennially one of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For,” senior leaders believe in confronting problems head on. According to Vice Chairman Tom Mendoza, “If you have something to say, say it in the meeting. The only unacceptable behavior is to leave a meeting and then talk about what you heard in the meeting.”

NetApp’s leaders rate their own candor after meetings, and discuss what they can do to improve the rating at their next meeting. At Exelon, signs on the conference room wall remind attendees to have the “meeting after the meeting at the meeting.” Both companies recognize the importance of getting ideas, problems and concerns on the table so they can be addressed head on.

Below are five steps you can take to end water cooler conversations and bring the conversations back into the room:

1) Bring up “unspeakable” subjects yourself.

2) Publicly thank those who raise difficult issues or unpopular opinions.

3) Give people permission to communicate bad news.

4) Assess your own candor after each meeting, and ask others to assess theirs.

5) Model the behavior you want to encourage; refuse to participate in “meetings after the meeting.”


CEOcraft™ prepares diverse candidates to ascend to C-suite

The Center for High Performance has embarked on an exciting new partnership to help companies prepare highly skilled diverse candidates for life in the C-suite.

CfHP President and CEO Susan Lucia Annunzio; Youngblood Executive Services CEO Ava Youngblood, and John Rau, President and CEO of Miami Corp. and former President and CEO of Chicago Title Corp., have created CEOcraft™, an experiential program for individuals identified by their companies as C-suite succession candidates.

Based on the conviction that diverse leaders drive innovation and are critical for business success, CEOcraft™ will help companies create a pipeline that reflects U.S. workforce demographics. By preparing the next generation of C-level talent, CEOcraft™ helps companies avoid the high cost of executive turnover.

Given the demographic realities of fewer eligible executives and increasing demand, it is more important than ever for corporations to draw from a broader range of well-qualified candidates.

CEOcraft™ is unique in that it is not a “mini-MBA” where participants study topics such as strategy, marketing or business theory. Rather, CEOcraft™ attendees will receive candid, objective feedback about their emotional intelligence, leadership style and executive presence. They will participate in real-time simulations of life in the C-suite, giving them an opportunity to experience a high-performance leadership environment. Participants will have personal access to CEO mentors and specialized coaches.

Cohorts will be limited to 15 attendees (Blacks, Asians, Latinos, White males, Women, etc.) with only one participant per industry. The program consists of four 2-1/2 day modules within an 8-month period, as well as quarterly follow up.

For more information about CEOcraft™, please contact Susan Lucia Annunzio at or 312-493-0311.

CFHP Center for High Performance

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