Andrew Waitman: Running Leadership Meetings with Purpose

The importance of hosting leadership meetings with both structure and flexibility.

Andrew Waitman is the CEO of Asscent Compliance, a global leader in supply chain management and one of Canada’s top growing countries. In this episode, we will dive into why running leadership meetings with purpose comes with exploring the victories, insights, and puzzles of business. 

Listen to this episode (or read the transcript below) to explore the concepts of agility and adaptability and why structure is such an important aspect of strategy, leadership, and team management. 

1 Did you have a boss that was either really good or really bad in your early years? 

I was doing a co-op at Bell Northern Research and I was incredibly intimidated because everybody that was involved in the research was really smart. I was trying to learn all of the terminology and ended up saying something that wasn’t right and my boss at the time literally took a garbage can and started banging it over my head in front of everyone and asking if I had a brain and I was mortified. I remember thinking that this couldn’t be what management was really like and telling myself that I would never be like that and always remember the experience. 

2 Did you have a leadership crisis playbook when COVID started? 

I was paying attention to the news early on and I knew we were going to have a problem as soon as things started to get out of control in Italy. It really annoyed me that travel didn’t seem to be curtailed and at the time we didn’t know how infectious the virus really was. 

Like a lot of software or digital businesses, we were fortunate to be able to work from home without missing a beat so we were very lucky to be able to decide right away that we weren’t going to work from the office anymore. The very first thing we did was instituting daily meetings with leadership so that we could immediately identify any challenges and begin to take care of people’s needs. We began to organize what people needed to feel safe and determine what people needed to stay connected so we could make sure that everyone was still working together seamlessly. 

3 How do you run your staff meetings? 

I really had to justify and rationalize why we were spending time together. My initial instinct was that everybody should know what everybody else is working on and what their priorities were because they are often cross-functional issues so that part was instinctive. From there, I formalized it and created weekly meetings where people could get together tactically and strategically and from there we set weekly themes. The first week is generally about products and customer success, the second is go to market, the third is finance, and the fourth is strategic. We obviously change the meeting agenda sometimes but creating these themes helped us create some form of consistency so everybody in leadership could gain a clear understanding of what was going on. 

The victory’s insights and puzzles element was something I came up with to help everyone talk about their fundamental area. Each functional group has a metric slide they present so make sure everyone is on the same page and then as the CEO your role is to act as the chief reminder and always remind everyone what your strategy is so everyone can work towards the same goals. 

4 How much talking do you do during your staff meetings?

Sometimes I will open up for the first 15-20 minutes and dive into updates or talk about anything that has to be dealt with but that isn’t always the case. Last week I didn’t have a formal presentation and I probably only spoke for about 5 minutes. Structuring your time is really important because it means you won’t exceed your slot and run into other people’s time and my main job during these meetings is to make sure that everyone is moving through their topics in a timely manner. In a 3 hour meeting, the CEO is probably only talking for about 15 minutes and then obviously weighing in when necessary. 

5 What are the things that you do to keep teams accountable?

I would argue that accountability is probably one of the most important things in life and in business and I like to make accountability a priority by asking the executives and leadership team to come up with metrics that measure their performance. It doesn’t all have to be left to the CEO. 

Accountability also has to do with both quantitative things and qualitative things. Accountability is beyond results and more so about behaviors and ensuring behaviors are conducive to the values and culture that your company has outlined and that’s why every CEO plays such a critical role in every business. Ultimately, the CEO is the last arbiter, or judge of behaviours, actions, or results. My responsibility as the CEO is not only to communicate our values and walk the talk, but it’s also about providing feedback to executives that might be doing a great job. 

6 How do you make sure that your company culture continues to thrive? 

Culture is essentially the behaviors of the people you hire but it can also be very complex. Not only is it about integrity, work ethic, passion, and competence, but choosing who you bring into your company is critical. Culture is set by the CEO and solid leadership is key and really helps with success. 

Connexus and Shopify are both two incredibly successful companies in Ottawa, if you look at their Glassdoor profiles, they are both doing stunningly well and part of that can be attributed to the fact that success creates its own culture. 

7 Do you have any book recommendations for folks that are looking to level up their management skills? 

One of the most important books that I always tell every leader to read is Disunited Nations by Peter Zeihan. It’s by far the most important suggestion that I always recommend to everyone. I also recommend reading the Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene and Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo.

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