Executive Roundtables: What Works and Why


Over the course of your executive career, you have probably suffered through every type of useless meeting. But you also know what a great meeting looks like: properly facilitated, focused, and held in a confidential and collaborative environment. That’s a major reason why Executive Roundtables work. They bring together individuals at the top of their careers with a wealth of experience, realistic expectations, and open minds.

At an Executive Roundtable, there should be no support for the political posturing, insistence on consensus, or rabid defense of silos that may dominate in-house discussions as people jockey to have their ideas embraced and guard their particular turf. The Executive Roundtable consists of peers who have already proven themselves and at least temporarily set aside their private agendas. They want ideas that work from people who have implemented them.

I carefully prepare for every Executive Roundtable, as facilitator and resource. How can you prepare to ensure that your time at an Executive Roundtable is worthwhile?

  • Contribute. While sitting back and absorbing the wisdom of others may be beneficial to you, it is not beneficial to the group and inhibits others from openly sharing.
  • Leave the jargon behind. Every industry has its own insider language. If participants must spend time “translating” your contribution, they can’t learn from it.
  • Share first-hand information. Suggestions about third-party resources are valuable but even more valuable are your own personal stories. The difference is between theory and real life.
  • Choose the facilitator wisely. A good facilitator will guide the discussion to keep it moving and on point, embrace creative thinking, and control conflict, while encouraging participation.
  • Remember the limitations of an Executive Roundtable. For example, in a group setting, trust develops slowly. The questions asked, the answers received, and even the stories shared might change considerably as trust develops.

Executive Roundtables are an excellent forum for understanding group dynamics as well as for broaching problems and evaluating innovative solutions. A well-run Executive Roundtable opens a new perspective on problems from people like yourself who have been there, done that—and turned intractable challenges into success.

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