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Business Law

The General Court of the European Union’s ruling in the Apple tax case affirms Ireland’s reputation as a suitable location for global establishment, argues Claire Lord.In 2016, the EU Commission decided that two tax rulings issued by the Revenue Commissioners in 1991 and 2007 in favour of Apple Sales International (ASI) and Apple Operations Europe (AOE) constituted unlawful state aid under EU law.ASI and AOE were companies incorporated in Ireland, but not tax-resident in Ireland. The contested tax rulings endorsed the methods used by ASI and AOE to determine the taxable profits in Ireland attributable to the trading activity of their respective Irish branches. The Commission calculated that, through these tax rulings, Ireland had granted Apple €13 billion in unlawful tax benefits, which therefore constituted unlawful state aid.The decision of the Commission was appealed to the General Court of the European Union by both Apple and Ireland.General Court’s decisionThe General Court annulled the Commission’s decision on the basis that the Commission did not succeed in proving that ASI and AOE had been granted a selective economic advantage and, by extension, unlawful state aid.The General Court agreed with the Commission’s approach on some fundamental legal issues such as how the principles of advantage and selectivity are to be assessed, the reference framework of Irish tax law and, in broad terms, the application of the ‘arm’s length’ principle. However, it also held against the Commission on several points of law and fact. In particular, it rejected the Commission’s primary argument that the Revenue Commissioners had granted ASI and AOE an advantage by not allocating the Apple group’s intellectual property licences held by ASI and AOE, and the associated sales income, to the Irish branches of ASI and AOE.The Commission had made this argument by effectively contending that such an allocation must be the case because ASI and AOE had no employees anywhere else, despite their boards conducting business outside of Ireland. The General Court found that approach to be wrong in law and fact. It held that as a matter of law, the Commission had to show that, in fact, the Irish branches of AOE and ASI carried out the taxable activity; it was not enough to contend that the Commission had not found such activity elsewhere.In addition, the General Court held that the evidence given by ASI and AOE demonstrated that the relevant taxable activities were not in fact carried out by the Irish branches.The General Court also held that the Commission did not demonstrate that methodological errors (which the Court accepted had occurred in the contested tax rulings) resulted in an advantage for AOE and ASI. While the General Court regretted the incomplete and sometimes inconsistent nature of the contested Irish tax rulings, those infirmities did not, in themselves, prove the existence of a selective advantage. Therefore, such errors did not constitute unlawful state aid.Lastly, the Court also found that the Commission did not prove that the contested tax rulings were the result of discretion exercised by the Revenue Commissioners, which had granted a selective advantage to ASI and AOE. Instead, it found that the correct analysis of 11 other rulings by the Revenue Commissioners was that the approach depended on the facts and this was not objectionable.The Commission may appeal the decision to the EU’s Court of Justice before 26 September. However, an appeal is only on points of law and not on findings of fact.The impact of the decisionThe General Court’s decision is a victory for the position argued by Apple and Ireland. Because it holds against the Commission on several points of law and fact, it will be a difficult decision to appeal successfully should the Commission decide to do so. Also, the points won by the Commission are points of law. They, therefore, may themselves be challenged in any cross-appeal and an adverse decision on any of those points could have systemic effects, which the Commission would not welcome.The decision is obviously newsworthy because of the parties involved, the value at stake and the current global focus on international tax, particularly in relation to multinationals and the digital economy. However, it is noteworthy that many of the points at issue are no longer of relevance for companies doing business in Ireland as the structures and approaches at the heart of the case have not been widely used here in recent years.It does, however, clarify that Ireland did not apply any selective treatment to Apple. It underscores Ireland’s reputation as a straightforward and rules-based jurisdiction which remains an eminently suitable location for global companies to establish significant operations.Claire Lord is a Corporate Partner and Head of Governance and Compliance at Mason Hayes & Curran.

Jul 30, 2020
Ethics and Governance

Níall Fitzgerald explains how boards can use the current crisis to take stock and, where appropriate, reflect new priorities.While the COVID-19 crisis continues, organisations are preparing for the uncertainty ahead. This process presents an opportunity for organisations to rethink their priorities, how they deploy resources, and the way they do things.In the months ahead, boards will face new challenges that can give rise to major concerns. This article examines some of those challenges, the responsibility of boards in facing them, and questions board members can ask to help focus on what is important.Going concernIrish and UK company law requires directors to act in the best interests of the company, which includes promoting its success and ensuring that it continues as a going concern. Past corporate collapses have revealed instances where directors failed in this duty. Failures attributed to directors include having unquestioning optimism rather than a challenging mindset and succumbing to groupthink.Given the current uncertainty, threats to going concern are more likely to feature higher on the risk register in many organisations. Oversight is a key role of the board, and this requires directors to have a questioning mindset, apply their skills, experience and knowledge to challenge management appropriately on their judgements, and ensure that they have sufficient evidence to support those judgements. Having a range of skills, experience and knowledge (in addition to diversity in other forms) on a board will help ensure that a range of perspectives and practicalities are considered. Basic good governance practices such as reviewing meeting papers in advance, arriving to meetings prepared, and an effective chair who allows sufficient time for discussion will make a big difference to the quality of the decisions or actions arising.In June 2020, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) published COVID-19 – Going Concern, Risk and Viability: Reporting in Times of Uncertainty. The paper highlights how challenges that would normally relate to building resilience and flexibility (e.g. sourcing short-term cash resources) have pivoted as a result of the pandemic to threats relating to survival and, therefore, going concern.Other examples of current threats and challenges to going concern include:further restrictions that limit the return to normal operations;restrictions placed on government (or other) capital;timing and continuation of government schemes and support packages;short-term impacts of pricing changes to revenue and expenses; andimpacts on human capital.An Institute article titled Going Concern Considerations for Members Preparing or Auditing Financial Statements in the Context of COVID-19 is available on the COVID-19 Hub on Chartered Accountants Ireland’s website.Social responsibility, and public and employee welfareDirectors have a duty under company law to have regard to the interests of employees and will therefore be involved in making important decisions in relation to workforce policies and practices. In addition, corporate governance codes (e.g. the UK Corporate Governance Code) and sustainability frameworks (e.g. an environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework) highlight how a board’s consideration of all stakeholder interests, including societal impact, is important to ensure the organisation’s long-term success.The COVID-19 crisis forced many organisations to rapidly transform the way they work. In many cases, anticipated obstacles to business continuity either did not arise or were overcome with adjustments to how work and people are managed, as well as investment in ICT infrastructure, connectivity and cybersecurity. In April 2020, The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) released statistics revealing that 49% of adults in employment were working from home. In May 2020, an Irish survey of remote working during the COVID-19 crisis by the Whittaker Institute at National University Ireland Galway and the Western Development Commission revealed that 51% of respondents never worked remotely before the COVID-19 crisis. Of these, 78% would like to continue to work remotely.As public health restrictions are lifted, boards – or board chairs, at least – should engage with CEOs and executive management to support the restoration of operations and plan the safe return to the workplace of employees, suppliers and customers. Executive management and boards should be aware of, and follow, national and local government protocols issued on returning to the workplace.No plan survives the battlefield, so expect adjustments along the way. Updating the board and seeking direction at every turn is not practical, however. It might, therefore, be wise to establish an oversight working party with regular executive engagement and delegated responsibility for overseeing the implementation of plans to restore operations. Decision-making authority should be clearly defined to ensure issues are, where appropriate, referred to the board for a decision. As boards plan for the return to the workplace, directors should consider the following:what work can be done remotely?do certain internal policies need to be rewritten to support new or future ways of working?are there opportunities for automation or digitalisation?what impact could remote working have on organisational culture, and what changes are necessary to align it with the organisation’s mission, vision and values?Boards also have an opportunity to consider how their organisations can have a greater positive social impact. During the crisis, some organisations went further with social responsibility by redirecting their resources to provide support, services and products to the fight against COVID-19. Charities and other not-for-profit organisations excelled in meeting the social needs of many vulnerable people affected by the crisis. Many organisations incentivised staff to get involved in volunteerism to help with, or raise funds for, good causes. In fact, organisations such as Volunteer Ireland and the Royal Voluntary Service reported a surge in registrations, resulting in a surplus of volunteers.Sustainable ‘reset’An important principle set out in the UK Corporate Governance Code is for a board “to promote the long-term sustainable success of the company”. This involves considering how the organisation generates and preserves value, and contributes to wider society over the long-term. It also involves considering the sustainability of the business model – weighing up resilience with efficiency to achieve long-term success. In times of uncertainty, some efficiencies may be sacrificed to achieve resilience. A board’s macro perspective can make a significant contribution in helping the organisation achieve a balance between these two factors.As part of pre-recovery planning, many organisations will engage in horizon scanning to anticipate changes, sources of uncertainty, and future threats and opportunities. While the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on operations may dominate risk perception, organisations also have a unique opportunity to consider how they can rebuild better, greener, and for a more resilient, sustainable world. Boards are well-positioned to lead and encourage innovation on how organisations can adapt to expectations of sustainability from key stakeholders such as investors, customers and regulators. These expectations are apparent in changing social behaviour (e.g. support for global climate protests), investor conditions (e.g. ESG goals or investors’ adoption of Principles for Responsible Investment), and regulator mandates (e.g. the development of standards for ESG disclosures for financial market participants, advisers and products).The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a blueprint that can be used to define an organisation’s sustainability objectives. The World Economic Forum refer to this opportunity as the ‘great reset’. We all have a vested interest in averting further global crises. When boards are resetting their agenda to focus on new priorities, sustainability must be a key consideration in more ways than one.ConclusionOrganisations can expect further challenges in the months ahead. This is not ‘business as usual’ and boards are adapting as the situation unfolds. Whether an organisation is struggling or thriving in the uncertainty, key priorities for any pre-recovery strategy must include going concern, social responsibility, employee and public welfare, and sustainability.Níall Fitzgerald FCA is Head of Ethics and Governance at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Jul 30, 2020
Financial Reporting

Gender equality is something many organisations speak about, but gender pay gap reporting will be the first real test of the effectiveness of those policies, writes Sonya Boyce.2020 has certainly been an interesting and unprecedented year for us all. We entered the new year in a position of relative economic prosperity with strong economic growth. Ireland was enjoying the lowest unemployment numbers in recent years, and gender balance was evident in many areas of the labour market. This was all threatened by the uncertainty, upheaval and challenges brought to our lives in March as the State sought to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on society.It is therefore welcome that the programme for our new Government, which was published in June 2020, contains a clear and renewed commitment to legislating for the mandatory reporting and publication of the gender pay gap for companies. This requirement is long overdue in Ireland and one our previous government failed to enact legislation for – notwithstanding the advancements in drafting the legislation.A quick recapThe gender pay gap is defined as the difference between what is earned on average by women and men based on the average gross hourly earnings of all paid employees – not just men and women doing the same job or with the same experience or working patterns. Gender pay gap reporting isn’t just about equal pay; it is part of a broader initiative to address female participation and employment gaps between genders. Gender pay gap reporting is seen as the first step in addressing parity in the employment market in terms of gender, particularly at the management level.The previous government’s Gender Pay Information Bill 2018 aimed to introduce mandatory gender pay gap reporting for public and private sector organisations in Ireland. This Bill was very much in line with similar legislation already introduced across several European countries, including Germany, France and Spain. Such legislative developments arose in response to the fact that women in the EU are currently paid, on average, over 16% less per hour than men. In Ireland, the average gender pay gap is 13.9% and COVID-19 stands to have a disproportionate impact on women in the labour market because of the higher proportion of women working in specific sectors of our economy, such as retail and hospitality. It is therefore vital that we maintain momentum in our efforts to introduce mandatory reporting for organisations and continue to focus on closing the gender pay gap.The path aheadIt is hoped that the introduction of gender pay gap reporting will provide organisations with an incentive to develop more focused strategies and initiatives to foster greater representation in their workforce – not only from a gender perspective but across the broader spectrum of diversity and inclusion.While there have been significant strides in gender equality, this has yet to become apparent at the senior levels of many organisations. To address this issue, organisations must review and assess their gender pay gap statistics regularly. Gender equality is something many organisations speak about and write policies on, but gender pay gap reporting will be the first real test of the effectiveness of those policies.ConclusionDiversity, equality and inclusion have a positive impact on organisations’ bottom line. Gender pay gap reporting provides a tangible metric that management can rely on to ensure women are paid fairly, are being considered for promotion, and are being promoted and attaining senior-level management positions.All organisations must commit to transparency around pay and progression for all employees. We urge our newly formed Government to introduce mandatory gender pay gap reporting without delay to ensure gender parity and fairness for all.Sonya Boyce is Director of Human Resources Consulting at Mazars Ireland.

Jul 30, 2020
Personal Development

Michael Cawley has enjoyed a stellar career. In this article, he shares his five favourite lessons in leadership.Over the past four decades, I have encountered some very impressive leaders in my professional life. From Coopers & Lybrand, where I trained to qualify as a Chartered Accountant, to Ryanair, where I worked as Deputy Chief Executive, I have seen many different types of successful leadership.However, the best leaders have all had several traits and characteristics in common. In this article, I discuss the five things great leaders do consistently. The best part about these five tips is that they are all doable with some thought and a little effort. There’s no magic and no secret sauce, but great leadership does require purposeful application.Present a clear missionBusiness isn’t rocket science but all too often, simple things become unnecessarily complicated. It is the job of the leader to simplify wherever possible, by establishing straightforward reporting lines and setting clear objectives. In doing so, your team will be better able to see their impact on the overall mission of the business. This is important as colleagues who can directly relate their efforts to business outcomes will ultimately raise their game to go above and beyond what is required of them. If you have a team of people working on this basis, the sky is the limit.It all begins with clarity, however, and that begins at the top of the organisation. An organisation’s leaders must understand the mission and communicate unambiguously to everyone – no fudge, equivocation or misunderstanding. Joe Schmidt often speaks about how great teams exceed the potential of their constituent parts, and the same applies in business. Be clear about what is required, get everyone pulling in the same direction, and your business’s performance will dramatically improve.Think beyond the possibleIn my view, we all achieve a small percentage of our potential, but good leaders help people see beyond the constraints and what they define as ‘possible’. As an example, in Ryanair we faced a seemingly insoluble issue in Italy some years ago. The airline’s schedule requires that the turnaround time at each airport for each aircraft is 25 minutes. To achieve this, Ryanair needs to refuel the aircraft while passengers disembark and baggage is removed. However, in Italy, uniquely in Europe, the law prevented airlines from fuelling the aircraft as passengers disembarked. Our punctuality in Italy was badly affected by this restriction and when every other option was exhausted, my colleague, the Director of Operations, was charged with the seemingly impossible task of getting the legislation changed.Initially, we all thought this was impossible but faced with no alternative, we developed an innovative strategy which convinced the Italian government of the merits of our case. This involved working at both local and national level at speed throughout Italy.This ability to challenge people so that they tackle issues that appear to be beyond them, but not so far beyond them to put them into a state of despair, is a delicate act – but if done right, can make the seemingly impossible, achievable.Develop self-confidenceLeadership can be a lonely place, particularly when you are the CEO. All leaders therefore need the self-confidence to see them through – not only during the tough times, but also day-to-day. Unfortunately, Irish people tend to harbour a high degree of self-doubt and this can lead to paralysis at the very moment decisiveness and action is required. But how can you build self-confidence as a seasoned professional? Success breeds confidence, and I am a big believer in excellence in basic execution. Too many people give up early – they hit a bump in the road and the journey ends there and then. Some people are also just waiting for you to fail. But if you obsess over the basics and execute brilliantly every single time, your chance of success will increase exponentially – and every little win will add to your confidence and self-belief.You also need to develop a relentless streak, because sometimes even excellent execution will not cut it the first or second time around. Michael O’Leary is a good example of this approach with his unwavering persistence and focus on the end goal. So, begin with the basics, execute brilliantly, and do not give up.Be paranoidTo become, and remain, successful in business, you cannot rest on your laurels. Andrew Grove, the founder of Intel who is famously quoted as saying “only the paranoid survive”, insisted that Intel double the capacity of their microchip every two years in order to stay ahead of the competition. He saw this as key to remaining number one in their sector.The truth is, once you or your business become a success, people are out to get you. Your competitors work night and day to catch up with you, so you need to work even harder to stay ahead. This paranoia isn’t the debilitating kind, however. It drives you to become better and see evolution and change as standard practice.Ryanair floated in 1997, and our grand finale on the investor roadshow was in New York. At the time, we could produce a seat for a fraction of the cost of our nearest competitor and investors jumped on the opportunity. The offering was 19 times oversubscribed but instead of thinking we’d made it, we knew that we had to continue to work hard to keep driving our costs down. Today, a number of airlines have a similar cost base to what Ryanair had in 1997, but we have moved on because we knew we had to. We still have the lowest cost base in Europe by far, which is the key competitive advantage when you are in the short-haul air travel business. This type of paranoia is driven by the realisation that, because you are a success, you inevitably become a target for your competitors and you must be at least one step ahead at all times.Booking.com is another prime example of this phenomenon. The company is valued at $70 billion and run by a formidable bunch of people. Every year, they make up to 10,000 changes to their website – most of which are so minute as to be virtually undetectable. But they continuously work to test and iterate based on what customers respond to – and in that way stay ahead of the competition.It’s all very well being paranoid, but how do you stay ahead as an individual? You must learn continuously and be acutely aware of the fact that you do not have a monopoly on wisdom. I am 66 years of age and I am still conscious of my shortcomings. To overcome them, I read and research continuously.Energy and enthusiasmAs a leader, you set the tone – and this is most apparent when it comes to your energy and enthusiasm. Your colleagues at all levels of the organisation will pick up on everything from the urgency with which issues are dealt with and the speed of your commitments to your body language and your choices. Energy and enthusiasm flow downhill, as does lethargy and tardiness, so you need to ensure that, as a leader, you are sending the right signals to your people. And although it may be more challenging to do in a remote working environment, it’s still possible if you adapt.The best time to test for energy and enthusiasm is at the hiring stage. Employ people with as much, if not more, enthusiasm than you. Look for people with integrity and honesty, who seek to say and do the right thing even when it isn’t what you want to hear.No amount of talent can make up for a poor attitude, so be careful in your hiring processes and set the bar high in your day-to-day work environment.Michael Cawley FCA is an independent non-executive director and former Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Ryanair.

Jul 29, 2020
Membership

Sean Quigley explains how team coaching can help companies achieve the ultimate competitive advantage.Research tells us that at best, 20% of leadership teams are high-performing. It also tells us that at least 50% of teams are underperforming. These statistics should be of interest to anyone in a leadership role, as they have huge implications for business performance, the delivery of public services and a wide range of organisations, including not-for-profits.Every organisation is increasingly reliant on greater teamwork to cope with growing challenges, greater complexity, and uncertain environments. The COVID-19 pandemic has just added a new level of challenge. The need for collective leadership and collaborative ways of working across organisational and sectoral boundaries has never been greater. However, teamwork remains the one sustainable advantage that has been largely untapped in most organisations. There is a great need to help teams develop ways of working so that they achieve more than the sum of their parts. The message is clear: senior leaders must get out of their silos and work with each other more. To navigate today’s constantly changing business environment and address cross-disciplinary challenges, top leaders must act as one and be role models for their organisations.In my experience, both as a team coach and a member of senior leadership teams, there are many reasons – some of which are potentially complex – why teams underperform. However, leaders need to recognise the key areas that lead to underperformance.All teams can improve performance. Imagine the impact of a 10% improvement in the performance of your team, and the consequent benefits for customers and all stakeholders? Team leaders need support and guidance to identify areas where their team is underperforming, and to get to the next level of performance. That is where team coaching can have an immediate impact.High-performing teamsA high-performing team achieves outstanding performance by making optimal use of the capabilities of each team member. This highlights the difference between a team and a group. The members of a team are committed, close-knit and share a common objective.Highly effective teams avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics repeatedly because of a lack of buy-in. Highly effective teams also make higher-quality decisions and accomplish more in less time and with less distraction and frustration. If some of the 80% of teams that are not high-performing did indeed improve their performance, this would represent a huge opportunity to unleash untapped potential and add value.High-performing teams are not only important at the top of the organisation. Today, teams are widely used in the form of project teams and cross-functional teams, for example. There is an inherent flaw in this enthusiastic shift to forming teams, based on the assumption that team members naturally know how to collaborate effectively.To take a sporting analogy, teams know that they must be greater than the sum of their constituent parts. There are some outstanding examples of this. The New Zealand rugby team, the European Ryder Cup teams and the Irish women’s hockey team, which reached the Hockey World Cup final in 2018. As Babe Ruth famously said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime”.This also applies to business teams and it is noteworthy that Peter Hawkins, a leading expert in leadership team coaching, found that in 40 years working with leadership teams, the average intelligence of the individual team members was over 120. However, the collective intelligence of the team as a whole was about 60. This is a significant challenge for many businesses and organisations that recruit or promote the brightest and best, yet struggle to operate effectively as a team. Indeed, many organisations have excellent development programmes for individual managers and leaders. Yet, it is rare to find organisations with programmes focused on integrating those individual programmes with team development programmes. This is a major blind spot.How can team coaching help?Unlike some other team interventions, team coaching is designed to work with teams for lasting change. Team coaching is a true partnership designed to work flexibly with the team for a period of time so that a higher level of team performance and a deeper sense of cohesion can be sustained into the future. Team coaching isn’t just about helping the team optimise the way it communicates and learns together (the work of a group). It also enables the team to define and execute its collective task in a way that creates greater value than is possible from the sum of the individual members. It is a process of empowering your team to find and implement their own solutions. The team coach facilitates this learning journey and supports the team in developing the skills needed to maximise their collective potential. The team coach will bring your team through a tried and tested process to identify where they are and what they need to do to be genuinely high-performing.Teamwork comes down to mastering a set of behaviours that are in theory quite straightforward, but can be challenging to put into practice day after day. However, when all team members know what those behaviours are and commit to putting them into practice, that is a crucial step towards becoming a high-performing team. The team coach can help the team improve performance and add value by ensuring that:the team has a clear, collective and compelling purpose with agreed objectives;these are aligned to the needs of stakeholders; andthey all recognise that this can only be achieved through effective team collaboration.Every team member must take responsibility for their part, as well as for the functioning of the whole team. They must present their collective purpose and objectives to a wide range of external stakeholders. It is also essential that it is a learning team, where members are jointly and individually developing and adapting to the ever-increasing speed of change.The five dysfunctions of a teamIn the book by Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he says that “organisations fail to achieve teamwork because they unknowingly fall prey to five natural but dangerous pitfalls”. In his book, he describes the five dysfunctions that are pervasive in all kinds of organisation. By identifying the dysfunctions by name, leaders can watch out for them and learn to address the root causes that prevent teams from reaching their full potential. The five dysfunctions are outlined in Figure 1.Based on the indicators, does your team exhibit any of the characteristics of a dysfunctional team? Would you prefer your team to have the features of a high-performing team? If your team is ready to work hard, take responsibility for results and achieve its potential, now is the time to take action. Working with a qualified team coach can help your teams make the transition quite quickly.Sean Quigley FCA is an executive and team coach, and non-executive director.

Jul 29, 2020
Careers

Julia Rowan offers practical guidance to help leaders run productive and enjoyable team meetings.Team meetings both reflect and create a team’s culture. In times of uncertainty, they provide an essential lifeline to staff as well as an opportunity for leaders to develop the future team that they need.But before we dive into the detail, bear with me for a short and useful exercise: write down a few words that describe your team. Next, fast-forward 12 months: write down the words you would like to use to describe your team. What did you write? More strategic? More independent? More collegiate? More thorough? More proactive? Now reflect on this: how are you using your team meetings to build that strategic, independent, proactive (insert your own words) team that you want?Leaders rarely view the team meeting as an opportunity to build the team they want. Team meetings are seen as a duty, not an opportunity.Create a strong centre of gravityLeadership is challenging, both in good times and bad, but the challenges are different. Right now, there is significant uncertainty: possible recession, business continuity challenges, staff safety and more. Organisations are trying to recruit, induct, delegate, manage and lead at a distance. Many team members are anxious.All of this, to be slightly controversial, in an environment where commitment to one’s profession can be more important than commitment to one’s employer. And that commitment is neither right nor wrong – it merely reflects the reality that all professionals need to stay accredited. Otherwise, their employment prospects are gone. But it all feeds into the need for the leader to create a strong ‘centre of gravity’ within the team and to make the most of the opportunity (there’s that word again) that team meetings offer.Let’s go back to our opening exercise. Let’s say that you want your team to be more proactive; you have two choices. You either tell them that you want them to be more proactive or, at your next team meeting, you ask each team member to give an example of their proactivity and how it worked out. The first option sits nicely under ‘good advice’, and like all good advice, it may or may not be heeded. The second option sends a powerful message: that members of this team are encouraged to be proactive.The purpose of team meetingsMy take on leadership is that it happens through a series of conversations, most of which are one-to-one – interview, induction, goal-setting, delegation, feedback, performance management, coaching etc. Each of these conversations has a specific purpose and opportunity. Team meetings are different and serve three main purposes:they allow for the exchange of information, ensuring that everyone is on the same page;they facilitate discussion, which leads to better quality decisions; andthey are usually the only time and place where the team is together and can ‘do’ being a team. They are the equivalent of the family dinner – a time to stay connected, support each other and, yes, have the odd spat.The team-building part builds the trust needed to ensure that the discussion and decision-making are high-quality; that all team members can speak up, air opinions and be heard. This, in turn, feeds into that all-important engagement and commitment to the team, which is particularly important when teams work off-site or virtually.Plan and run outstanding meetingsTaking the time to plan and run outstanding meetings is tough on leaders who are already under pressure. They may unwittingly adopt a ‘tick-box’ approach to their meetings: regular meeting? Agenda circulated? All in attendance? All updates covered? Action list distributed?Actually, if you are doing all of that, take a bow because many teams never meet (and hopefully the thoughts below will help you make your meetings even more useful and enjoyable). Or maybe you used to run meetings and then stopped. They took too long, nobody spoke up, or the same few people dominated. Now is a great time to reinvest in your team meetings.The tips that follow may help stimulate some creative thoughts about how you plan and organise your team meetings. Julia Rowan is Founder of PerformanceMatters.ie. Following a career that spanned finance, marketing and public affairs, Julia now works with leaders and teams throughout Europe to build strong teams.

Jul 29, 2020