Geoff Smart is chairman and founder of ghSMART. Geoff is co-author, with his colleague Randy Street, of the New York Times bestselling book Who: A Method for Hiring and the author of the No. 1 Wall Street Journal best-seller Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders (Like You) into Government. Geoff co-created the Topgrading brand of talent management. Geoff is the Founder of two 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations. SMARTKids Leadership Program™ provides 10 years of leadership tutoring and the Leaders Initiative™ seeks to deploy society’s greatest leaders into government. Geoff earned a BA in Economics with Honors from Northwestern University, an MA, and a PhD. in Psychology from Claremont Graduate University.


As both a CEO for a couple of decades and a humble bystander, I’ve grown to appreciate the fine art of how to run a meeting well. I have seen billionaire tech CEOs run meetings where people cried their eyes out they were so inspired, and I’ve seen frontline supervisors at an aluminum can manufacturing company run meetings so poorly that people were falling asleep, heads clunking down on the table.

Want to run your next meeting like a CEO? Here are three ways experts avoid rookie mistakes and elevate their meetings to the next level.

1 Make an agenda with three simple questions.

This is an absolute ninja level of CEO wizardry. As many authors have said, success comes not when you have all the answers, but when you ask all the right questions. Show you have CEO swagger and print on a piece of paper (and include in the online calendar appointment) three simple questions for the itinerary. Simple questions make valuable meetings.

2 Summarize key points you hear.

Meetings get sidetracked when lots of people are talking and nobody is summarizing key points as you go. Great leaders often pause naturally about every 10 minutes and take the time to summarize the key points they’re hearing. Little statements like, “It sounds like one big conclusion we are making is X” or, “One big question I hear us asking is Y” can have a tremendous impact. Right after these summary statements, you’ll see the conversation turn toward a decision point and boom – a decision is made.

3 Make people feel safe.

I once heard a governor tell a skittish junior staffer, “Tell me more about what you mean by that. I want to understand.” On another occasion, a CEO told a new member of her team, “I am not promising I’m going to share your point of view, but I want to understand it. So tell me more.” The best CEOs don’t want to intimidate people in meetings. Instead, they make people feel safe, so that everyone feels open to sharing useful information without fear of retribution or being made to look stupid. Make people feel respected, heard and appreciated, and you’ll be impressed by the value of the information you learn, and the solutions that come from your team.