Do you have an important meeting in Portugal? McKinsey helps

  • Bernardo da Mata
  • 30 June 2019

Fear not for McKinsey is with you! The American global management consulting company set out a list of important steps to succeed in a meeting, wherever you are.

Thinking about entering the Portuguese Market? Struggling with the organisational complexity or even with the language? Fear not for McKinsey is with you! The American global management consulting company set out a list of important steps to succeed in a meeting, wherever you are.  But why are meetings so crucial for your company? It all comes down to decision-making, deciding who you are going to partner up with.

Some business executives consider they dedicate too much time to meetings and that sometimes they can be quite unproductive, according to Mckinsey. Another interesting fact the American management consulting firm stressed was that “61% of executives said that at least half the time they spent making decisions, much of it surely spent in meetings, was ineffective”.

The question is, then, how can senior management make meetings more efficient and successful? Mckinsey challenges you to ask yourself three questions: 1) “Should we even be meeting at all?”, 2) “What is this meeting for anyway?” and 3) “What is everyone’s role?”

“Should we even be meeting at all?” 

Rethinking your schedule by “removing superfluous meetings” can be a big help for a start. Is it important to meet again that potential client that offers no prospect of closing a deal with you? Or should invest all your energy in covering new ground with new other leads?

According to Gayle Cotton in an interview with Trip Savvy, “developing good personal relationships is very important” in Portugal. So, when dealing with your probably chaotic schedule, please bear in mind that is not just about the importance of that meeting, it is also and most especially about the importance of the relationship with that potential client.

Time management is also key to a successful meeting. You cannot be “one of those leaders who reflexively accept meeting invitation as they appear in your calendar”, as Mckinsey puts it. Start decisions even before a meeting takes place by defining priorities. That will test your leadership capacity, something that you should “treat as seriously as your company treats financial capital”.

“What is this meeting for anyway?”

Remember the fact that meetings in Portugal “tend to run long” and they usually do not “launch straight into the business at hand”. Thus, if the meeting was to know your potential client or even your business partner better, follow the advice of Gayle Cotton and “invite them for a cup of coffee, lunch, or dinner”.

If the meeting is a recurring one, McKinsey advises you to “check with other decision-makers to ensure the frequency is right (can weekly become monthly?)”. Also, avoid those meetings with an unclear purpose or with an “ever-expanding list of topics”, because they might become “frustrating and even futile”. Delegate someone to take those meetings for you until they come with more defined objectives or conclusions.

Having someone attending those meeting rather than yourself will also help you to keep “the lines clear between discussion and debate sessions, and the actual decision making itself”. But, be aware that, for negotiations, “the key is patience and a willingness to educate your business partners about your way of doing things”, Gayle Cotton advises, adding that “the ‘carrot’ is generally more effective than the ‘stick’.”

“What is everyone’s role?”

Mckinsey writes that “it’s crucial for meetings to have a clear purpose and for attendees to know whether they’re meant to be debating or deciding”, but do not forget that, despite others not making the call of deciding,  does not mean they do not influence the decision process. “Poor role clarity can kill productivity” as mistakingly identifying them can lead you to a situation of “blurry accountability” with “immediate repercussions in an era where speed and agility are a competitive advantage”.

To tackle this problem, Mckinsey advises you to draw a “comprehensive ‘cheat sheet’ of responsibilities” but, as companies might have different structures and roles, focus yourself in identifying the following four stakeholder profiles:

  1. Decision Maker(s), the one(s) “with the responsibility to decide as they see fit”;
  2. Advisers, the ones that “give and shape the decision”;
  3. Recommenders, the ones who “explore alternatives” and “recommend a course of action to the advisers and decision makers”;
  4. Execution Partners, the ones that do not participate often in the decision process but implement the outcome of it.

At last but not least, Gayle Cotton stresses the importance of status in Portugal. “The use of academic titles and distinctions are very common”, despite the author considering that job titles and rank not that relevant. Also, assuming the Portuguese understand Spanish is correct, but understanding Spanish is not a golden ticket to understand Portuguese. Do business in English.