January 11, 2023

Finding Value in Holding Agenda-Free Meetings

Frank discussions make room for identifying challenges and building on strengths

When Miguel Regueiro, MD, was named Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Disease and Surgery Institute in 2021, he saw the opportunity to make some organizational improvements. Among his goals: recruit new talent, work with team members to hone a strong vision, and listen and respond to staff concerns.

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In an interview with Brian Bolwell, MD, for the podcast “Beyond Leadership,” Dr. Regueiro discusses the strategies he used when he took the reins of one of the health system’s largest institutes. One of the winning tactics, he says, was to hold “agenda-free meetings” in which people could honestly share what was on their minds.

Podcast excerpt

Dr. Regueiro: I came in [to leadership of the Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute] with my own set of thoughts as far as what I wanted to do: build back academics, build back the clinical programs, do a lot of recruitment. To do that, though, was not to ignore the past and the people who were here, but really to work with them. I wanted to make clear when I came in that it wasn’t really my role or job or interest to come in and clean house and start all over again. I think we had a lot of strengths and [the job is] to build on those, do it together.

Did some hard changes need to be made? Absolutely. And there were some challenges in the first year or year and a half. But I would say for the most part, [the work] was really building up the team, growing upon that and setting a vision. … And I think the vision statements and the shared vision that we ultimately had is what led to the first few years of what I think was success.

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Dr. Bolwell: So, a couple key points there. One is obviously the importance of a vision for a leader, especially a new leader. And secondly, building up the team. [There are] a lot of ways to do that. What did you find worked for you?

Dr. Regueiro: First and foremost were really one-on-one [meetings] and what I called no-agenda meetings, where I didn’t come in with an agenda, it was just for me to listen. And what I actually found was that the 45 minutes or whatever time was allotted quickly went, so I actually re-met with a number of the staff very early. Being able to connect and understand and then, through these connections and listening to people, knowing what I wanted to do, finding common ground, were some early quick wins that we all agreed upon.

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