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Herding Cats with a Squirrel

Angry-looking cat

The other day I received a frantic message for help from a colleague. She was in “meeting hell.”   Read along and see if this sounds/feels familiar….


Yesterday I was in a meeting with a few people in the room, and a few more on Zoom. Everyone - EVERYONE - had ideas they HAD to share on every single topic we covered. And they beat each one to death! Example: one person suggested a solution to an issue, and several other people had to chime in with the reasons they felt that was a good idea and would work, often repeating points that others had already made. For crying out loud, people, just say "I Agree"!


Further complicating the issue is that everyone has a tangentially related topic that they'd like to talk about, in addition to the primary purpose of the meeting. And each tangential topic that's brought up is a trigger for someone else to think of another topic that's related to that. Next thing you know, we've got seven topics on the table and seven different people trying to push the meeting in a different direction. 


My colleague finished her email to me with, “How do you maintain control of a meeting while still making people feel valued and heard?”


We've all been there, and its frustrating! These types of meetings can feel like herding cats.




I’m happy to tell my colleague that I’ve got an answer!  It’s called a Level 10 Meeting™, where we follow a specific agenda, we start on time, end on time, and create an opportunity for everyone to have a voice while staying on topic. In the EOS® world, these meetings, often referred to as “L10” meetings, are used by the management team to connect weekly, keeping the company on track. Within the structure of the meeting, we cover a specific agenda designed to identify and solve issues, while also keeping the management team connected to each other. Our agenda looks like this:


  • A segue, where we celebrate wins

  • A Scorecard review, where we ensure our most important numbers are on track

  • A Rock review, staying accountable to each other with our most important priorities

  • A highlight of customer / employee news, sharing with our team critical information to keep the circles connected

  • Our Issues List, where we tackle the issues that need to be solved and make them go away forever


The L10 meeting is covered in the book Traction by Gino Wickman, so check that out if you’re interested in learning more.


So how does this help with herding the cats, and what’s a squirrel got to do with it?


During the L10 meeting, when everyone on the team has listed their Issues, the team picks the top 3 priorities – the issues that are the most pressing for the current week. The team member with the issue tees it up in one straight-to-the-point sentence (“What I need to be solved today is… ”). Then together the team goes through the Issues Solving Track using a tool that we call IDS™:


I – Identify the root cause of the issue. Get crystal clear on ALL the systemic roots of where the issue is coming from.

D – Discuss. We enforce the rule of succinctness here: avoid rehashing what’s already been said; avoid getting sidetracked; no grandstanding or politicking.

S – Solve. Once all the root causes have been identified, and there’s been a succinct discussion, the team asks, “What can we do to solve this and make it go away forever?” A plan is formed, action items are identified, ownership of the solution is clarified.


Anytime the team veers off course in the conversation or adds in related topics, we call that a “squirrel”, after the tendency of these critters to scurry chaotically from place to place.



When a squirrel pops up in an L10 meeting, we immediately identify it, put the related issue onto our Issues List (to talk about later if necessary), and get back to the main issue at hand. In my session room I even have a stuffed squirrel (among other animals) that my teams will toss at each other if they catch a tangent. It keeps things loose, fun, and interesting, while helping everyone to stay on track.


And trust me, everyone wants better and fewer meetings, so once they learn the genius of an L10 meeting and the benefit of staying focused, they get on board, resulting in less meetings, better results, more time, and happier teams.



So, the next time you’re feeling the life get sucked out of you in a meeting, and you’ve decided you’ve had enough of herding cats, grab yourself a copy of the book Traction and a squishy squirrel and give it a whirl. And if you need help, just ask.

About the Author

Photo of author Kirsten Smith

Kirsten Smith, founder of Made to Thrive Consulting, is a business management strategist and EOS Implementer®. She has over 20 years Business Development and Management experience with small and large organizations alike, including those listed among the Fortune 500. She is both a business professional and motivational speaker covering a range of topics including attitude change, effective sales techniques, customer service excellence, and personality profiling. Her passion is helping entrepreneurs and leaders be the very best version of themselves and to do more than just survive … THRIVE!

Contact Kirsten at 

 © 2024 Made to Thrive Consulting, LLC. All right reserved.



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