How CEOs Screw Up Their Quarterly Business Reviews


It’s ugly and unintentional. No CEO means to take the day into rocky and unproductive terrain. The good news is, that’s avoidable. In the spirit of positive course correction, we spotlight 10 QBR gaffes.


Some are matters of style, some are preparation, all are correctable. Knowing them helps the CEO steer clear of the ditch. Let’s take a look at the top 10 chief executive officer QBR breakdowns. Are you making these QBR Gaffes?


The CEO: 1. Makes it an Update Meeting.

The Quarterly Business Review is supposed to be a working meeting. It’s about the future. Attendees come to share ideas, to collaborate, to discuss the road ahead.


That grinds to a halt when the CEO turns it into a look-back. That’s the wrong focus. Nobody drives staring at the rearview mirror.


2. Delivers a Dry News Report

On comes the PowerPoint! Off goes the excitement! When the CEO turns the QBR into a news presentation, attendees’ energy drains away.


That’s a passive presentation where you want active discussion. Too often, the focus is on what happened, not why or how. Worst of all, this is one-way communication.


3. Is First out of the Gate With Opinions.

Everyone wants to hear from the CEO first, right? Because the CEO’s opinions matter. Who could argue? No one. Who wants to be the second speaker? No one.


The CEO’s words have weight. They stifle others’ points of view. And there’s not much discussion to follow when there’s only one outlook. It’s already been discussed. By the CEO.


4. Makes the QBR too Short.

Efficiency is an excellent goal. But you can overdo it.  A CEO who cuts the meeting time winds up cutting productivity. Maybe you get through the agenda, but not in the necessary depth.


This is a three-month span of business operations you’re discussing. Cramming it into too short a time doesn’t allow sufficient depth of exploration. That’s business review by sound bite.


5. Prepares Ineffectively.

As with most business gatherings, preparation is key. Yet, some CEOs don’t establish expectations and toss their executives under the bus. 


Without good groundwork, the conversation stays high-level. There’s no in-depth exploration. Get ready for a truckload of requests for more information.


6. Relies on Opinion vs. Data.

A Quarterly Business Review demands data. That’s the correct foundation for projections and decisions. Consider: Your car’s engine develops a knock. You think it sounds like you’re about to throw a rod. Do you rebuild the engine on the strength of that belief? Or do you ask your mechanic to run diagnostics and find the facts? 


Proceeding on the strength of opinion is lazy at best and dangerous at worst.


7. Treats the QBR as an Event.

The Quarterly Business Review should not be considered a special occasion. It’s arriving at a destination, having made necessary stops at points along the way.


There’s a valuable communication cadence to observe. 


Other stops were meetings to gather data, evaluate operations, and optimize and align activities. Executive leadership weighs in at each of these as appropriate. The QBR should not be executive team members’ first opportunity to speak.


All along this program of meetings, activity continues toward goals.


8. Lets accountabilities slide.

A QBR, conducted well, is a time of high energy and enthusiasm. People sign on to accomplish tasks. Then they go home. In three months, this repeats. Did anything happen between the meetings? It should have. 


The CEO needs an accountability plan. Without it, nothing happens, nothing changes. Action items remain inaction items.


9. Holds the QBR at the Office.

To the CEO, it may look like a perfectly good conference room. And it’s right there on-site. To attendees, it looks like . . . well, the conference room. It has the disruptions the office always has.


The CEO should take the QBR off-site. This is a time to get away from distractions.


10. Allows one Personality to Dominate the Meeting.

Are there any guesses who that personality is? The QBR is not the CEO Show. This is a collaborative business occasion. Everyone’s presence is important, and everyone’s contribution counts.


Use this: We’ve prepared an in-depth checklist of QBR Best Practices. We recommend reviewing the checklist and using it to guide your next QBR meeting. You can download it for free here.


Buckle Up.

The personality that should shine through is the company’s. Branding and planning and action – these are what drive the firm forward. The QBR is part of the overall business campaign. To learn more about making your program great, click here.


Maybe it’s a heavy sense of responsibility. Maybe it’s outsized ego. Maybe it’s a lack of understanding of the meeting’s purpose. The CEO is in position to total the QBR.


But look at the points we’ve just covered. The CEO is also in the position to drive the QBR to a great conclusion.


Scott Gruher

Orchestrates and designs the perfect project strategy, one engagement at a time, to ensure that every SBI client makes their number.

Scott joined SBI in 2010 with years of hands-on experience in sales leadership and enterprise selling. Since his arrival, he has helped dozens of organizations dramatically accelerate growth, from Fortune 10 organizations like Phillips 66 to fast-growing cloud service organizations like InfusionSoft. Scott specializes in cross-functional alignment. He helps leaders align around the growth goal and design the right processes to bring the strategy to life. His unique combination of real world experience and a pragmatic approach to problem solving have made him one of SBI’s most demanded resources.

Read full bio >