I was having dinner with a group of senior leaders after a strategic executive offsite. So naturally, the conversation turned to … octopus hunting. Apparently, Carlos, the senior leader sitting across from me was an expert.
He described his technique in intricate detail. I listened in amazement. In all the times I’ve gone scuba diving looking for Octopi, I’ve only seen one of these eight-legged guys (and the only capturing I did was in the photo above). And here he was bringing home nine or more at a time.
He smiled, “Karin, you can’t see them because you aren’t an expert.” Fair enough.
The Most Effective Way to Show Up as the Expert
But as his story continued, I realized Carlos’ true expertise was how he used it.
We like to hunt as a family. My Dad doesn’t see them as easily as he once did. So when I spot one I linger around it, to draw my Dad’s attention there. But don’t mention the octupus. Then he sees it, and comes back to the family with all the stories of the one Carlos almost missed.
My son is still learning so I find some in the smaller crevices and tell him I can’t possibly get my hands in there, and let him be the hero at dinner because he got the really hard ones.
Carlos gets the results he needs. Enough octopi for his hungry family waiting at home to cook them. He has fun with the people he loves. And everyone surfaces feeling a bit better about their contribution. Winning Well, confident humility at it’s finest.
Above the Surface
The next day, I watched Carlos again when he was handed the mic to talk about leadership characteristics as part of a panel discussion. He spoke in detail about each of his peers sitting beside him, sharing exactly what he admired about them as leaders—most of them he’d only been working with a short while from a remote distance. I watched their faces as he spoke. He clearly nailed characteristics they were truly proud of.
The best experts don’t need to tell you they are, they show you. They encourage, develop, and recognize the expertise in others.
BONUS How to Hunt an Octopus
In case you didn’t know Octopus hunting was a thing either, here you go.
Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival! This month, our contributors share their thoughts about decision-making and problem-solving (and several weighed in on the choice between coffee and tea.) Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!
The June Frontline Festival will be about developing ownership and commitment. We’ve expanded the Frontline Festival to include other formats such as podcasts and artwork and are always looking for new thought leaders to join the party. Won’t you join us? Send us your submissions here!
Now, on to the May Festival where our submissions lent themselves to two major themes:
Jon Mertz of Activate World gives us Holacracy: Achieving Clarity and Productivity. What happens when a company transitions from a traditional business model to one with distributed authority? According to Morgan Legge, of Convert.com, decision making is shifted into the hands of the role holder. She and Jon discuss her company’s transition to a Holacracy and how it has broken open a lot of old paradigms and ways of thinking about work. Follow Jon.
Most leaders know better. Leading with fear and intimidation is so old school. So why do so many managers slip back into destructive behaviors?
Mark, a senior executive at a Fortune 50, slams his fist on his desk as he reviews the latest sales results.
“Why don’t they get it? We can’t miss our targets this quarter! Sure there have been some unusual circumstances, but this is no time for excuses. We’re in the fight of our lives! I’d better be sure they understand how serious this is.”
So he calls an emergency meeting with his Director team, and lays the fear on thick. A few F-bombs, table slams, and thirty-seven “OR ELSES.”
He would never talk this way to his sales managers. He’s mastered the art of walking around.….
But he figures these guys can handle it. When his wife, Jenny, questions his “I really let them have it this time” approach at dinner, he laughs nervously. “That’s why they get paid the “big bucks.”
Fear Rolls Down Hill
Grace, one of Mark’s top Directors, leaves his meeting a bit shaken.
She knows her team is all over this. They just came up with a great plan last week. Her gut tells her to leave them alone and let them work the plan.
But, Mark said to have a meeting so she’d better have a meeting.
So she calls an emergency huddle to ensure everyone gets the message. She repeats back Mark’s words verbatim and throws in a few extra “or ELSES,” of her own. “Somebody’s going to lose their job here, and it’s not going to be me.”
Bill, Grace’s most seasoned manager, is a bit shocked as he leaves her meeting. “Wow,” he thinks. “She NEVER acts this way. She’s stopped listening. I could have told her about that big deal my team just closed that gets us closer if she had let me talk.”
So Bill calls a meeting of his team leaders. “THIS IS CLEARLY YOUR EXECUTION ISSUE. YOU NEED TO FIX THIS NOW. OR ELSE.”
He takes a stack ranked report with everyone below quota highlighted in yellow. “I want to know if it’s a will issue or skills issue with every one of your reps. BY TOMORROW.”
Bill knows he’s being a bit rough. If he were actually coaching reps he’d have productive conversations about behaviors and search for solutions. He would dig deeper and figure out how he can help.
He figures his team leaders will know what to do. They’ll figure out a way to coach the right way. They know that people can’t sell well when they are scared.
One of Bill’s team leaders, Kathy, gets the outlier report and hears his message loud and clear. She leaves the meeting and then…
Fear Fosters Fear
Your team takes its cues from you on how to treat others. If you don’t want fear to roll downhill, be careful how you show up “even to the folks that can handle it.”
Joe has a new idea. The idea isn’t perfect, but with a tweak or two, it just might solve that big problem that’s driving everyone nuts.
What does Joe do next?
If Joe is like half of the people in our research, you’ll never hear about it because he assumes no one will do anything with it.
Good ideas breed more good ideas. When people see a clear path from idea sharing to implementation, they’ll be much more likely to speak up.
On your team, how easy is it for people to bring forward their best ideas?
A Quick “Make the Best Ideas Work” Process Check
How would Joe’s idea flow on your team?
Take a minute to think about this “idea path.”
How does Joe know it’s an idea with potential? Have you defined criteria for what a great idea will do for your customers or the team? If not, that’s worth some brainstorming at your next team meeting.
Once Joe determines that his idea is worth sharing, what would he do next? Would he:
Talk to someone
Fill out a card
Enter it in a database
Schedule a meeting
We invite you to write down each step Joe would take – including other people’s activity necessary to implement the idea. Who would need to authorize it? What levels of approval do different ideas require? How long would each step take?
Be honest with how things work in your organization (not how you’d like them to work).
As you review the process you just outlined, ask the following questions:
Do you have a coherent plan or are there gaps you can address?
How long would it take from the time Joe shared his idea to the time a pilot project happened?
What feedback loops are in place to help Joe improve the idea and make it viable?
As the revised idea rolls out, would Joe stay involved? If so, how?
How would you recognize Joe and thank him in a meaningful way?
As a leadership team (or by yourself if you’ve done this one alone), review your answers to the last four questions and ask yourself: If you were a front-line team member, would it be worth your time and energy to think of solutions and new ideas (much less to share them)?
If your answer is “No”, where can you make changes to improve the process, remove barriers, and increase recognition?
If your answer is “Yes,” but ideas aren’t moving to implementation, ask your team to do this exercise. It’s a great way to check for understanding to see if they’ve got the process and know what to do.
As you review their answers, look for these common barriers to action. Do they:
Know what successful ideas look like?
Know what to do with an idea that might work, but isn’t perfect?
Have a realistic understanding of the timeframe involved?
Understand why they need certain approvals?
Your Idea Path
Teams that consistently improve don’t leave the creativity to chance. They have an intentional plan to find good ideas, test, refine, share, and encourage problem-solving.
When you wonder what they were thinking – dig deeper.
Has this happened to you? You walk by your team and see something different. Not, “Oh-that’s-cool” different, but “What were they thinking?” different.
What do you do?
When I was twelve years old, I found myself on the receiving end of “What were you thinking?”
I was a Boy Scout on a camping trip. My friends and I had carefully planned a menu and bought groceries, but now we were struggling to cook breakfast.
That’s when Bud, our adult leader, walked by. He stopped, looked at our frying pan, arched an eyebrow, and asked, “What are you making?”
We held up the pan of blue-green gelatinous charred mess. “Blueberry pancakes?”
I’ve never forgotten what Bud did next.
He crouched down next to the fire with us. “Well, let’s see what we have here.”
We explained our concoction. It was autumn and blueberries weren’t in season. So, we’d bought the next best alternative: blueberry pie filling.
We substituted a cup of pie filling for a cup of fresh blueberries.
It doesn’t work that way. The pie filling added more liquid and sugar to the batter than plain blueberries. Not knowing any better, we mixed it up, poured it in the pan, and watched it burn as we poked it with a spatula.
Bud saw what had happened, explained the problem, and asked, “So if you’ve got too much liquid in your batter, what do you need to do?”
He coached us through adding more dry ingredients until we had the right consistency. Then he helped us cook the resulting “pancake.” The texture still wasn’t right. They didn’t make nice neat circles. And they turned a strange color–somewhere between forest green and steel gray.
But the taste–heavenly! No syrup required.
With Bud’s help, we’d invented a new breakfast delicacy: The Slimer.
For years to come, Slimers were a staple of our camping trips – even when fresh blueberries came back in season, we stuck with our version. As an adult, I’ve even made them a few times on family camping trips.
When You Wonder “What Were They Thinking?”
When you see something that makes little sense, it’s normal to feel frustrated, concerned, or even angry. Your team should know better, right?
But that moment of exasperation is also an opportunity.
What you saw could be:
A cool new micro-innovation
A good idea that needs refinement
A lack of understanding
Ignorance of critical rules or process
They weren’t thinking at all
These are opportunities to improve. Your people can learn. You can improve your processes. You can leverage new ideas.
But it’s easy to miss these opportunities if you react with frustration. If Bud had shaken his head at our slimy mess and told us to cook eggs like the other kids, we would have missed out on Slimers.
What To Do When “What Were They Thinking?”
To take advantage of these moments and identify the opportunity, use Bud’s curiosity. Approach the team with, “Well, let’s see what we have here?”
A common reason people make “What were they thinking?” mistakes is lack of clarity. They don’t know where procedures are mandatory or where they should make their own decisions. Your genuine curiosity will uncover these gaps. Now you can fix your training or communication.
They may not know how to implement a good idea. You can use the 9 What’s Coaching method to help them identify goals and potential solutions.
If they weren’t thinking at all, now you know. Is this an opportunity to help your team member grow or a sign that the person is a poor fit for this role?
And often, “What were they thinking?” moments reveal a new approach.
Take the time to understand why they did what they did and you might just uncover the key to better customer service or employee engagement. Help them refine the idea and think about how they can share it with other teams.
The next time you wonder “What were they thinking?” take a moment to find out. The answer will always help you move your team forward.
Leave us a comment and share one of your favorite “What were they thinking?” moments or a leadership approach that works well for you when you see something you don’t understand.
Does this happen to you? You diligently prepare for an important meeting. You cover all your bases. And then here it comes, the question you can’t answer.
What you say next matters—a lot. It’s tragic to see smart, well-intentioned leaders flounder with a weak answer to a tough question.
Don’t lose credibility by guessing with confidence (e.g. making stuff up and acting like it’s true), talking in circles around the issue (without saying anything of substance), or answering the question they can’t answer with a question, hoping to deflect and distract.
6 Simple Ways to Answer the Question You Can’t Answer
Tell The Truth. Never, ever make stuff up. Forget the spin. Say what you don’t know and offer to get back to them AFTER you’ve done your homework. If you can’t disclose everything, explain why.
Anticipate and Prepare. Want to get good at tough questions? Make them less tough. Anticipate questions you’ll be asked and put them into categories. Do your homework and get smarter. Dry run your presentation with a few friendlies and ask for their toughest questions. Pre-empt a few tough questions by saying, “Now, if I were you I would be wondering…” Instant credibility win.
Pause. That awkward is likely your issue, not theirs. Better to have a moment of pause with a good answer, than a quick moment of stupidity.
Repeat the Question. Sometimes questions feel tough because they’re long, convoluted or unclear. Summarize the question back in the simplest terms. It will show you are listening, you’ve got them, and give you a moment to prepare.
Don’t Repeat Yourself. Every now and then, people use tough questions as traps. Just say, “I believe I answered that before” with a quick summary response.
Keep Your Cool. Don’t get riled up. Take the high road and keep your cool. Your best answer will never be given from the Amygdala brain. Breathe.
When you role model a prepared, calm and honest approach to tough questions, your team learns it’s okay to not know. And gets better at working on answers together.
It takes compassion and strength to fire a poor performer.
Have you ever been reluctant to fire a poor performer? You might identify with Mary.
She approached David as he finished delivering a leadership development program and introduced herself. “I was the vice president of a well-known technology company, and I consistently did everything you just talked about—with one exception. I let people stay who weren’t right for the team.”
David replied, “You’re not alone. That’s a difficult challenge for most managers.”
Mary frowned. “Yes, it is. It’s also why I said ‘I was the vice president.’ I lost my job because I didn’t practice adequate accountability. Please make sure people know how important this is. Tell them Mary said so.”
Well, Mary—this is for you.
Firing someone is one of the most difficult things most managers ever have to do. Even so, the decision to fire a poor performer is an important aspect of your leadership. Removing poor performers tells your top performers you value their time and effort.
When you remove troublesome individuals, you help everyone be more productive—especially you. In our experience, a troublesome poor performer can soak up 80 percent of your time when you don’t take proper care of the situation.
So yes, there will come a time when you need to fire a poor performer.
Now, it may feel easy to fire someone you’ve never cared for, who treated you and everyone else rudely and abused customers, but what about when you like the person? You’ve grown close over the years. You care about her. You might even know her family. Perhaps she’s even a strong performer who did something stupid. Now you need to fire her. How do you get okay with that?
How to Be Okay When It’s Time to Fire a Poor Performer
It’s okay for these decisions to be tough. This isn’t a bad thing—you should take it seriously. Dick Saunders, the Founder and CEO of Saunders Construction once told us in an interview, “If you ever reach a place where you can affect a person’s livelihood and family without a second thought, then it’s time for you to resign.”
You might feel like you don’t want to hurt the person or his family. If you’re a Pleaser Manager, you want people to like you. Even Users can procrastinate on these decisions. To move past this paralysis, you’ll need to change your mindset.
When you manage, there will come a time when you realize a person is no longer committed to the mission and is not, or never was, a good fit for the organization. In these situations, you want to be sure you’ve made reasonable efforts to help her (reinforce expectations, alert her to the issue, provide any needed training, and practice your company’s due process if it has one).
If you’ve done this and it’s clear that the person needs to move on, the most important thing you can do for your team, for your own credibility, and for the employee is to help her go.
Don’t do it because other people think you should, don’t do it because you’re angry, and don’t do it to avoid other problems. When you terminate, do it because it is best for the team, the organization, and that employee.
Not Everyone Belongs Here
One mindset to embrace before you can help your people achieve results together is that not everyone should be a part of every team.
The human being in front of you has strengths and value—strengths and value that just don’t work for his current position.
Karin worked with an HR manager who had lots of big ideas but constantly suffered in execution. After a year of reviewing expectations, performance-improvement planning, training, and straight talk, she had to let him go. A year later he called her and said:
“Thank you. Getting fired was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’m working on my Ph.D., teaching, and consulting. In hindsight, I should have quit, but I was too scared about what to do next. This forced me into needed action.”
If you need to fire someone, it doesn’t really matter if she did something wrong or isn’t an ideal fit. We’re talking about a mindset you bring to the process: This isn’t about them as a person – it’s facing the reality that not everyone should be a part of every team.
When You Fire a Poor Performer, You Serve Them Too
One of the most important pieces of the decision to fire a poor performer is your awareness that you serve the person you let go.
This is a vital part of knowing how to say goodbye: realizing that you don’t do an employee any favors by tolerating poor performance, mission misalignment, or abuse of coworkers.
When you refuse to help someone move on, you actually hurt them.
With mission misalignment, if you don’t say goodbye, you keep the person from learning more about his strengths. When you tolerate negligence or abuse, you enable poor behavior and prevent the individual from learning how to succeed in the real world.
In either case, while it’s not pleasant, it can definitely be an act of caring if your motivations include both what is best for the individual and on what is best for the organization.
Don’t allow your lack of courage or your discomfort to hurt your poor performers and your good ones. Great managers know when and how to say goodbye because they recognize that in doing so, they express how much they value their team, for the mission, and even for the departing staff member.
We’d love to hear from you: leave a comment and share your experience – either the consequences of a poor performer who stayed too long or a leader skilled at moving people out of poorly matched roles.
For more, check out this video from Karin on what happens when you leave a toxic manager in their role:
Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival! This month, our contributors share their thoughts about building a high performance team. We’ve expanded the Frontline Festival to include other formats such as podcasts and artwork and are always looking for new thought leaders to join the party. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!
The May Frontline Festival will be about decision making and problem solving. Won’t you join us? Send us your submissions here!
Now, on to the April Festival!
Defining a High-Performance Team
S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culturegives us a three-minute #cultureleadershipcharge video with Build Your “A” Team. If you have a team that performs well, solves problems proactively, and treats everyone with respect in daily interactions, that’s an ‘A’ team. It doesn’t always work that way. Chris describes how to hold people accountable for both results and respect. Follow Chris.
Nate’s team dedicates time every week to journal about their team dynamics, goals and aspirations. They spend time doing team-building and practicing the communication and conflict tools they teach, as well as share and discuss articles and books.
Carey Balzer of MARION Marketing Agency offers How to Hire a Marketing Manager or Executive. The role of a marketer has drastically evolved over the past decade. Hiring marketing managers that are up-to-date and effective at people management has become more difficult than ever. This guide reveals the qualities of a good marketer and helps you learn how to hire a marketing manager, executive, or even just a capable marketing specialist. Follow Carey
Carey provides for his team’s professional development by allocating at least two hours of training per month for all employees. This is guided by goals that every employee establishes with their manager, and is based on both interest and company need. So far, this policy has resulted in employees cross-training in video production, valuable marketing certifications, and more!
Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader gives us Passive Employees are Your Key to Success. Leaders typically get caught up in focusing on their best employees or on their most challenging ones. Yet their most valuable asset may be that quiet employee who needs your attention and support. Here’s how to transform your organization with these passive employees. Follow Paul.
Research from the Great Place to Work Research Team demonstrates that inclusive workplaces reap many benefits:
A 2016 study found annual revenue gains of 24 percent higher for most inclusive workplaces than their peers (which lack a diverse workplace environment).
Companies with gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers with less diversity.
Ethnically diverse companies were 35 percent more likely to outperform less diverse businesses. When racial gaps at work shrink, employees’ productivity, brand ambassadorship and retention rates (i.e. intent to stay) rise. Through intentional action, self-awareness, and tenacity, leaders can build a more inclusive workplace.
David Grossman of The Grossman Group writes Recognition that Motivates: Three Must-Have Components. Employee recognition can be a powerful tool that can enhance team performance and motivate employees to take their work to the next level. Recognition can take many forms, so start by asking yourself these four questions, and then get the three must-have components to make sure it resonates with your employees. Follow David.
Do you have a good way to tap into the customer feedback your employees are hearing every day?
Are your frontline employees trained and equipt to be true customer advocates?
Do they feel like their voice is being heard?
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that David and I are in the middle of in-depth research on courageous cultures, which puts us on high alert for best practices in problem-solving, micro-innovation and customer advocacy.
He had such a perfect example of a micro-innovation that taps into customer feedback. I couldn’t wait for our book to be published to share.
I’m giving you a sneak peek because I think you could benefit from this Do It Yourself, Voice of the Customer idea right now!
He tells the story better than I can. Watch how he uses a simple USB web key button to empower employees to give real-time customer feedback. And then, he integrates it with other Voice of the Customer data.
Nate says they now have more and better quality customer feedback than ever before. Employees are more engaged in the process and interested in the outcomes.
That’s the power of micro-innovation and customer advocacy.
Omni-channel – The button works for any and all types of feedback coming in. This could be a phone call to support, an email, a conversation at a trade show, an executive seated next to a customer on a plane, a social media post, or just about anything else. The simplicity of it makes this level of flexibility possible.
A Tangible Reminder – You may already be thinking, “What’s the point of the button? Why not just have everyone bookmark the feedback form?” If you take a quick look at all the dozens of sites you currently have bookmarked, the answer will be clear. Having a physical button right there in front of you sets this program apart from the everyday noise. We literally bought buttons that FLASH! There is power in having a constant visual reminder of this great channel that has been created to enhance the Customer Experience.
Extreme Ease of Use – From the very beginning, we designed the program to be remarkably easy for the employee entering the feedback. Even small barriers to the process of entering feedback will result in dramatically reduced participation. Make it a quick, rewarding experience for all involved. And of course…don’t forget to close the loop to earn credibility!
Not Just For Customers – The form you create can have a tab for employee feedback as well. Give your people a channel to voice any hurdles they may encounter while delivering outstanding CX. This is sure to have a positive impact on your CES (customer effort score) both internally and externally.
But It Could Be For Customers! – Talk about an amazing technique to blow your VIP customers away…give them a button of their own. Let them know that this is generally reserved for employees only, but you value their feedback so much that you’d like for them to have one. I can’t imagine a better way to transform a simple piece of plastic into a life-long loyalty enhancer!
Do you have micro-innovation that’s making a difference for you and your team? How do you help your employees become better customer advocates? We would love to hear your story (and perhaps even include it in our next book.) Leave a comment here, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead remote meetings that get results and build relationships.
Tired of shadowy silhouettes, screechy feedback, and multitasking participants? It doesn’t have to be that way. Remote meetings are a daily fact of life for most leaders. When you lead them well, they can build relationships, and leverage your team’s expertise from anywhere on earth.
Like in-person meetings, however, good remote meetings don’t happen by accident. It takes intention and clear expectations to give everyone a productive experience that helps your team move forward. Here are fourteen ways you can take control of your remote meetings and make them a productive experience for everyone.
Lights, Cameras, Action
You wouldn’t show up to most in-person business meetings wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, then put your feet up on the desk. While you hopefully don’t have remote team members show up this way, remote meetings require a different set of etiquette to ensure that the experience is connected and productive.
1. Use the Camera
Seeing one another’s faces is a fundamentally better experience than voice alone. Even with the latency and delays that sometimes come with video, we are built to see faces, interpret emotion, and connect with other human beings.
Visual communication is higher bandwidth communication. You will get better results and relationships when your team can see one another. If at all possible, make video the default expectation for your remote meetings.
2. Use Lights
Now that you’ve got your camera on, make sure your team can see you. The number one problem with lighting is that people sit in front of a window or bright light and point their camera toward the window. The light washes out your face and all we see is a dark silhouette.
If you lead many meetings, it’s worth setting up a regular space where you will have good lighting. Sit facing the window. Get a lamp. Use what you have and ask others to do the same. Even if every member can’t get good lighting, they can avoid sitting in front of a bright light that washes out their face.
3. Use a Microphone
While video requires a good internet connection, quality audio is easy and affordable. If you don’t have a remote-meeting-equipped conference room, an inexpensive USB headset will help you and your team to hear one another with minimal feedback and background noise. It’s very difficult to have a conversation with the group if you can’t hear one another or you’re fighting feedback. Headset microphones eliminate these problems.
4. Look at the Green Dot
Have you ever had a video conference with someone’s left ear? If so, it’s because they have their camera on a different monitor than the monitor they’re watching.
When you speak, practice looking at your camera. This maximizes your perceived eye contact with everyone else. On the laptop I use for remote meetings there is a little green light next to the camera lens. I’ve trained myself to look at that dot as if it were the eyes of the person I’m speaking to.
Several times I’ve had meeting participants remark on how connected I was and how intently I was listening. That’s why. I was looking at the dot–but they see me looking at them. This takes practice to get used to, but it’s much better than people talking to your ear.
5. Limit Background Noise
Even with a noise-canceling microphone, background noise disrupts your team’s ability to have a meaningful conversation.
How to Facilitate Remote Meetings
Remote meetings require more from you than an in-person meeting. Your team will appreciate your leadership to help make the meeting the best use of everyone’s time.
6. Prime with Early Interaction
Many people experience remote meetings as a passive event where they listen to one or two people talk while they do other work, chime in with “sounds good,” and move on. To create a different energy and break up those habits, start your meeting with interaction.
Even before the meeting starts, ask questions, have a starter that engages people. It can relate to the topic or simulate pre-meeting table talk. Or you can have fun and humanize everyone–the opportunities are limitless. What if you started with a quick “waterfall” chat where everyone shares their answer to questions like:
The best thing that happened to them at work this week?
What made them most proud of their team?
What contribution they’re most proud of?
What they hope to get out of or achieve on the project you’re discussing?
Give everyone a moment to read through and appreciate the answers. You can also use this technique to pause and gather responses throughout the meeting.
7. Set Expectations
What time does your meeting start?
If you said “9:00 am” – what does that mean? Does it mean people should arrive at 9? At 8:55? What should everyone have read or done to prepare for the meeting?
In one organization, a scheduled 9:00 am meeting could start as early as 7:30 if an executive’s plane arrived early.
Unless you’re meeting with the same group and have a track record of good remote meetings, take time to explain the technology and processes you use. If you will use polls, breakout rooms, text chats, whiteboards, or other elements, describe how they work and give people a chance to do it before you use it for the actual conversation.
It’s also a good practice to review behavioral expectations regarding lighting, microphones, video, background noise, and engagement just as you would for an in-person meeting. Eg “To avoid talking over one another, please use the ‘raise hand’ feature and I’ll call on you. Let’s try it out–everyone raise your hand now.”
8. Keep Track of Participation
How long has it been since you’ve heard input from Doug? Should you invite Cheryl into the conversation?
When you lead a remote meeting, it is helpful to keep track of who is taking part. I will often keep a list of attendees and use hash marks to make sure we balance input and that the technology doesn’t prevent contribution (or allow someone to hide who we need to hear.)
9. Intentionally Engage
When people are new to the technology, it helps to be directive in how you engage the team. Use everyone’s name frequently. Invite them to share their perspective (this is even more important when you have a hybrid meeting with some attendees in-person and some remotely). Vary the interactions. Use waterfalls, polls, and text chats to provide group feedback and engage whoever isn’t speaking at the moment.
One engagement tool that leaders often under-use is a good strategic story. In 2-4 minutes can you share a brief story about a customer or employee that relates to the meeting’s purpose–something that puts the computerized meeting in a human context.
Every Meeting, Every Time
Whether you’re meeting in person, remotely, or both, never forget these five fundamentals of effective meetings.
10. Have a Clear Purpose
Before anyone arrives to a meeting, they need to know the purpose of the meeting. Is this a meeting to choose where you are going or how you will get there? Clarify the purpose and stick to it.
11. Invite the Right People to Make the Best Decision
You want your meeting to be the most productive use of time for everyone who attends. Generally, invite the least number of people that will allow the group to make the best decision. Then add in people who can attend developmentally.
12. Clarify Who Owns the Decision
At the beginning of the meeting, clarify how the decision will be made. There are three ways to make business decisions: a single person decides; the team votes; or the team chooses by consensus. Those are your options. Be clear who owns the decisions so everyone knows how to share and how to think about what they hear.
13. Stay Focused
While you lead the meeting and participate in the discussion, stay focused on the original purpose. When you drift into other topics, make a decision: are you going to change the purpose of the meeting to discuss the new topic (rarely a good idea, but sometimes warranted) or call everyone back to the topic at hand? Use a parking lot and assign “parked” ideas an owner for follow up.
14. End with the Magic Meeting Formula for Results
To turn your meeting into action, wrap up with a focused check-for-understanding: Who is Doing What by When and How Will We Know? Finish strong and ensure everyone clearly knows who is accountable for what activity.
We believe in the power of remote meetings and their ability to create human connections and achieve breakthrough results. Karin and I have built friendships and working relationships with people around the world through remote collaboration and our live-online leadership training programs – and you can too.
We’d love to hear from you: leave us a comment and share your best suggestion for running a fantastic remote meeting.
Does the Power of Culture Propel or Punish Your Team?
I fell backward off the side of a boat and descended into the Pacific Ocean where I was about to get an incredible (and frightening) experience about the power of culture.
I’m a relatively new scuba diver and was diving with my family in the Galapagos islands. This would be our first current-dive, where you drop into the ocean and swim with the current. The boat picks you up at the end of the dive.
The dive master reviewed the plan, we put on our wetsuits and gear, then rolled off the boat into the ocean. We grouped up twenty feet below the surface at a rocky ledge, then the dive master led us around the ledge and into the current.
It was at this point I realized how poorly I had misunderstood the word “current.” I was thinking of a Lazy River ride where you float along on an inflated tube, enjoying the scenery. This was something else entirely – like a dam had burst and swept up everything in its path.
I could swim to the left, I could swim to the right. I could swim up or down. What I could not do was turn around or go back. Even giving it my full physical effort, if I tried to swim against the current, I couldn’t even stay in place and would exhaust my air in minutes.
The Power of Culture
In your organization, culture has the same effect as that ocean current. Like the current, culture is invisible and powerful.
Our favorite definition of culture is from Seth Godin. He defines culture as “People like us do things like this.” Culture is that invisible force of mutual understanding and awareness that drives human behavior.
If you want to know what one human being is likely to do, look at what the people around them do. If you want to change what one person does, change what the people around them do.
That’s the power of culture.
Maxine was a CEO who often was frustrated that people in her organization didn’t take more initiative and creatively solve problems. When you examined the culture, however, “people like us don’t take initiative and solve problems.”
Maxine and her leadership team had spent the last two years emphasizing the need to follow procedure. They replaced respected leaders who raised objections or looked for better ways. The result was an organization of people who did what they were told.
It was unreasonable to expect an individual employee to fight the culture they had created.
If your employees would have to take heroic action to do what’s best for your customers and your business, you have a culture problem. [Tweet This]
Devon is Vice President of a major healthcare provider. He and his leadership team prize their employees’ ideas and micro-innovations. “They’re the ones closest to the patients and every day they see firsthand what’s working and what’s not. We’d be foolish not to listen.”
Working with his management team, Devon created a “find a way to try it” mentality for new ideas. When an employee suggests a process improvement, their manager actively looks for ways that the employee can implement a small-scale experiment.
“The employee knows they were heard. They’re more engaged and have ownership of the idea because they’re involved in implementing it. You do this once or twice and then you’ve got a stack of good ideas.”
That’s the power of culture. Devon’s team doesn’t have to be heroic and swim upstream because “people like us” look at how we can make things better for our patients – and then do.
When Your Culture Doesn’t Work
You have a culture. It may sweep your team along toward breakthrough results or it could sweep them toward frustration and burnout.
The good news is that as a leader, unlike an ocean current, you can change your culture. It’s not easy, it takes time and commitment, but you can do it.
Start with you. If you don’t have the culture you want, take time to write down what success would look like. What values do you hope to see in action? What would people like us be doing? Get specific – how would everyone act in different situations? What would they say?
Look at your strategy and processes. Have you unintentionally been reinforcing a culture you don’t want? Who are you hiring? How are you training, compensating, and rewarding? Who do you hold accountable? Who do you not?
Enlist your most engaged team members. Discuss what success would look like. Choose some key behaviors related to the most visible differences from the culture you want. Together, get very clear about these behaviors.
Model the culture you want. With your engaged team members, set the example. Start talking about what success looks like going forward. Have conversations about “what it means to be a part of this team.” Make sure that the words match what people see from leaders. Use a consistent communication plan to ensure everyone hears and understands what it means for them.
Practice accountability. When you, the team, or an individual don’t live out the culture, talk about it. At first, these are low level conversations that reinforce your commitment. Some of them may escalate into honest conversations where a team member is not a good fit. They just don’t want to be a part of the new culture. It’s okay. Wish them well and release them to a better fit.
Celebrate. Relentlessly encourage success. Tell the stories. You get more of what you encourage and celebrate. Have fun as you reinforce the power of culture. For example, if you’re focused on working together and breaking down silos, you might get a small hammer, spray paint it gold, and hand out a quarterly “Golden Silo Smasher” award to the person or team who demonstrated excellent collaboration.
Do it again. And again. Intentional culture requires consistent modeling, accountability and encouragement. You never outgrow the need for these behaviors at every level of leadership.
The power of culture is stronger than individual effort. Put great people in a poor culture and their lackluster achievement will frustrate you. Build the culture you want and give people the environment that propels them to greatness.
Leave us a comment and share your best practice to build a healthy culture.