Have a meeting or send an email

Should You Have a Meeting or Send an Email?

 

Have you ever attended a meeting that should have been a quick email? In this episode, get the criteria you need to choose the right format to move your team forward, make sure you’re not wasting time with meetings that would be better with a quick email, and make every meeting the most productive use of everyone’s time. If you’re new to the show, we invite you to check out Lead Meetings that Get Results and People Want to Attend.

The Most Neglected Act of Innovation

The Most Neglected Act of Innovation

If you’ve never seen it before, it’s hard to describe the power of an avalanche. Fortunately, I’ve never experienced one myself. But I have seen their power. This weekend, Karin and I cycled in the Colorado mountains between Frisco and Copper Mountain.

neglected act of leadership biking rockies

Between those two mountain towns, I saw the remnants of ten avalanches that happened over this past winter. The avalanches scoured the mountain-sides, snapped trees, and piled the debris at the bottom of the slopes.

neglected act of innovation creative destruction - avalanche chute

It’s easy to look at all the destruction and feel sad—it’s humbling to see nature’s power this way. But these scoured mountain slopes aren’t the end of the story.

In the Rocky Mountains, aspen trees thrive in the open areas avalanches or forest fires cleared. In the autumn those aspens turn color and create these beautiful veins of color.

Over hundreds of years, the evergreens will replace the aspens—until the next avalanche or fire starts the process again.

Seeing the power of these avalanches and the beauty they eventually create, reminded me of the challenges leaders face with innovation.

The Most Neglected Act of Innovation

When you and your team think of new ways to serve your customers, more efficient ways to achieve results, and new solutions for old problems, it’s important to remember the most neglected act of innovation.

When we work with leadership teams, one of our favorite tools is Own the U.G.L.Y. – a facilitated conversation where leaders answer courageous questions to help uncover deeper challenges and opportunities that will advance their business.

U.G.L.Y. is an acronym. The G stands for “What’s Got to Go?”

This is the most neglected act of innovation. In the push to achieve more and be better, it is easy to add solutions, processes, and tasks—all of which are valuable or you wouldn’t add them.

But what will you stop?

This is hard work. Most people grow attached to doing what they’ve always done—and for good reason.

“What you’ve always done” worked. It got you here. Setting it aside feels foolish, risky, or even negligent. It is hard to let go of success, but if you don’t, there are painful consequences.

Your team can burn out under the weight of too many tasks, tools, and processes. Or quality suffers as everyone tries to do everything they’ve always done plus the innovations. Or you can prevent your success as you hold on to old ways of thinking or past experience that no longer serve you.

What Can You Stop or Let Go?

Ideally, some new ideas will improve efficiency and save time. But not all of them. To build the new, clear some ground. For example:

  • Eliminate meetings – If you hold a meeting because you always have, shake it up. Skip a week. Do you even need it? Or was inertia soaking up time everyone could use more effectively?
  • Shorten your meetings –  Make your meeting the most productive use of everyone’s time.
  • Reduce constant interruption – Can you shift your culture to create blocks of time for deep work where you will not interrupt one another apart from critical issues?
  • Let go of past experience – you had a boss react badly when you brought up a process improvement. That was five years ago. Are you holding on to that image of all leaders and holding yourself back? Stop using that filter, try to persuade your supervisor, and see what happens.
  • Inventory redundant processes and get rid of the extra weight – one of our client’s rapid growth led to many project-tracking and communication tools. It took longer to track a project than to do the work. They eliminated all but a few tools and got back to work with more time and bandwidth for what mattered.

Fortunately, letting go of what doesn’t serve you and your team doesn’t have to be as violent or painful as an avalanche.

Create a habit by taking time once or twice a year, or when you first implement a new process or project, to ask “What’s Got to Go?” Let go of what you can and enjoy the freedom, speed, and productivity that result from this neglected act of innovation.

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share your favorite leadership example of stopping doing something. 

Lead Meetings Get Results People Want to Attend

Lead Meetings that Get Results and that People Want to Attend

 

It’s a business cliche – people hate meetings. But I don’t think that’s true – we just hate bad meetings.

Why are so many meetings a soul-sucking waste of time? In this episode you’ll get several quick tools to ensure your meetings get results – and that people will want to attend them. Sound impossible? Tune in and transform your meetings forever.

Clarity Accountability Results in 5 Minutes

How to get Clarity, Accountability, and Results in Five Minutes

 

Have you ever left a meeting where everyone had great intentions – and then nothing happens? Don’t let that happen to you – it takes five minutes to get clarity, accountability, and results. You don’t even have to lead the meeting to make this happen.

take charge of remote meetings

How to Take Charge of Your Remote Meetings

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.

Don’t leave your meetings to chance. Great teams have mutually understood, shared expectations about how they work together and that includes meetings – remote or in person.

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.

Your Turn

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.

leadership skill no one talks about

The Leadership Skill No One Talks About

The Secret to Transform Your Culture or Results is One Often-Ignored Leadership Skill

“I’m so frustrated.” Martin, the Senior Vice President of a rapidly-growing communication hardware company serving the United States, leaned back in his chair and blew a heavy sigh past his mustache. “I’m hoping you can help me. It’s like there’s some key leadership skill I never learned.”

He continued: “Three of my direct reports are behind on projects I delegated. I walked through our contact center and customer service was a mess even though we invested all that time in training. Our quality initiative is stuck in neutral…it just seems like we can’t seem to get anything done.”

Martin is well versed in leadership and management. He knows the M.I.T. (Most Important Thing), how to set clear shared expectations, how to make sure everyone knows how to succeed, he knows how to reinforce what success looks like, and he knows how to inspire, to celebrate when it goes well, and how to hold everyone accountable when it doesn’t.

He knows all of these fundamental leadership skills.

So what’s the problem? What’s the leadership skill that Martin feels like he’s missing?

The Missing Leadership Skill

As we work with thousands of leaders around the world and watch them start using Winning Well leadership and management strategies, we’ve seen a common theme when it comes to who succeeds over time:

When it comes to changing a culture or transforming results, they don’t just start – they finish.

Sadly, organizations are littered with leaders who start, but never finish:

  • The leader who says the meeting starts at 9, but when someone is late, doesn’t say anything.
  • The manager who declared that a customer call must begin with empathy, confidence, and connection, but he only said it for two weeks and never got back to it.
  • The team leader who facilitates a great meeting, helps the team dig deep to make tough commitments, but doesn’t follow up to see that it happened.
  • The manager who has a brilliant performance coaching conversation with an employee who needs to improve in one key area, but three months later has never reviewed the desired new behavior.
  • The team leader who declares a new era of entrepreneurial teamwork, but then never asks for a single new idea.
  • The manager who delegates a project, but never receives it back.

It doesn’t take many of these failed commitments before your team loses faith in your ability to make change happen, and worse, you lose faith in yourself.

Make Your Choice

When you set an intention and follow through your confidence increases. Your team knows they can believe you, trust you, and rely on you. You credibility builds.

Finishing is a choice. It doesn’t happen by chance. In fact, the chances are it won’t happen at all.

Here’s the deal: life is busy. You’ve got more to do than time to do it. Your plan is going to get interrupted and your interruptions are going to get interrupted. If you don’t have an intentional, focused way to finish what you start, it won’t happen.

Effective leaders consistently choose to finish – but they don’t leave it to chance or a heroic act of willpower.

Make It Automatic

If you have to spend energy trying to remember everything you need to finish you’ll never do it. There’s just too much going on and your brain has limited energy. Just thinking about every open loop can be exhausting.

There’s a better way: schedule the finish.

The moment you set an intention, make an appointment with yourself or with the other person where you will complete the intention or take the next step. The key is when. What moment in time will you follow up, follow through, and finish?

Here are some examples:

  • When you have a performance conversation using the INSPIRE model, the final step (E) is the Enforce step. Schedule a brief meeting to review their desired behavior. Eg: “Sounds good. Let’s meet at 10 next Tuesday to see how this is going and if you have any questions.”
  • When you delegate, schedule a time where the other person will meet with you in person or by video to return the project to you, answer questions, and discuss next steps.
  • When you lead a meeting, conclude the meeting by asking who will do what, by when, and “How will we know?” The final “How will we know?” are scheduled commitments to the team. Eg: “We will all have our data to Linda by Friday at 4 pm. Linda will send us the new process by Wednesday at 3 pm.” Everyone puts the times on their calendar. If Friday 4 pm comes and Linda doesn’t have data from Bob, she calls him. If 3 pm Wednesday comes and they don’t have the process, they call Linda.

The key in all these examples is to make an appointment. There is a difference between a to-do item and scheduled time on your calendar, particularly when that time is scheduled with another person. The likelihood of you both keeping your commitment increases significantly.

For items that don’t naturally fit in a calendar appointment (eg: you’re rolling out a new process to improve on-time delivery and quality), you can still make appointments with yourself to reinforce the initiative (communicate at least five times through five different channels) and to review performance.

When you create an expectation – particularly a new one that is the result of training or a new process – follow through on behavior quickly. When people get the behavior right, celebrate it, acknowledge it, and reinforce that this is what people like us do.

When it doesn’t happen, have quick INSPIRE conversations to redirect people back to the new way of doing things. If there are problems that prevent people from doing what’s needed, solve them quickly and visibly.

(This is the strategy at the core of the Confidence Burst strategy.)

Your Turn

Finishing isn’t flashy, but it’s a leadership skill with a huge payoff.

Martin didn’t need to learn a new strategy or read another book. His only missing leadership skill was to finish what he started.

Finish. Schedule the follow-through. Don’t leave it to chance or your to-do list.

We’d love to hear from you: As a leader, how do you ensure you finish what you start?


leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

how to lead a meeting make effective decisions

How to Lead a Meeting and Make Effective Decisions

Lead a Meeting that Gets Results by Clarifying Who Owns the Decision

“This is so stupid—you asked for my opinion and then ignored it. I don’t know why I even bother! From now on, I’m just going to shut my mouth and do my work.” If you’ve heard this or said it yourself, you’ve experienced a critical mistake many managers make when they lead a meeting: lack of clarity around decision ownership.

If your meetings aren’t working, look at your clarity of decision-making. Fuzzy decision-making leads to frustrating meetings.

People hate feeling ignored. Unfortunately, when you ask for input and appear to ignore it, employees feel frustrated, devalued, and powerless. In contrast, when you are clear about who owns the decision and how it will be made, people will readily contribute, the team can collaborate, and are far more likely to own the outcome. Clear decision-making improves results and relationships.

Four Ways to Make a Decision When You Lead a Meeting

This isn’t difficult, because there are only four ways to make a decision when you lead a meeting:

1. A single person makes the decision.

Typically, this would be the manager or someone she appoints.

In this style of decision-making, you might ask your team for input and let them know that after hearing everyone’s perspective, you will make the decision.

2. A group makes the decision through a vote.

This might be a 50-percent-plus-one majority or a two-thirds majority, but in any case, it’s a decision by vote. With this option, you ask everyone to contribute input, and they know that the decision will be made by a vote at a specific time.

3. A team makes the decision through consensus.

Consensus decision-making is often misunderstood. Consensus decision-making means that the group continues the discussion until everyone can live with a decision. It does not mean everyone got his or her first choice, but that everyone can live with the final decision. Consensus decision-making can take more time and often increases everyone’s ownership of the final decision.

4. Fate decides.

You can flip a coin, roll the dice, draw from a hat, etc. There are times where flipping a coin is the most efficient way to make a decision. When time is of the essence, the stakes are low, and pro-con lists are evenly matched, it’s often good to just pick an option and go. For example, if you have 45 minutes for a team lunch, it doesn’t make any sense to spend 30 minutes discussing options. Narrow it down to a few places, flip a coin, and go.

Each way of deciding has advantages, but what’s most important is to be very clear about who owns the decision.

Start With How

When that frustrated person said, “You asked for my opinion and then ignored it. I don’t know why I even bother!” he was under the impression that the team would decide by vote or consensus when in reality it was the leader’s decision. This type of confusion wastes tons of precious time and energy and sucks the soul from your team.

The next time you lead a meeting, take time before the discussion begins to state how the decision will be made. You get yourself in trouble (not to mention that it’s unfair, disempowering, and quite soulless) if you suggest a vote and then change back to “I’ll decide” when you think the vote won’t go your way.

Before discussion begins, be clear about who owns the decisions. How will this decision be made?

Be specific. For example, you might begin a decision-making session by saying, “Okay, I’d like to spend the next 40 minutes getting everyone’s input, and then I’ll make the decision.”

Or, you might describe the decision to be made and say, “We’re not going to move forward until everyone can live with the decision.”

You might even combine methods and say, “We will discuss this decision for 30 minutes. If we can come to a consensus by then, that would be great. If not, we’ll give it another 15 minutes. After that, if we don’t have consensus, I’ll take a final round of feedback and I’ll choose, or we’ll vote.”

You save yourself grief, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings when everyone knows up front how the decision will be made. You also empower your people to be more influential because when they know who owns the decision, they also know how to share their information. Do they need to persuade the single decision maker, a majority, or the entire team? They can choose their most relevant information and arguments.

Your Turn

Think about the next time you will lead a meeting to make a decision with your team. Who owns the decisions? Is it you, the team through a vote, or the team through consensus? We’d love to hear from you.  What questions or comments do you have about clarifying who owns the decision?

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

Meetings that Get Results and People Want to Attend: June Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on meetings that get results and that people want to attend. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on this topic.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about the art of the tough conversation. New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here.

Preparing for Meetings

Meetings wtih Clear PurposeSkip Prichard of Leadership Insights provides Five Tips to Master Your Next Meeting. Meetings are often the source of many complaints, but also key to advancing a business agenda. Skip’s tips will help you master your next meeting. Follow Skip.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference gives us What Meetings Do People Want to Attend? Design an experience.  Too many organizers fail to think about the answer to this question before scheduling a meeting. It’s up to leaders to design a better meeting experience. Follow Jon.

William Steiner of Executive Coaching Concepts asks 8 Questions to Guarantee Meeting Productivity.  Ask these before, during and after a meeting to get the best results possible. Follow William.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group gives us Leading in Person: Six Reasons to Communicate Face-to-Face. There are more than enough ways to communicate – email, voicemail, text message, instant message – yet too often they can add up to message overload for employees. That’s why when something is important, nothing compares to face-to-face communication. When a leader needs to inspire people—or move them to action—the best way to do it is to look people in the eye and tell them exactly what they need to know. Follow David.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates shares Fire Up Your Conversations! When to Use Email–or Your Voice. Some “meetings” happen using written communication, others benefit by voice and face-to-face. Shelley helps us determine what medium to use.  Follow Shelley.

Making the Most of Meetings

Kaylee DeWitt of Patriot Software, LLC writes How to Make Meetings More Effective.  Unproductive meetings can burden employees and waste time. Use these five tips to make your next meeting more effective, build teamwork in the workplace, and improve business operations.  Follow Kaylee.Let's Grow Leaders on Meetings

Chip Bell of Chip Bell Group gives us 10 Ways to Killer Meetings.  We spend more time in meetings than we do eating. We cannot live without eating; you would think the same was true of meetings. Here are 10 ways to make your meeting effective, fun and valuable. Follow Chip.

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership offers 10 Unusual Meetings to Make Your Team More Productive.  Meetings don’t have to be long, boring, and unproductive. Try these ten unusual approaches to get out of a rut, stimulate more creativity, and be more productive. Follow Ken.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership writes the Planning Doing Cycle. Rarely will you have the luxury of time to plan everything out before you start a new project or change initiative. And even if you do, it’s likely that unforeseen circumstances will send you back to the drawing board. Instead of planning and then doing, try approaching it as an iterative process, as a “planning / doing” cycle – like building a vehicle while you are driving it. Follow Jesse.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds encourages us with Making the Most of Meetings.  Given the commitment individuals and organizations are making to meetings—and given the reality that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon—it’s incumbent upon leaders to ensure that they squeeze as much value as possible out of the time invested. This article offers 3 P’s to consider before calling your next one. Follow Julie.

Reflecting on Meetings

Meetings Secret Bonus QuestionPaul LaRue of The UPwards Leader shares How to Make Change after the Conference.  Most conferences lead to little or no lasting change. Paul provides ways to reverse that trend. Follow Paul.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement provides Better Meetings. Meetings are perennial problems. People sit through meetings and then complain about how big a waste of time it was. Here are a few very simple tips to help achieve results with meetings (instead of just agreeing that meetings are wasteful, but doing nothing to improve them).  Follow John.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents To Plan, or not to Plan, that is the Question, where she shares that life is what happens while you are busy making plans. By learning to focus both on what is happening in this moment and what you need to do to get you to your ultimate goals, you’re more likely to get there. Robyn offers tips on learning to walk that balance of leadership along the way.  Follow Robyn.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited provides What You Should Do When Meetings Don’t Meet Expectations. This infographic provides tools for preparing for, making the most of, and reflecting on meetings to achieve better results.  Follow Beth.

Your turn.LGL News Coming Soon

Do you have a best practice to share? What topics would you like to see us cover in a future Frontline Festival?

We also have some exciting news coming later this month. Stay tuned for more information.

Are you a blogger? We would love to include you in our next Frontline Festival on the Art of the Tough Conversation. Submit your relevant blog posts here.

5 Ways To Make Your Meetings More Productive

I texted my colleague: “do you think we both need to attend the 3pm meeting?” He quickly shot back: “Karin, I don’t think anyone needs to go to that meeting. Don’t worry, I’ll represent both of us.”

And there we were two executives, not speaking up in the spirit of being politically correct, and covering for one another to minimize the pain. After all, we had real work to do.

Sometimes, apparently, I’m also the instigator of such meetings. I attended a meeting the other day and every person in the room was on their iPad working except the speaker and I. I stopped the meeting and questioned what appeared to be very rude behavior.

As I soon uncovered, the rest of the participants had held a dry run of the meeting the day before I arrived in town. Since I was the boss they wanted to practice. This entire meeting had turned into a read-out for me. Those meetings should have been consolidated, or the second meeting should have been cancelled: “Karin, we’ve got this.” Or at least become a one-on-one.

They did have this and didn’t need me. Pre-meetings are often a sign of wasted time. Invest in knowing how much your team is preparing to meet with you. Even if you think you’re low maintenance.

Despite my best efforts to change-up the meetings under my influence, I sometimes succumb, keep my mouth shut, and attend my fair share of time-wasters. That’s why when I received this note from a subscriber, I promised to write a blog response and schedule it up next.

I’ll offer my best thinking and hand it over to the LGL village for additional suggestions:

“I just read your recent post, 5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Teamwork, and was personally touched when you started talking about misuse of staff meetings. It seems all I do is have read-out staff meetings and my staff hates them. But, I like it because the team is together as a whole and they learn what each other is working on and it does stimulate great conversation. However, they still hate them and, honestly, I hate them too. I would love to hear your perspective on how to have high-energy staff meetings. What are my alternatives? What can I do to achieve my goal of getting my 12 member team together weekly but not be a boring mess?

Make Your Meetings More Productive

  1. Cancel The Meeting & Create White Space – Pick one afternoon a week or a month that no one can talk to each other. Or take a regularly scheduled meeting, and just cancel it. See what happens over time. See how work gets done. See Jason Fried’s TED Talk: Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work.
  2. Make Each Meeting Unique – Even if you hold a regular weekly meeting, have a clearly defined purpose for each meeting that you articulate in advance. For example, by the end of this meeting we will:
    • identify the most important pages for our website
    • review our declining customer service trends and brainstorm 3 key actions to take this month
    • identify the theme and breakouts for our next symposium

    If your answer is read-out on results and progress on action plans cancel the meeting, and find another way.

  3. Ins-and-outs – Decide who needs to be there for which part of the meeting and then design the agenda accordingly. My weekly staff meetings always have a narrowing effect. We started with the larger group and narrowed as the topics move along. I make it clear that this is not to exclude, but a time-saving exercise.
  4. Stand-up Or Walk Among Yourselves – I’ll admit, when results go down, I intervene more. I’m a big believer in the stand-up huddle. Almost like a time-out check in for the day (or week). I think a big problem with meetings as we see them as sit on your butt occasions. Some of the best meetings start with “got a sec?” Try to emulate that feeling as much as possible. As Nilofer Merchant shares in her TED Talk: Fresh Air Drives Fresh Thinking.
  5. Make them think – I love the idea of Idea Tickets from Michael Michalko: “In advance of a meeting, frame a problem or issue to address. Ask each person to bring, at least, one new idea or suggestion about the problem as their ticket of admission to the meeting. Have the people write their ideas on index cards and collect them at the door. No one gets in without a ticket. Start the meeting by reading everyone’s contribution.”

PS: Tune in on Monday and we’ll talk about the most challenging kind of meetings: skip level meetings.

3 Reasons Your Meeting is a Waste of Time

“Okay, we need everyone’s full attention so here are the meeting rules. No texting. No sidebars. Full participation.”

If you have to start your meeting with ultimatums, something is wrong. Sure you could scold the team into paying attention. Better yet, figure out why they don’t want to.

3 Reasons Your Meeting is a Waste of Time

Wrong Purpose

One of my favorite posts submitted for the Frontline Festival was Jesse Lynn Stoner’s “No More Boring Meetings” The worst meetings are a one-way dump of information. These are meetings of “convenience,” for the leader. The leader asks for “updates” from each team member.

If you do not have a clear purpose for having a meeting, don’t have it. “We always have staff calls on Tuesdays,” does not count as a purpose. Articulate the purpose of the gathering at the outset (or even on the agenda). “By the end of the hour we will have made 4 decisions.”

Wrong People

If you need the decision maker– get her. Nothing frustrates a team more than debating and issue, reaching consensus, and then finding that they were missing key information or that a key stakeholder was not invited. Consider who must be included up front for which portions. Don’t waste time by having people sit through irrelevant topics until their subject comes up. You will gain great respect by honoring other people’s time.

Wrong Process

Determine the appropriate process up front. Unstructured meetings squander time. Create dialogue around topics that matter. Everyone does not need to speak on every topic. But if someone is tuning out, tune in and figure out why. Watch nonverbals. Invite factions to share their side bars with the group. If the meeting gets swonky, take a time out and check in with a few opinion leaders during the break.

You want people leaving your meeting saying, “now that was a great meeting.” “we accomplished so much.”

Great meetings should save time, not waste time.

The Scary Secret to Great Meetings

The first time it happened, I was devastated.

After all the hard work on building relationships.

All that investment in the team.

All that transparency.

All that work to create a level-less organization.

Why had my direct report team started holding “secret” meetings without me?

Why was that necessary?

What was I doing wrong?

Was this an indication that I had become the proverbial “boss” an image I had tried so hard to avoid?

It’s About Us

I shared my concerns with a member of the team.

Karin, this is not about you. This is about us. We need this. Relax.

I still don’t know exactly what happened in those “secret” meetings. Perhaps they talked about the work. Perhaps they settled some of their own conflict. Perhaps they complained about me. I am not sure it matters.

What I do know is those meetings transformed our organization.

Each leader began stepping up in new ways. They helped one another solve problems. They worked on each other’s projects. They mentored one another’s employees. They brought well-vetted options and solutions to our staff meetings.

My questions became more strategic. So did their answers.

Results kept climbing.

When you strive to be a servant leader, it can be tough to feel your team doesn’t need “serving.” You want to roll up your sleeves and support them. Sometimes the best support you can offer is to step away and give them the space to create, argue, and perform.

Now I welcome and encourage secret meetings.

Could your team use a “secret meeting?”