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We’ve recently looked at what can be done before and during meetings to maximize the time investment and ultimately make them more meaty. This is the final post in this meetings series as we explore what to do AFTER meetings to ensure the value is carried through.

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After sharing “before the meeting” techniques, we have compiled “during the meeting” tips to create meaty meetings where everyone leaves feeling energized.

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Good meetings start in advance. Following are our top 10 actions to take before a meeting to make them more efficient:

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We often jump from meeting to meeting, so you would think the art of effective meetings would be second nature. Rarely is that the case. At some point, we probably all can admit to having been an (albeit probably accidental) hindrance to the productivity of a meeting. So what can we do as meeting participants and facilitators? Let’s start by being aware and correcting our part in contributing to a bad meeting prototype.

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Have meetings taken over your calendar? Do you have little time left for doing work during normal business hours? Do you want to make meetings more efficient, but are not sure where to start? Perhaps deploying a software application will be the impetus to creating a cultural shift.

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As we connect with colleagues, the options for outings continue to grow. Some contacts are best served by a coffee meet up or over a gourmet meal. Others prefer viewing a sporting event or trying a hand at golf. And now a growing trend involves taking connections to the gym.

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The following message is encapsulated in the 3.5-minute video above.

If you’re not willing to champion your own work, then others may never know about it. If they don’t know about, they cannot recognize it in a formal or in a public way. Though you may not be seeking public accolades, here’s a way to selflessly gain recognition with your boss.  

If you don’t already have regular 1:1s scheduled with your boss, then establishing them is job number one. If you’re already conducting these meetings, then perhaps a light shift in how the meetings are structured will give you the microphone you need.  

These are the cornerstones of the structure: 

1. Frequency. Weekly is the most common rhythm for this type of meeting, though daily or monthly meetings might be a better fit for your work volume and/or seniority. 

2. Duration. :30 is the most common set for a weekly meeting. :15 is a better match for daily meetings…and :45-:60 for monthly ones. 

3. Leadership. I recommend you drive the meeting and, importantly, where the meeting is conducted. When you’re talking more, it gives you greater ownership, it allows you to demonstrate your knowledge, and it ensures you know where you’re headed. And when you’re conducting the meeting for a place of your choosing, you can extract your manager from her office so she won’t be distracted by email, phone calls, and visitors. (BTW, if you’re conducting these meeting with your direct reports, you should request that they drive the meeting.) 

4. Content. I suggest constructing the agenda like so:

  • Accomplishments. This is where we get into the recognition piece. The first thing to cover is the prior week’s accomplishments. (Though you may be drawn to avoid this, remember there’s something in it for your manager. She can experience closure for all the things you completed. Once you get comfortable with recognizing your achievements, you’ll blush less when you hear others recognizing your work.)

  • Schedules. This is where you’ll cover pending deadlines, meetings, vacations, and the like. Coming week top priorities. Listing these will ensure the two of you are aligned. 

  • Issues/opportunities. This allows for reactive & proactive planning. 

  • New business/firm news. Allocate a little time for asking about the bigger picture or new items.

Make certain it is socially unacceptable to blow off your meeting. Reschedule…yes. Repeatedly cancel…no. 

What will you do the next time you feel your accomplishments are ignored? When was the last time you drove a meeting where you acknowledged your achievements? How are you regularly touting them so you & your boss are fittingly impressed?

meetings that start on time

Why is it so difficult to start a meeting on time? Following are three tools to make it easier.

Tardy Slips

Before I landed in the Chicago professional organizer world, I had an advertising agency career. My first boss, Dasher Lowe, enforced on-time meetings by invoking a “tardy slip” for latecomers. It was an all-meetings-start-late culture, so he decided to create anti-cultural social pressures. He would give out verbal and/or written tardy slips when someone showed up late for a meeting. This cut down on the overall meeting time, as we didn’t waste time waiting or repeating information. Having a “tardy token” (think gas station key ring) or tardy sound maker (think obnoxious clown horn) stationed in every conference room would make this practice official and fun.

SOTX4

A fellow corporate trainer, Michelle Waltmire, told me about this one. At the top of most meetings and/or if the meeting were derailed (be it people showing up late, the meeting running over, people looking at screens instead of each other, etc.), someone would write SOTX4 on the white board. This symbolized to everyone the ground rules they agreed to as a company:

•    Start On Time

•    Shut Off Technology

•    Stay On Topic

•    Stop On Time

:50 :10

Travel time is often considered when you have to get on a bus or in a car to get somewhere, but how often do you consider travel time when it comes to getting from one meeting to the next within your office? Instead of considering :60 the norm for meetings, why not make :50 the default–allowing for :10 of transition and travel?

What tactics have you found successful for more effective meetings?

A Chicago accounting firm asked Life Contained to help one of their tax accounts to be more productive through greater time management and priority alignment with their team lead.

recurring meetings

One of the key decisions made to reach these goals was to conduct a recurring meeting between this technical powerhouse and his manager. Not quite an apple a day, following is more about the structure he decided to use:

  • Frequency. A weekly meeting seemed best to start. During tax season, this may be revisited.

  • Duration. Thirty minutes, with an option to stretch to forty-five should the need arise.

  • Leadership. My client welcomed the notion of conducting the meeting from his office as opposed to his boss’. Making the suggestion to his manager may not have been easy, but it was accepted and results in a win-win. My client takes on greater ownership. His manager is not distracted by email/phone calls/visitors in his office.
  • Content. Each meeting covers:

    • Schedules (deadlines, meetings, vacations, etc.)

    • Prior week accomplishments (though it was avoided at first because it felt like chest beating, this is covered now to close loops for the manager)

    • Coming week top priorities (making certain you’re aligned)

    • Issues/opportunities (allowing for reactive & proactive planning)

    • New business/firm news (allocating a little time for asking the team lead about the bigger picture)

  • Ground rules. The rules are simple. Show up in body and mind.

His efforts to conduct these recurring meetings result in better prioritization and fewer moments working on the wrong things. Is there someone you should be meeting with regularly? Do you have a recurring meeting highlight we missed?

topless meetings 

Mercury News, a San Jose paper, reported a growing number of companies are mandating “topless” meetings…as in no laptops, CrackBerrys, iPhones and the like. The impetus behind the movement:

“…distracted workers so plugged in that they tune out in the middle of business meetings…” “…people have discovered a handy diversion, making more eye contact these days with their screens than one another.”

In Death by Meeting, author Patrick Lencioni offers advice for creating meetings so immersed in human connectivity, laptop temptations could vanish. Consider these recommendations he claims result in faster & better decisions, higher morale & greater bottom-line results:

Add drama to the boardroom & never get bored
Lencioni refreshingly suggests a gathering of intelligent people naturally & productively reveals different points of view. To suppress these disagreements, he explains, leads to boring meetings. He proposes in strategic meetings the meeting leader regularly seek out & uncover opposing viewpoints (“mining for conflict”) & the contributors embrace the clash, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Assign different contextual rules & watch effectiveness climb
With worthy motive, Lenvioni recommends more, not fewer, meetings. He describes the tendency of most companies to throw every type of issue into the same meeting. He proposes adopting the following multiple structures to manage different meeting content & participant expectations:

  • Daily Check-Ins; 5 minutes; share daily schedule & activities; don’t sit (huddle); keep administrative; don’t cancel
  • Weekly Tacticals; 45-90 minutes; review weekly activities, metrics & resolve tactical obstacles; set agenda in real time after round-the-table 60-second reporting; review 4-5 key metrics; postpone strategic discussions
  • Monthly/Ad Hoc Strategics; 2-4 hours; discuss, analyze, brainstorm critical issues affecting long-term success; limit to 1-2 topics; prepare & do research; engage in good conflict
  • Quarterly Off-Site Reviews; 1-2 days; review strategy, industry trends, competitive landscape, team development; get out of office; limit social activities; don’t overstructure or overburden schedule

If you want to initiate a meeting cultural shift, start by calculating how proposed change alters roles. Inform others of the change by outlining the rule, reason, & consequences (a must!). Expect challenges, and be ready to call it when you see it. Done right, social pressure will soon preside.

Who knows? Instead of people feeling naked when they show up for a meeting without their laptop, they’ll decide to attend deliberately topless.


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