Get a lift of new ideas, insights, and inspiration

You know your meetings are terrible, so try this

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Communication, Management, Teamwork

Because they’re so frequent and time-consuming, meetings are a huge opportunity for improvement. A few smart changes can produce fewer sessions that get more done in less time.

1. Clarify why you’re meeting — or don’t have the meeting. It’s amazing how many meetings are held for no good reason. The biggest culprits are those “same day, same time” sessions that people carve into their calendars. Before every meeting, define the purpose and identify at least one intended outcome. If nothing comes to the surface, expect more nothing during the session.

2. Stay focused yet flexible. There are times in meetings when digressions are worthwhile and when certain issues should move up in priority. It’s a judgment call every time, but be ready and willing to divert from that carefully crafted agenda.

3. Redefine how you “lead” meetings. When six people are around a meeting table, it’s like having six supercomputers. In fact, people are better because they also have emotional intelligence. Instead of “leading” the meeting in traditional power-seat fashion, facilitate the session. Instead of making statements, ask questions. Instead of raising objections, ask more questions.

4. Be your own constructive coach. Are you talking too much? Are you holding back? Are you listening to understand, or are you simply gathering enough info to frame your counterpoint? What would you say about you if you were sitting in the meeting with yourself? If you can’t be objective or honest with these questions, ask a friend who attends the same meetings.

5. Shake up the meeting space. When meetings are held in the same place over and over, with the same people taking the same chairs around the same table, it’s no wonder we recycle our conversations and get the same stale results. So get moving. Take the meeting to a different room or an outdoor patio or a nearby restaurant or anywhere new. If you’re stuck with the room, ditch the table or vary who sits where.

6. Uncover ways to make the next meeting better. At the end of every meeting, take a minute to check how things went. Have people cite what went well during the session, what could’ve gone better, and what should be done differently the next time around. Commit to one or two improvements.

To build a better team, cite what’s going right

Posted by on Mar 20, 2013 in Change Management, Communication, Teamwork

It’s the quickest and easiest way to improve your team.

At the end of a meeting, when the group is still together and you have everyone’s attention, cite one thing that went very well.

Take just 20 or so seconds for this. Be casual, but be specific. Here’s an example:

“It was great how everyone weighed in with their ideas. We made incredible progress in just an hour.”

Over the next few days, during a few of your conversations with team members, make the same observation. Phrase it a bit differently, but maintain the core message.

“That last meeting was our best in a long time. With all of us adding in ideas, we got more done in an hour than a lot of groups get done in a whole week.”

After you do this a few times, one or two people will be saying the same thing, guaranteed. And the words will become a new understanding shared by team members: When all of us participate, we get better results.

At the next team meeting, if the opportunity presents itself early in the session, convey the same message once more. “That last session was fantastic. No one held back, and that made a huge difference. Here’s a handout with all the ideas we generated.”

You can see what’s happening here. By reflecting back on one specific thing the group has done extremely well, the person is making it visible for all to see — and establishing it as a new team benchmark.

The reflection technique doesn’t require special skill. It doesn’t take a lot of time. And you don’t need high-level authority.

Anyone can do it — as long as they’re observant enough to see that one action, behavior, or quality that’s emerging as a team strength.

Every team has at least one. So stay alert, call it out, and make it your team’s new norm.

The inefficient extra that’s entirely worth it

Posted by on Mar 18, 2013 in Customer Service, Organizational Culture, Workplace Improvement

Thank You

When you break your wrist and have to undergo surgery to get it fixed, the last thing you want is another surprise — unless it’s overwhelmingly positive.

That’s what happened to my sister. Three days after her surgery, she received a hand-addressed envelope from the outpatient group that fixed her wrist. Surprise! Inside was a “thank you for selecting us” card signed by six staff members.

Is it a big deal? It was to my sister. After the pain of a broken bone, compounded by all the worry that precedes and follows surgery, the card and those first-name signatures provided just the right personal touch.

There’s no rule that says an organization has to send thank-you cards to its customers. There’s no compelling financial reason. There’s no likely therapeutic benefit. You could even argue that it’s an inefficient way to use time and resources.

Perhaps that’s why cards like these are so rare — and so appreciated.

Be on the path that leads to awesome

Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Leadership, Self-Improvement

If you haven’t gotten the talk from Kid President, now’s the time.

And if you’ve seen the video already, it’s worth seeing again.

Because we all need a good pep talk sometimes.

Getting your ideas (finally) implemented

Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Change Management, Communication, Self-Improvement, Workplace Improvement

Coming up with ideas for improving the workplace should be a good thing. So why can it be so frustrating?

“Few of my ideas are ever implemented,” one person told me recently. “It’s getting to the point where I rarely bother to suggest anything anymore.”

If you can relate, don’t give up. There are specific ways to move more of your good ideas from drawing board to reality.

• For starters, make sure your ideas aren’t all about things that other people should do. Come up with improvements you can implement on your own — and get them done.

• With an idea where you don’t have the authority or ability to implement, take a second look. Perhaps you can narrow the concept to something smaller that you can do. Let’s say you’ve pitched an idea for having your organization survey its customers, but senior leadership is unresponsive. No problem. Just scope down your idea to something you can do: Conduct your own survey of your own customers. Others will take notice, some will follow suit, and your idea for an all-company survey is likely to get attention.

• When communicating your ideas, speak to people in their preferred language. If you’re presenting to someone who’s obsessed with financials, lead off by explaining how the idea will benefit the bottom line. With someone who’s planning-oriented, show how the idea will help the organization achieve a goal. With someone who’s competitive, demonstrate how the idea will give the organization a significant edge.

• If none of the above seems doable, engage in a little guerilla marketing of your idea. Start talking it up, especially with individuals who wield influence and shape opinions. Growing chatter among the right people will give your idea added credibility.

The next time you come up with a great improvement idea for your workplace, you might be tempted to rush forward and tell everyone right away. Or you might be inclined to keep quiet because previous ideas went nowhere.

Avoid both of these extremes. Instead, advance your idea with the more nuanced approaches described above. It will take more time, more thought, and more patience – but you’ll achieve much more success.