Tag Archives: Best practice

“Productive Meeting” is Not an Oxymoron

The Stake Out

“Hey,” said Alberts as he struggled to pull what looked like a football wrapped in butcher paper out of his coat pocket. “Anybody want a sandwich?”  Both men shook their heads. “Nah. I’ll just chew on my coffee” said Lewis swirling the dregs in his cup.

“You guys look beat. It’s after 7. What are you doing here so late? What’s the situation?” queried Alberts. Dawes tossed his magazine onto the van floor and stood up to stretch. “We’ve spent all day witnessing a colossal mess of meetings. I haven’t seen anything this bad since that boardroom debacle back in ’98. We thought it was going to be a slow day. According to the room scheduling program, there was a meeting at 8am, one at 10am, an 11am, and then nothing until 2pm with no other meetings after that.” Alberts looked over at the video feed streaming on the laptop screen. A group of distraught looking individuals were huddled at the far end of a conference room. Take-out containers, empty soda cans, and wadded up napkins were pushed into a disheveled mountain in the middle of the long oval table. “So what happened?” asked Alberts squinting at the screen.Meeting

“I’ll tell you what happened” replied Lewis swiveling his chair around. “Our informant completely played down the severity of the situation. This copany is in far worse shape than we thought.” Without pausing to take a breath, Lewis barreled head long into a rant that would make Dennis Miller proud. “The 8am meeting was between Mr. Jenkins, the company President, and his executive team. Three of the eight people scheduled to meet actually showed up on time. Jenkins strolled in at 8:18am with the other four people hurrying in on his heels. It’s their weekly meeting, so no one thought it necessary to put together an agenda. McMichaels, the VP of Operations got hung up on a production issue. Jenkins started brainstorming on the flipchart and before you know it, the 10am group is gathered outside the meeting room watching the executive team through the glass walls. Stevens, a marketing manager leading the 10am meeting, was so intimidated he just stood there without saying a word. Fifteen minutes later, the execs vacate and Stevens finally gains access to the conference room. He had an agenda, which was good. But two people in the meeting never looked up from their BlackBerries. The domino effect of delayed meetings was well underway. The 11am meeting didn’t get into the room until noon. Instead of diving right into it, the group decided to get their lunches. This was no working lunch. We learned some interesting information about everybody’s kids and vacation plans as well as the plot of this week’s NCIS. By the time they started discussing issues, it was 1:05pm. One woman brought up the same production issue that came up in the executive meeting. She would not let it go. No one interrupted her. Halfway through, a guy walked out of the meeting stating that he had to go to another meeting. Having reached no significant conclusions by 2:15pm, the group decided to schedule another time to reconvene on the original points they were supposed to cover. The 2pm meeting participants settled into the room at 2:25p. At 2:26pm, Holt, an analyst, announces that he has a 2:30pm meeting so he can now only stay for a few minutes. Benson joins the meeting at 2:40pm. Despite his efforts at a covert entrance, the whole group stops talking. He explains that he had three meetings booked at 2pm so he decided to attend all three but only stay for twenty minutes in each.” Exhausted from his recount of the day, Lewis swiveled back to the computer screen.

“Wait a minute. Is this the 2pm group still?” Dawes smiled at the shocked look on Alberts’ face. “No man. They cut out at 4:30. This was a quick impromptu gathering that started at 5pm. One of the HR managers asked a few people to join her for a short conversation. She promised it would only take a minute.” “Wow, this company is going to need the full court press” said Alberts as he slumped into a seat. Lewis thought about the true meaning behind Alberts’ words, “the full court press.”

Like so many other companies the Meeting Squad was called in to help, this one was going to need a lot more than just an agenda template and a few meeting ground rules. The heart of the matter lay in the company’s culture. Emanating from the executive team, a host of attitudinal and behavioral miscues had permeated the whole organization. It’s a congenial place to work. Everybody likes each other and no one wants to jeopardize the positive rapport they all share. They’re under a misguided notion that holding each other accountable to meeting rules and etiquette would damage relationships and stagnate creativity. The entire staff has been complicit in allowing meetings to run amok like children at recess. The price is a dramatic loss of productivity and efficiency. However, after years on the Meeting Squad, Lewis knew that “productive meeting” did not have to be an oxymoron. His gaze shifted to the checklist taped to the wall of the van.

The list was titled, Starting with Company Culture. Here’s what it said:

Grassroots: locate people already conducting well-run meetings or find willing converts. Be sure to identify respected individuals with credibility. Designate these individuals as Meeting Champions. Equip the Champions with the tools and techniques to run productive meetings. Check in often to hold them accountable and encourage them through the challenging moments.

Coalition: build a network of influential managers willing to support the culture change initiative. Elicit their help in drafting a Meeting Manifesto outlining guidelines for redefining the company’s culture around meetings. Leverage the influence of the Coalition to gain access to senior management.

Top Down: present a business case to the executive team illustrating the tangible improvements to morale, productivity and output that can be achieved by implementing a company-wide strategy to improve the effectiveness of meetings. Encourage the executive team to edit and help finalize the Meeting Manifesto. Teach the executives the meeting leadership principles and tools needed to make the Manifesto a reality. Earn permission to hold them accountable to communicating the Manifesto and modeling the desired attitudes and behaviors.

Roll-out: when sufficient momentum has gathered around the idea that the meeting culture is changing, train the remaining staff on the tools and techniques required to run efficient meetings. Establish a recognition program to reinforce consistent application of new guidelines and methods. Help departments with their own sub-cultures tailor the meeting norms to fit the nuances of their environment. Continually assess progress and make modifications to incorporate best practices.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Business, Change, How To, Leadership

How to Measure Influence

Influence is about motivating people to willingly work together toward the achievement of clearly defined results.

In most common business situations such as:

  • Leading cross functional teams
  • Managing projects
  • Starting in a new leadership role
  • Spear-heading change initiatives

Our likelihood of success is directly proportional to two key factors:

1. Our personal level of influence

2. The influence levels of our closest supporters.measuringcup

Given their importance to our success as leaders, it seems only natural that we would want to assess influence levels. Following is an easy process for incorporating routine assessments of influence into the major phases of strategic and/or project plans. This process is followed by a set of criteria to use in order to assess a person’s level of influence (including your own) relative to a situation.

From the Beginning

In the earliest phases of an initiative,  develop a list of people who possess the technical skills and knowledge required to get things done, the sponsors and/or stakeholders, and include the people you feel would be vital to have in your corner. For each person listed, determine the number of  characteristics  below he or she possesses or displays. Create a separate personal action plan with steps you can take to fill-in your knowledge gaps. Be sure to include specific ways to build trust and strengthen your relationships with these individuals. For each highly influential person, seek to gain a clear understanding of his/her business and personal objectives.  If you both agree that your initiative supports his/her goals, then you should ask the individual how  he/she can best support your initiative.

In The Midst of It All

Throughout the course of the initiative, compare  the actions of each person on your original list to the set of influence characteristics. Be on the look-out for people whose influence level is on the rise and, if appropriate, coach those whose influence level is diminishing. Be sure to assess each new person who becomes involved along the way. Set aside time with influential people to listen to their input, determine alignment with their objectives, and seek their support for your initiative. In addition to your personal action plan for getting to know and building relationships with influential people, start to include ideas for introducing people to each other when you feel a connection could be beneficial. You should be re-evaluating your own level of influence on a regular basis and taking appropriate action to repair set-backs or fortify progress. Depending on the initiative, this could even be a weekly “to-do.”

One practical tip is to read the list of influential characteristics before  meetings as a reminder of the actions and behaviors you want to exemplify. Afterwards, acknowledge participants who demonstrated integrity and were clearly focused on the “big picture” (not just their own agenda). Review your words and actions. Were you demonstrating influence-building best practices? If not, why not?

When the Dust Settles

Review your actions and behaviors throughout the course of the initiative against the list of influential characteristics. How well did you do? Were you improving your level of influence along the way? If not, why not? If yes, what can you do to make sure you maintain or continue to grow your personal influence?

Maintain relationships.

At the end of an initiative, be sure to reinforce the valuable relationships you’ve developed by taking the time to acknowledge each person’s contribution with a personalized show of appreciation. For the person who values recognition, this could be a letter to his/her manager thanking them for allowing the individual to work with you and highlighting his/her accomplishments. For the person who shies away from the limelight, consider writing a personal note on the inside flap of a meaningful book. Then, in your planner, schedule time to connect on a regular basis with each person by phone, via email, or in person. Remain in contact so that you can help these individuals when they need your support. Staying in touch lets people know that your interest and involvement with them during your initiative was genuine and that you are a person of integrity.

How to Measure Influence

Think about a person within the context of a specific situation or his/her potential sphere of influence. Take into account only what you know to be true about the person or have witnessed directly. Consider whether or not each of the characteristics or behaviors listed below apply to this person.   The more times you answer “yes,” the greater the individual’s level of influence.  

  • Reacts with integrity, dignity, fairness, and empathy for others in both positive and negative circumstances
  • Is unwilling to accomplish personal objectives at the expense of the company or others
  • Has relationships with people representing a variety of knowledge bases throughout the organization, industry, and/or community
  • Is asked to be involved in situations outside of his/her functional area or above his/her level in the organizational hierarchy
  • Shines the “spotlight” on others making sure they receive credit for accomplishments
  • Consistently produces results
  • Associates during work and personal time with others who are known to be powerful/influential in the company, industry and/or community
  • Willingly shares resources
  • Interacts well with all types of people at all levels in the organization
  • Does not blame others or make excuses when things go wrong
  • Is well suited to his/her role
  • Seems able to reduce the level of uncertainty for others in a given situation

What actions have you taken or behaviors have you displayed that have increased your level of influence with a group of people or in a given situation? 

For more information about the complete Gauging Influence tool and how to measure influence please contact Nicole De Falco at nicole@writeinfluence.com.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

2 Comments

Filed under Business, Leadership, Trust, Uncategorized