Friday’s NYTimes (12/4/2015) brought another article about meetings. This one, “The Modern Meeting: Call In, Turn Off, Tune Out” by Katie Hafner, takes on the virtual meeting facilitated by the mute button on your phone. The article, accompanied on the web by a slideshow of some guy doing yard work while at meetings, repeats the age old complaints of meetings that are not involving or engaging many of the participants. Some companies are insisting on videoconferences to provide more “accountability” for participants. There is sage advice about the use of the mute button and the dangers of video. I once appeared in my bathrobe for a meeting with some colleagues in India when I mistakenly hit the video button on a Skype call.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. ((Major Works on Religion and Politics by Reinhold Neibuhr, edited by Elizabeth Sifton, Library of America))
This prayer written in the 1930’s by Reinhold Neibuhr is now widely known in large part because it is a staple of the drug addiction recovery world. It is widely referred to as the Serenity Prayer though Neibuhr did not give it a title. ((Thanks for inspiration for what follows to Adam Kirsch’s article “The Ironic Wisdom of Reinhold Neibuhr in the 8/13/15 edition of New York Review of Books, pp. 74-75.)) Continue reading
In most settings we avoid saying “No” to a request or suggestion in both business and personal domains. In US culture there is a moderate avoidance of saying “No” compared to a culture like Japan where saying “No” is seriously avoided. Here “Yes” is used widely in conversations as an interjection to keep things moving, to encourage further exchange of information, to forestall making a decision. All of this because “No” is inherently negative and indication that the subject or issue is closed.
No Can Be Affirmative
During this academic year (2014-2015) I had the opportunity to work with a team of 2nd year MBA students at UAlbany on a project for one of my start up clients. Working with another of the company’s consultants with the students turned into a productive addition to the company’s resources and fun to boot. Now these students are all employed, about to graduate, and be off to mostly big cities and big companies to start their careers.
Without invitation I began to think about what I might say to them that might actually be useful on this parting . So, here is my graduation speech.
Graduation Address to UAlbany MBA Students
The Harvard Business Review website included an article on 3/19/15 by Roger Schwarz, “How to Design an Agenda for an Effective Meeting”. This management note makes many good points. It can be improved by adding a much clearer task orientation to the outcomes.
Add Task Orientation to the Agenda
Many years ago, when I got to the point in my work life when I found myself sitting in meetings with a General Manager, I began to notice that once the General Manager had indicated his opinion of a problem, almost everyone on the team reflexively, and I am sure unconsciously, shifted their opinions to be in the same orbit as the General Manager. The scope of the discussion seemingly as on auto pilot shrank to encompass just the General Manager’s scope of thinking.
This phenomenon should not have surprised me. Continue reading