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.
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
The Critical Moment
Many people struggle with how to open a business conversation with a new person or prospects. Lets assume for the moment that you have solved that puzzle and are now actually engaged in a conversation, whether in person, on the phone or via email. Typically little thought is given to how to close a business conversation. Yet, this is a critical moment. Done with a little thought you set up the next conversation and deepen your business relationships with prospects and networking contacts. Before you say, “Thank you for taking so much time to speak with me.”(or whatever phrase you use to close a conversation), you must set up the next conversation with your prospects and networking contacts.
A recent New York Times article “Building a Better Teacher” by Elizabeth Green ((March 2, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07Teachers-t.html)) told the story of Doug Lemov’s discovery that a large component of high performing teachers’ success came from their classroom management skills. While reading the article, and, especially watching the videos of teachers actually employing good class management, I was struck by an interesting parallel in the management world. Just as education schools do not do a good job of preparing teachers to know what to do when they first walk into a classroom, most managers learn their craft by trial and error. They have little help from mentoring or development programs in their companies. And, business schools seem to provide little guidance either.
Meeting management is to effective managers as classroom management is to successful teachers
Meetings are a great place to start to learn the management craft and a crucial platform for driving and sustaining high performance. Great managers and great organizations have great meetings. And, from the perspective of a manager interested in developing a high performance culture, meetings are a great starting point in building a high performance company. After all, meetings exhibit all of the important attributes of high performance organization and culture. And, no effective manager can be ineffective in meetings.
- focus on results ($s, people and values)
- engage, empower and demand every participant’s energies
- use fact-based thinking
- orient to customer needs (internal and external)
- devolve strategy into tactics
- employ process and systems thinking
- use well-developed problem solving tools and approaches
- focus on adding value for customers (internal and external)
- look for waste reduction
- build on company and individual strengths
- among the more important……
Meetings are a great place to start because they are a regular event in which the manager has significant control and can demonstrate, concretely, high performance principles and practices in front of, and with their direct reports.
Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive was first published in 1967 and has been in print ever since. I first read it during the 1980s. When I began to coach general managers and owners of small businesses I re-read it with a fresh perspective.
The Effective Executive continues to be a book that I return to for its little pearls of wisdom. Once you get over the now obscure examples from WWII and the 1950s and its dated language (e.g., the pronoun “she” never appears), it remains a most useful and continuously provocative statement of the tasks of the general manager.
Here are a few quotes for illustration.
- “In every area of effectiveness within an organization, one feeds the opportunities and starves the problems.”
- “…the more an executive works at making strengths productive, the more he will become conscious of the need to concentrate human strengths available to him on major opportunities. This is the only way to get results.”
- “No one has much difficulty getting rid of the total failures. They liquidate themselves. Yesterday’s successes, however, always linger on long beyond their productive life. Even more dangerous are the activities which should do well and which, for some reason or other, do not produce. These tend to become… “investments in managerial ego” and sacred.”
- “Systematic sloughing off of the old is the one and only way to force the new.”
- “…no decision has been made unless carrying it out in specific steps has become someone’s work assignment and responsibility. Until then, there are only good intentions.”