Tag Archive for: conversations

The Four Dimensions of a Successful Meeting

Smiling interview panel holding score cards

How do you know your meeting has been successful?

This question came up during one of the research interviews for my new book (Making Meetings Matter: How Successful Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age), and I’ve been pondering it for some time.

At one level the answer is straightforward; it depends on how well, and how completely, the meeting achieved your initial purpose(s). If you set a goal of reaching a group decision, or designing a new marketing campaign, or resolving a budget conflict, and you achieve that purpose, then it’s easy to say the meeting was successful.

Or was it? Like all other human experience, meetings have multiple outcomes and consequences, and the quality of the group’s decision – or invention, or problem resolution – may not meet your expectations, even it was adequate for the situation.

More importantly, you may have made progress even if you didn’t achieve your ultimate goal. Read more

Three Simple Rules for Leading Constructive Change

Concept of leadership.

The best definition I’ve ever heard of effective leadership goes something like this:

A good leader doesn’t make people do what he (or she) wants; a good leader makes others want what the leader wants.

In other words, leadership is about engaging people’s hearts even more than their minds. If your staff shares your vision of what’s possible, understands why what’s possible is desirable, and shares your desire to make that vision come alive, they’ll do what they need to do to make it happen. Show them the future, share your passion about the journey, and get out of their way (but stay close by in case they need coaching or advice).

That all sounds good. But in my experience that’s only the beginning. Read more

Smart Leaders Don’t Just Tolerate Distributed Work; They Embrace It

Working RemotelyOne of my earliest studies of work patterns indicated that on average knowledge workers were spending only about 35 percent of their work time inside their assigned corporate facility. They were spending almost as much time working out of home offices, and the remainder in “Third Places” like coffee shops, libraries, public parks, hotels, airports, and planes, trains, and automobiles.

Today, according to Forrester Research, more than thirty-four million U.S. workers are spending one or more days a week in nontraditional work locations. That’s over 24 percent of a nonfarm workforce that currently totals approximately 140 million. Forrester predicts that by the end of 2016 the distributed workforce could reach 63 million, or over 40% of the total nonfarm workforce. And it’s worth pointing out that many agricultural workers are also highly dependent on mobile technologies, even if we don’t normally think of them as part of the “remote” workforce.

Why is workforce mobility growing so rapidly and becoming the accepted way of working in so many industries? Read more

Five Simple Rules for Making Distributed Meetings more Effective

Know The RulesMost of us today spend more time in meetings with people who are somewhere else than we do with our colleagues down the hall. And while most of the “rules” for leading face-to-face meetings also apply equally well to distributed meetings, the situation is clearly different.

In many distributed team situations the members live far away from each other and/or the central office. They may never have met in person, or they may see each other only occasionally.

When team members are not co-located, they typically have relatively independent personal lives and social-support systems. Realistically, they just don’t have a lot in common beyond their work. They go to different churches, synagogues, and mosques; they participate in different local town events; their children attend different schools and participate in different sports programs. And they just don’t bump into each other at the grocery store or on commuter trains and buses.

If you are leading a distributed team you need to take that reality into account, and to plan and lead your conference calls differently than you do when everyone is in the same room.

Here are five simple rules that will make your distributed meetings both productive and popular: Read more

Here’s to Holiday Conversations that Matter

Holly_000018403234XSmallThis is the time of year when most of us slow down, gather with friends and family, focus on the blessings in our lives, decorate our homes, and celebrate life lessons emanating from whichever deity we worship.

It can be a wonderful time, but it can also be incredibly stressful as we all too often find ourselves engaged in heated, frustrating conversations about important personal and professional issues that all too often divide us instead of uniting us.

This year, 2015, makes celebration especially difficult. Just about every country around the world has suffered through far too many natural disasters and acts of willful violence, to say nothing of fear-mongering and callous refusals (at least here in the United States) to accept and protect the victims of violence who seek refuge.

But I believe the difficulty we seem to have engaging in respectful conversations about important issues is an even deeper tragedy. Read more

Why Meetings Matter

People Sleeping During Presentation“A meeting is an indispensable tool – if you don’t want to get anything done.”

                – John Kenneth Galbraith

As Fast Company founder Alan Webber pointed out over twenty years ago, conversation is at the very heart of knowledge-based work. Yet most of us don’t recognize how dependent we are on conversations for learning, for making sense of our experiences, for building relationships, for innovation, and for sorting out how we feel about ourselves and our work.

The beauty of the way knowledge-based organizations operate is that the more engaged – and the more respected – workers are, the more productive they are, and the happier their customers are as well. And almost all successful organizations today are knowledge-based; even retail stores and factories depend on people who are well-educated, computer-literate, and self-directed.

The best way to improve the work experience – and to enhance productivity, increase engagement, and make work fun again – is to change the way those meetings we spend hours and hours sitting through are designed, led, and experienced. Read more

Making the Invisible Visible

conversationsAlan Webber suggested over 20 years ago that the core work of knowledge-based organizations is conversation – the creation and exchange of ideas, information, knowledge, and even wisdom (see “What’s So New about the New Economy?Harvard Business Review, January-February 1993).

Then Webber asks and answers a really important question about the role of management in a knowledge-based business:

If the new work of the company is conversation, then what is the job the manager? Put simply: to create an environment where employees can have productive conversations rather than counterproductive ones, useful conversations rather than useless ones.

In my humble opinion, we should be spending far more energy than we do focusing on the quality of corporate conversations, and on teaching managers at all levels how to start and foster meaningful conversations that ultimately produce value for both customers and employees. Read more

Just Say Thank You!

Fall colors galore!

(image of fall colors courtesy of Cindy Ware)

This is Thanksgiving week in the United States – a reminder to slow down, pause, spend time with family and friends, and be thankful for our blessings.

It is a tradition that goes all the way back to that first autumn when the Pilgrims (North America’s original immigrants) harvested their crops, supposedly shared their bounty with the native American Indians and got ready to hunker down for the winter.

While some aspects of that first Thanksgiving are no doubt mythical, we have made the holiday into perhaps the quintessential American celebration. Read more

Which of These Books Would You Pick Up?

My forthcoming book, Making Meetings Matter, will be published in January by Indie Books International. We’re now in the process of editing the text and designing the layout. One of the most important steps in publishing a book is designing the front cover; that, after all, is what draws potential readers (like you) to pick up the book (or to investigate it further at Amazon.com [continue reading...]

Meetings: The Good, the Bad, and the Awful

People in a Meeting

I have been studying and writing about meetings and other corporate conversations for many years.

My understanding of how meetings work and my “rules” for leading meetings that matter are based on a combination of personal experiences (both good and bad) leading and attending hundreds of meetings, lots of formal research, and many insightful stories I’ve heard from colleagues.

But now I want to refresh my understanding of what is actually going on. The digitally enhanced and richly interconnected world we live in today creates new challenges and new opportunities for designing effective meetings.

While I don’t question for a minute the value of all those personal stories I’ve heard and the wisdom other experts, I want to enhance our collective understanding by compiling and sharing a wider range of stories and of actual data about what meetings are like in 2015 and how effective they actually are. Read more