Posts

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

Meeting Experiences: Survey Results

Team CollaboratingLast week I asked my readers to complete a brief survey to help me understand the kinds of meetings you participate in and how you feel about them. Many thanks to those of you who responded and shared your experiences.

While the number of participants is too small for me to claim any statistical validity, I nevertheless believe the trends and patterns are interesting, and I want to share a few of them here, along with some thoughts about what they mean.

For starters, it appears that this group is generally representative of middle to senior managers. The respondents were predominantly HR and Facilities functional leaders, based in the United States, and averaging a bit over 50 years old. The group is evenly split between men and women. The age and seniority data suggest that these are experienced people, presumably with significant leadership responsibilities. Read more

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

Making Meetings Matter: New Rules and Cool Tools for Corporate Conversations in the Digital Age

MMM-Front4

I may be celebrating prematurely, but permit me just a bit of shameless self-promotion.

As I have mentioned many times previously, I’ve been working for the past year on this book about corporate conversations and, in particular, the settings in which most conversations take place: formal meetings.

The book is now in the hands of my publisher, Henry DeVries of Indie Books International; it’s due to be published in early January 2016. I can’t wait!

There’s lots of work still to do to make the book worthy of your attention, but I’m now concentrating on the second big job any author has: creating “buzz” and visibility. Writing the book is challenging enough, but getting the word out about it is just as important.

I’m going to be very upfront and open about that process, because I’m learning as I go, and I have this core belief that you will find the process as interesting as I do. I hope I’m right! Read more

Making Meetings Matter: Strengths-Based Teambuilding

Each of us approaches problems and relationships with a particular style, or from an individual point of view. There are dozens of personality and interpersonal style models (DISC, Myers-Briggs, and so on).

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.42.25 PMHowever, my favorite individual style model is based on the Clifton StrengthsFinder© assessment first defined by Marcus Buckingham and Donald. O. Clifton of the Gallup Organization. Two of the many books describing the model and how to apply it are well worth getting and devouring: Now, Discover Your Strengths (Buckingham and Clifton); and StrengthsQuest (Clifton and Anderson).

The StrengthsFinder model identifies 34 core talent themes that each of us has in some degree. More importantly, it assesses individual strengths and tendencies within each of those 34 dimensions, producing an individual talents profile.

The most important insight that Buckingham and his team brought to the search for peak performance Read more

Making Distributed Meetings Matter

Distributed MeetingOn the eve of IFMA’s annual World Workplace conference, which I am attending this week in Denver, it seems appropriate to think for a moment about meetings that don’t take place in a “place.” I’m thinking of course of meetings where everyone is somewhere else – what most of us call “distributed” meetings.

One distributed meeting practice I hold very dear is this [New Rule]: Do not schedule a “mixed meeting” unless there is absolutely no alternative.

A mixed meeting is one that includes two or more people in the same place plus one or more others calling in from somewhere else.

I’ve almost never seen a mixed meeting go well; some organizations actively prohibit them – if anyone is participating remotely, everyone calls in, even when some participants are located close together. Read more

Making Meetings Matter

NoC&CLast week I called for an end to the “Command and Control” model of leadership (“Rethinking Leadership: Death to Taylorism!”).

We must think about leadership very differently for the richly interconnected world we now live in – an economy and a society that futurist Don Tapscott calls “The Age of Networked Knowledge” (see “Four Principles for the Open World,” Tapscott’s 2012 TEDGlobal talk).

A twenty-something German blogger named Philipp Riederle understands better than anyone else I know just what “networked knowledge” means for the way we live and work.

In Riederle’s view there are at least three very profound ways that our information access and personal communications have changed in the last decade – three realities that most of the world now takes for granted, but that are absolutely unprecedented in human history. Read more

Honor Labor Day by Redefining Work and Leadership

Labor Day signLabor Day in the United States honors the American labor movement and the contributions to our economic and social well-being made by millions of American workers. It has also become a marker of the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Most of us are now moving past vacations and casual work hours to a more serious and focused time at work. [continue reading...]

A Cool Tool for Making Your Meetings Matter

Agenda!It may not feel cool, but…

Do you realize what a cool tool a meeting agenda is? An agenda is not just a wish list or a way to tell people what the meeting is intended to be about. When used right, your agenda is the most critical tool you have to ensure that your meeting is worthwhile, covers the right topics, and accomplishes its stated purpose.

An agenda is powerful way to avoid bad meetings (see “Why Are There So Many Bad Meetings?” for more on that painful topic). And in combination with the right meeting mindset (“Building a Meeting Mindset“) an agenda can be a multi-purpose tool for creating memorable meeting experiences.

I recently spoke with Bill T., a senior program manager at a well-known high-tech company, about his meeting management techniques. He uses the agenda for his weekly one-hour design review meetings as a primary planning tool as well as a way to enable 20+ software engineers to make quick decisions on a number of critical design issues. Read more