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Five Reasons There are so Many Bad Meetings

Making Meetings Matter: coverNote: This article is a brief excerpt from Chapter Two of my new book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age (link is to the book’s page on Amazon.com).

There don’t seem to be any definitive statistics about how many meetings are held every day, but the estimates I have seen (and recalculated for myself) suggest that there are somewhere between eleven and twenty-four million corporate meetings a day in the United States alone. Even though that is a wide range, I am confident that there at least four billion meetings a year here in the U.S.!

However, as I am fond of saying, no one I know is dying for that next meeting to start.  Read more

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

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

In a Boundaryless World, Peak Performance is More Difficult than Ever

I’m just back from a whirlwind two-day unplanned trip to New York City. I was invited to join a small group of entrepreneurs and futurists in a wide-ranging conversation about the future of work.

Our host, the Chief Marketing Officer of a Fortune-50 company, asked us to help him understand not just the way work is changing, but what kinds of challenges individuals and teams are experiencing today. He’s interested, for obvious reasons, in focusing his organization’s service offerings and value proposition on ways to help address those challenges and enhance his clients’ performance possibilities.

While there is no way I could even begin to summarize our high-energy, two-hour conversation, I was struck by one theme that came up several times:  Read more

Don’t Stop Talking About Tomorrow: A Guide to Surviving the Future

conversations1How often do you talk with your colleagues about the future and how it will affect your organization?

As I have mentioned many, many times here and elsewhere, most leadership teams spend less than 3% of their collective time talking with each other about the future – of their company, their industry, and the world in general.

In my experience, most of us live day to day assuming that the future will be just like the recent past. We realize that there are some predictable trends, and that some things (like the weather) go through regular cycles, but for the most part we expect tomorrow to be similar to today.

Well, to be more accurate, we either expect sameness, or we are so overwhelmed by change, uncertainty, and innovation that we hunker down and live in fear that our lives are out of control. We worry – often rightfully so – about being blindsided by new products, new competitors, or new rules and regulations that put control of our businesses in someone else’s hands. And that kind of worry actually leads to believing, or at least hoping, that tomorrow will be just like today. Read more

Just Do It – Right Now!

Now!

Recently Kent Reyling,  Director of Market Education at Kimball Office, forwarded me a thought piece that re-awakened a life lesson I seem to forget all too often. It comes back to me over and over again, in different forms but always with the same core message:

Today is all there is.

Here’s the message that Kent actually forwarded to me:

Be what it is you want everyone else to be; do what it is you want everyone else to do.

(That advice comes from Sam Parker, the author of 212: The Extra Degree and dozens of other motivational and inspirational books).

That thought reminded me of something I struggle with all the time: the importance of moving from ideas to action. Read more

Data Builds Understanding; Stories Build Commitment

Once Upon A Time

Last week I raised the question (and answered it) “Why are there so many bad meetings?” This week I focus more on the positive:  what good meetings feel like, and how some organizations are working to not only enhance meeting experiences but also to make meetings more effective and meaningful.

Recently a friend told me about how one clothing company has developed a culture of storytelling that dramatically affects the way its meetings work.

According to Mary, a director of workplace strategy at that company, its meetings are filled with storytelling, and the presentations are heavily image-based, with a minimum of words on the individual slides. So instead of boring bullet points and slides filled to overflowing with data, the presentations feel more like personal stories, with heroes and villains, crises and victories, and lots of emotional content. Presenters seek to influence and inspire through images, stories, and feelings rather than through “hard data.” Read more

Talking About Tomorrow

This is an invitation to join an ongoing conversation about the future of work.

Future Exit Sign 000018627375XSmallDo you often wonder where the future of work is headed? Do you have trouble keeping up with all the things impacting the workplace – factors like workforce demographics, new technologies, changing patterns of work, new physical workplace designs, changing social values, and so on, and so on?

We live in a dangerous and unpredictable world, and it often seems impossible to stay on top of everything that matters. I know I find it both frustrating and energizing to live in a world that’s changing as rapidly as ours is today.

The only way I know to stay sane in these conditions is to share both my confusion and my fascination with the future with friends and colleagues, and to learn together as we exchange experiences and insights. Read more

Designing the Future: The Role of Deliberate Diversity

Cornell_logo2-1s7ocw0I’ve just returned from a Cornell University class reunion that reminded me of several very important principles that have guided most of my work and my life since I was an undergraduate there fifty years ago.

Today I want to share one of many important insights that emerged out of three days of lectures, conversations, meals, and other on-campus experiences that are better left unmentioned. I have a deep and renewed appreciation that I am who I am today because of my seven years as a Cornell undergraduate and graduate student.

Cornell University is an unusual – and remarkably diverse – institution.

Cornell was founded in 1865 (shortly after the end of the Civil War) when Ezra Cornell created the campus by donating his farmland on the hills above Ithaca, New York, and bringing to life his vision of “an institution where any person could find instruction in any study.” Read more

How Can I Manage Them When I Can’t See Them?

Happy entrepreneur working with a phone and laptop in a coffee shop in the streetAs early as 2002 one of my earliest studies of work patterns indicated that on average knowledge workers were spending only about 35% of their work time inside their assigned corporate facility. They were spending another 30% of their time working out of home offices, and the remainder in “Third Places” like coffee shops, libraries, public parks, hotels, and airports.

Think about that: a full two-thirds of knowledge work now takes place outside of corporate facilities. That sounds like a strikingly large number, but I and many others have conducted numerous studies clearly demonstrating that organizational work today is widely dispersed across many different kinds of locations. Most of us today act as if it doesn’t matter whether the people we are in conversation with are across a desk, across the room, across town, or on another continent.

Yet one of the most common complaints I hear about letting local employees work remotely even just a day or two a week is “How can I manage them if I can’t see them?” Read more