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Back to Basics: Making Your Meetings More Effective

change-management meetingI’ve been studying and writing about organizational meetings for years. And I’ve offered lots of tips, techniques, and “rules” for making your meetings matter – to the organization, to your staff, and to yourself.

But I haven’t spent enough time discussing why making meetings matter is so important. In other words, what is the business case for changing the way you design and lead meetings?

To do that we have to look at the two dimensions of effectiveness:

  • Improving outcomes:  better decisions, more creative solutions, higher levels of participant engagement, strengthened working relationships, and happier participants;
  • Reducing costs: fewer meetings, shorter meetings, and more efficient meetings, leaving more time for people to get their own work done.

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Eight Ways to Make Your Meetings Matter

If it was a meeting that mattered – an experience you want to have again – then it included a meaningful conversation. As the meeting wound up you were incredibly energized and ready to do something important, and/or you were disappointed it was over.

A meaningful conversation changes you in important ways. You see the world differently, or you have new insights into a problem you’ve been struggling with, or you know someone in a far more personal way.

As I think back on memorable meetings I’ve been part of, it seems clear that the participants were speaking openly and honestly, and with respect for each other’s experiences and intentions. We were all “in the moment” exploring a topic we cared deeply about.

Those are clues about what drives a conversation from good to great. But they are only clues, and they are only my personal insights. To broaden my understanding of what makes a good conversation I’ve asked many people I respect and admire to share with me how they think about good conversations. Read more

Orchestrating Powerful Conversations: Asking Questions

qmark1If you accept the idea that a meeting leader’s role is to orchestrate the conversation, or to sense and guide, then pay very close attention to what every participant is saying, and what emotions they are expressing. But listen for understanding, not to judge or evaluate what is being said.

As conversation expert Judith Glaser explains in Conversational Intelligence (link is to Amazon.com),

When we listen to connect we open and expand the space, allowing [the speakers’] aspirational [selves] to emerge. [When] we think out loud with them, and share our dreams with them and co-create with them we all experience ourselves in a new way.

Ask penetrating, open-ended questions, and add follow-up questions that extend your understanding. In the back of your mind you might question the validity of a statement, or be upset about a negative tone of voice. But remember that as the meeting leader you want to create an environment where everyone feels safe and free to express themselves, no matter what the content of their message (within the bounds of civility, of course). Read more

Making Meetings Matter: An Overview

MMM cover adaptationAre you frustrated by all the unfocused, boring meetings you have to sit through?

Do the meetings you attend produce lasting solutions to the challenges you face?

Or do you and your staff waste precious hours at work sitting through meetings that don’t seem to matter?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I want to get you out of the unproductive meeting trap that so many organizations have fallen into.

Technology now connects us with each other and with the information we need like never before.

But most meetings still unfold the same way they have for centuries. We haven’t adapted the way we meet to the realities of the new digital economy.

That’s the beginning of a 2 ½-minute video overview of my new book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age. Read more

The Seven Dimensions of a Powerful Conversation


Special Note: You are invited to a special (and free) book launch party celebrating the publication of Making Meetings Matter. Join me for an hour of conversation about meetings and collaborative conversations on Wednesday, March 16, at 3 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

Just click on this link to register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4007501453093003777


(This article is also posted on The Future of Work…unlimited blog)

ManWomanTalking_000010584843MediumLast week I reported on my recent interviews with several smart people about what makes for a good conversation (“A Debate is Not a Discussion, and a Discussion is not a Dialogue“) .

Today let’s dig a little deeper into the underlying factors they identified. Here are the seven dimensions of effective conversations:

1. A good conversation is purposeful.

Sure, we often engage in small talk, or in conversations we know are relatively trivial. But when the subject is something we care about, and we have a clear and explicit goal (informing, learning, sharing, persuading) we tune in more intensely and we engage more deeply.

2. The participants are genuinely interested in the topic being discussed. Read more

A Debate is not a Discussion, and a Discussion is not a Dialogue

Debate PodiumsWith all the presidential candidate debates filling up the airwaves recently, it’s time to think about what makes for a good conversation.

Regrettably, we are not seeing any significant examples of memorable conversations in the public so-called discourse.

I thought it might help to spend a few minutes thinking about what does make a conversation both memorable and meaningful.

A meaningful conversation changes you in important ways. You see the world differently, or you have new insights into a problem you’ve been struggling with, or you know someone in a far more personal way. Read more

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

Making YOUR Meetings Matter

Permit me a bit of shameless self-promotion. My new book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age, just became available on Amazon.com, and I am in a giddy celebratory mode.

In fact, I just got my very first copy of the paperback edition (I ordered it from Amazon on Friday). Yes, I’ve read it all before, but there is something very visceral about seeing the actual book. Here’s a picture my wife took of me admiring it. There is nothing like finally holding your “baby” in your own hands!

JIm Ware pondering his new book

I am particularly proud of the testimonials I’ve already received from a number of very smart people. Read more

Orchestrating Effective Communication in the Digital Age

MMM coverI am both pleased and proud that Jim Horan, the creator of the One Page Business Plan®, wrote a Foreword for my new book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age (now due to be published on or about February 25).

In fact, I liked the Foreword so much that I am sharing it with all of you today. Here it is, in its entirety:

 

The nature of conversation and communication has changed dramatically. We find ourselves communicating faster, more frequently, over greater distances, and with many more people. Yet we seem to be less effective.

Why is that so? Because of technology every business is now doing business globally; there are almost no meaningful geographic boundaries any more. Yes, there are still a few basically local businesses – the barbershop, the nail salon, the local farmers market. But almost everybody else is now doing business regionally, nationally, and internationally.

We are also starting up businesses at a much faster rate. There is an expectation that a business can go from startup to scale-up in a much shorter period of time. 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