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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

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

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

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...]

Building a Meeting Mindset

Group of Diverse Multiethnic People in a MeetingIn case you haven’t noticed, the world has changed just a bit over the last twenty years. The nature of work itself has changed too. Yet too many managers still believe their employees just came from the farm to the city and need to be told what to do as they take their place on the assembly line.

We’re using 19th century industrial-age management practices in a 21st-century age of networked knowledge.

As a result, millions of people are unhappy at work, organizations are operating well below their potential, leaders are frustrated, and almost everyone feels stressed out. In spite of the moderate uptick in the economy no one I know believes things are working they way they should be.

At one level the problem is simple: the world has changed in several fundamental ways, but the way most organizations operate has not. There is a terrible misalignment between the work and the workforce, on the one hand, and our leadership principles and practices, on the other.

As a case in point, in North America alone there are over 11 million corporate meetings held every day – every day! – but I have yet to find anyone who is just dying for their next meeting to start. Read more

We Need a Declaration of Interdependence

Source: Library of Congress

Source: Library of Congress

Here in the United States we’ve just completed our annual celebration of the signing of The Declaration of Independence – on July 4th, 1776, the day our founders declared themselves an independent country. We then fought a long, bloody, and bitter war to separate ourselves from Great Britain.

Yet today the United Kingdom and the United States are mutually supportive allies with many close personal and institutional connections.

In spite of that awful war the two countries obviously have common cultural traditions, common ancestors, common values, and strikingly similar – though not identical – laws and governance structures. Our leaders today understand that we also have common interests, and that, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

In short, the United States may have declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776, but in reality the two countries remain deeply interdependent. And the same is true for our relationships with many other countries.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say that every relationship, at every level, includes strains of both independence and interdependence. Read more

An Interview with an “expert” on the future of work (that would be me)

1502171419101371-social-hire-logo_ecI was recently interviewed by Social-Hire as part of their Expert Interview program. It was a wide-ranging conversation about the changing nature of the workforce, the need for a radically new kind of organizational leadership, and how to attract and retain talent in this age of networked knowledge that we’ve created.

Here is a brief excerpt that reflects my perspective on why so many of us are frustrated and discouraged about our work experiences: Read more

WorkTech15 in New York is this week – I can save you $150 on the registration fee

worktechWorkTech is one of the best one-day opportunities you can find for learning the latest insights about the future of work. Phillip Ross and his Unwired Ventures team always  assemble a mind-bending and eye-opening program filled with success stories, thought leaders, and provocative insights.

Architect, industrial designer, and visionary thinker Robert Luchetti will be keynoting the annual WORKTECH15 New York City conference on May 13 & 14, Time and Life Building in Midtown Manhattan (The one-day event is May 14, preceded on the 13th by a special Master Class featuring intensive interaction).

Robert Luchetti and Phillip Stone published “Your Office is Where You Are” in the Harvard Business Review in 1985. In this seminal article, they presented their creation of and predicted the concept of “activity based working.” In his keynote presentation at WORKTECH15, Robert Luchetti will revisit their predictions and take a critical look at what they got right and wrong and present a critique of the current state of the workplace.

Read more

Can’t Think Straight? Take a Hike!

cube farm4My colleague and good friend Diane Coles Levine is fond of saying “It’s a lot easier to think outside the box when you’re not in one.” That’s her way of pointing out that cube farms are not the best environment for creativity and collaboration.

I have written previously about my belief  that knowledge workers don’t just need a workspace, they need many places (“De Uno, Plures – From One, Many”). Work today isn’t monolithic or monotonous, and we need workplaces that offer variety and choice that matches what we do day by day or hour by hour.

And as I pointed out last week (“You Make It, You Own It”), when individuals make choices about where and when to get their work done they “own” those choices and are generally more committed to their work, more productive, and more engaged with their employer.

About five years ago I was part of an international research project team that was seeking to define the attributes of an effective workplace. Our Swedish lead researcher asked each of us on the project team to take a photograph of our favorite part of our own office and then to post it on the project website. Read more

Conversations that Create

Last week I wrote about “Conversations that Connect” – the importance of designing conversations that enable individuals to experience deep personal connections with others. That, after all, is what makes relationships meaningful and lasting.

Brainstorming Now let’s build on that foundation to explore about how to lead conversations that create. Most work in organizations is focused on solving problems or producing new ideas – product designs, marketing campaigns, new ways of understanding why sales are growing or shrinking, cheaper ways of operating the business.

I sometimes think the biggest barrier to effective brainstorming and problem-solving is the tendency most groups have to close in on a solution too quickly. Unfortunately most people have a low tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity; being aware of a gap between where you are and where you want or need to be can be highly stressful.

Understandably, we want to develop a solution as quickly as possible so we can relieve the stress of uncertainty or the prospect of failure. However, the more widely we search for an answer the more likely we are to discover (or invent) a better solution

In fact, many groups are guilty of what has been called the “streetlight effect.” Read more