March 12, 2012

We welcome comments from anyone on any blog post; we want to generate active, meaningful dialogue about issues related to the future of work, the workforce, and the workplace. However, we will not approve blatantly commercial comments, and we reserve the right to edit submitted comments to ensure mutual respect and remove commercial promotions.

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. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Just Do It – Right Now!

August 24, 2015

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. [click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

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. [click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

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.” [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Boring meeting!

There are over 11 million corporate meetings a day in the United States alone. 11 million! Yet, as I am fond of saying, I have yet to meet anyone who is dying for their next meeting to start.

When was the last time you sat through a meeting that you found boring, a waste of time, and unproductive? Everyone I talk to can tell me about a recent meeting they attended but hated.

Yet most people who work in offices today spend most of their time in meetings of one kind or another. Maybe it’s a two-person conversation, and maybe it’s a group meeting with six or more participants. As Alan Webber pointed out over 20 years ago (“What’s So New About the New Economy?Harvard Business Review, Jan/Feb 1993), conversation is at the heart of knowledge-based work. It’s how we learn, exchange information, solve problems, test our ideas, create new knowledge, and connect with our colleagues and customers.

So why do so many meetings turn out so badly? I believe there are at least five factors affecting the quality of our meeting experiences: [click to continue…]

{ 8 comments }

direction confusionWhen someone asks you what leadership style or approach is most effective, the only legitimate answer is, “It depends.” But the next question has to be “Depends on what?”

And that question has probably driven more research and PhD dissertations than any other issue in the field of management.

So I’m going to attempt to answer it here in less than 750 words, based on both my personal experience and a landmark study conducted almost 50 years ago by Ken Blanchard (yes, that Ken Blanchard) and Paul Hersey.

Their research, and the “Situational Leadership” model they developed was first published in 1977 in a book called Management of Organizational Behavior (now in its 9th edition, with Dewey Johnson as a third author).

I believe the Hersey-Blanchard model of leadership remains incredibly powerful and relevant today, but I haven’t seen many references to it recently, so I want to refresh your understanding of it (and mine too, for that matter). [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

leadership

It’s been said that leadership is the most studied and least understood of all subjects in the business world. There are thousands of books about leadership, and just about as many keynote speakers, workshop facilitators, and pundits who claim to have “the” formula for leadership success.

But in spite of all that there is absolutely no easy pathway to being an effective leader. Part of the trouble is that leadership is an all-encompassing activity, required in so many different situations, that there is no single “right way.”

It may be true for all time that one plus one equals two, and that iron is heavier than water, but if you are seeking that kind of certainty about how to lead, I guarantee your search will never end. [click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }

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. [click to continue…]

{ 3 comments }

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. [click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }