productivity

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. [click to continue…]

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Working RemotelyOne of my earliest studies of work patterns indicated that on average knowledge workers were spending only about 35 percent of their work time inside their assigned corporate facility. They were spending almost as much time working out of home offices, and the remainder in “Third Places” like coffee shops, libraries, public parks, hotels, airports, and planes, trains, and automobiles.

Today, according to Forrester Research, more than thirty-four million U.S. workers are spending one or more days a week in nontraditional work locations. That’s over 24 percent of a nonfarm workforce that currently totals approximately 140 million. Forrester predicts that by the end of 2016 the distributed workforce could reach 63 million, or over 40% of the total nonfarm workforce. And it’s worth pointing out that many agricultural workers are also highly dependent on mobile technologies, even if we don’t normally think of them as part of the “remote” workforce.

Why is workforce mobility growing so rapidly and becoming the accepted way of working in so many industries? [click to continue…]

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Know The RulesMost of us today spend more time in meetings with people who are somewhere else than we do with our colleagues down the hall. And while most of the “rules” for leading face-to-face meetings also apply equally well to distributed meetings, the situation is clearly different.

In many distributed team situations the members live far away from each other and/or the central office. They may never have met in person, or they may see each other only occasionally.

When team members are not co-located, they typically have relatively independent personal lives and social-support systems. Realistically, they just don’t have a lot in common beyond their work. They go to different churches, synagogues, and mosques; they participate in different local town events; their children attend different schools and participate in different sports programs. And they just don’t bump into each other at the grocery store or on commuter trains and buses.

If you are leading a distributed team you need to take that reality into account, and to plan and lead your conference calls differently than you do when everyone is in the same room.

Here are five simple rules that will make your distributed meetings both productive and popular: [click to continue…]

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Holly_000018403234XSmallThis is the time of year when most of us slow down, gather with friends and family, focus on the blessings in our lives, decorate our homes, and celebrate life lessons emanating from whichever deity we worship.

It can be a wonderful time, but it can also be incredibly stressful as we all too often find ourselves engaged in heated, frustrating conversations about important personal and professional issues that all too often divide us instead of uniting us.

This year, 2015, makes celebration especially difficult. Just about every country around the world has suffered through far too many natural disasters and acts of willful violence, to say nothing of fear-mongering and callous refusals (at least here in the United States) to accept and protect the victims of violence who seek refuge.

But I believe the difficulty we seem to have engaging in respectful conversations about important issues is an even deeper tragedy. [click to continue…]

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Why Meetings Matter

December 7, 2015

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. [click to continue…]

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Just Say Thank You!

November 23, 2015

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. [click to continue…]

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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. [click to continue…]

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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. [click to continue…]

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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! [click to continue…]

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MultitaskingLast week I wrote about the challenges of living in a “boundaryless” world – one in which we can (and do) bounce back and forth between work and non-work activities.

It is now common to communicate with colleagues and friends all over the world, to take care of personal needs in the middle of our work days, and to engage in work-related activities at all hours of the day and night.

(see “In a Boundaryless World, Peak Performance is More Difficult Than Ever”)

How many times have you been part of a global conference call at 4 or 5 AM local time, or completed a work memo and emailed it off at 10 PM? [click to continue…]

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