Three Things to Amp Up the Effectiveness of Your Meetings

Meetings. They fill our days. And let’s be honest: most of them are unproductive or poorly managed. The result is that we waste a lot of time that most of us don’t have available to waste; we are already overcommitted.

Like it or not, meetings will always be part of the workday, so it is critical that you make them effective (they achieve what they should do) and efficient (they do it in as little time as possible). Remember: the value of meetings is what they accomplish or inspire, not just the act of meeting.

In my more than 20 years of coaching, consulting and working to amplify performance, I’ve discovered three things you can do to amp up the effectiveness of your meetings. 

1. Make it Personal. Meetings are more effective when those attending can relate to each other. For that, we need to remember that we are each human. So consider starting each meeting with a quick run around the room, asking everyone to share any of the following:

  • What is the best thing that has happened to you today?
  • What is something personal that you want us to know about?
  • What is a success or achievement that you are proud of?
  • What is something that we would never have guessed about you?

When we share our humanity, we connect at a deeper level, which encourages greater sharing of ideas, less apprehension to contribute and, therefore, more productive meetings. Connecting personally builds a stronger bond than just meeting to solve problems, discuss ideas or share information.

Devise a bank of questions you can open your meeting with to help those involved see their shared humanity.

2. Define the objectives and expectations. According to Habit #2 in Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end with mind.” With clarity of a direction, goal, objective or expectation, the meeting can police itself to stay focused. Without this clarity, a meeting can run in all directions, distracting the participants and wasting time.

I call this defining the goalpost. Ask yourself: what will we have to achieve to make this a successful meeting? Define it. Share it. Hold all meeting attendees to its achievement.

3. Use an agenda to stay on task. This might seem like a no brainer, but some of the most ineffective meetings are often the result of running with an unclear agenda, or no agenda at all. Even with clear objectives, meetings can wander because of the diversity of the meeting members. Use an agenda to stay focused on what matters and to stay committed to the time allotted to each topic. And ensure your meeting has a time or agenda manager, someone who keeps everyone accountable for their time, contribution and ensuring the meeting continues to move forward.

Nobody has unlimited time; it’s why seeing your calendar fill up with meeting after meeting can be so frustrating. So, make the time to define the topics that need to be covered, understand the time required to adequately discuss each topic and identify the goal(s) of the meeting. This creates the ability to use time wisely and to ensure the meeting attendees to stay focused.

I never attend a meeting I don’t have an agenda for. An agenda is not only a time saver, but it also helps me know how to prepare, how much time I will need to provide and what the meeting will accomplish. With this information, I can be effective in supporting it and making good use of my and the meeting’s time.

Take Action
Before you attend your next meeting, insist on knowing the objective or goal of the meeting and see the agenda. Then, once in the meeting, be sure to first make it personal and be committed to living to the focus and time define in the agenda.

Meetings are truly an invaluable tool when they are organized and run correctly. They can be the place where great things happen, or they can be an abject waste of time. Take control of them to get them to deliver great things for you and your organization.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Managers: How to Identify and Correct Your Blind Spots

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Be Clear if You Want Employees to Perform

You know what you want to happen in the workplace and with your employees. But how do you ensure that your employees have the same understanding and are able to deliver in the way you are expecting? Clear communication.

The goal of communication is to be understood. Remember that all communication has a sender and a receiver. The sender encodes a message and the receiver decodes that message. Because everyone is different, what is the likelihood that the receiver will decode the message in the exact way the sender sent it and meant it? Not likely. Add to that the increasing use of digital messages in the workplace – emails, texts, IMs – in lieu of face-to-face interaction and the intended message can easily be misconstrued simply as a result of the receiver’s own interpretation of tone.

All of this can be avoided, however, if the sender takes great care to ensure that the message is fully understood by both parties. This may require clearly defining terms the organization uses without any real intention.

For example, consider the word that shows in many performance reviews – “better” – “do better.” Improvement is important, but it is more valuable when the word “better” is defined. It could mean improve your sales by 5% or your collections by 10%. It could mean arriving on time for work every day or completing all projects by their due date. Without a metric or greater clarity, the employee may think they are doing what is expected, but the manager may not see the required improvement.

Another example: consider the word “excellence.” Doing things well is indeed important, but it is more likely to happen when it is clearly defined. It could mean provide exactly what the customer wants or it could mean provide what the customer wants, AND do something more to activate their loyalty. It could mean build supportive and collaborative relationships with your colleagues, or it could mean focus on your job and get it done well and on time. To strive for excellence is a great goal to have, as long as everyone knows what it means and how it looks when it is done.

This approach applies at home, as well. Consider the term “clean room.” How you define it and how your kids define it may be two very different things so, when asked if their room is clean, in their mind, it may be. But it does not meet your expectation based on your interpretation of a clean room. A battle ensues.

In each of these examples, clear communication is important. And beyond that, clarity matters.

Take Action
Choose your words wisely and carefully. Take ownership of ensuring that your words or the concepts supported by the words, are understood by others. They may show in words like productivity, performance, service, engagement, development, results, teamwork, entrepreneurial, collaboration or even success. Define them in a way that everyone understands. From there, you can rally the teams to achieve your goals.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Help Your Employees Become More Mindful

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3 Things Every Manager Can Do to Increase Employee Engagement

There is a direct correlation between the level of employee engagement and the level of productivity, performance and retention. That means that understanding and affecting employee engagement is the responsibility of every manager.

First, I will share that engagement, defined for the purpose of this post as the discretionary effort an employee puts into their job, is not the sole responsibility of the manager or the organization. Employees have a role in expanding their self-awareness to help align themselves to roles that need what they do and like best, and to have a voice in participating in their work in a way that matters. But that is the subject of another blog.

For now, let’s focus in on three things that every manager can do to increase employee engagement.

  1. Know your employees. It seems odd to say this, but the truth is that most managers don’t know their employees’ strengths, liabilities, interests, values and what activates and diminishes their performance. Without this information, you frequently and accidentally respond in unsuccessful or unproductive ways or misalign employees to roles that need more of what they are not good at than what they are good at. Spend time with employees to help develop their inventory of abilities. Use an assessment tool to help create the practical language of their strengths and their liabilities (the behaviors that are the opposite of their strengths that need management). Get guidance from a coach for tools to help all employees learn to look inside themselves to discover their unique abilities and preferences, then to share them with you so you can better guide them to the areas that need what they do and like best. This encourages competence which activates engagement. You don’t feel engaged if you are in a role that doesn’t fit you.
  2. Make time for each employee each week. Relationships are key to trust, and trust drives engagement. Employees want to work for managers who make time for them and treat them as valuable and important in the workplace. Knowing employees’ inventory of abilities and making time for them, will help you connect more authentically and interact more successfully.
  3. Focus on employee development. Today’s employees know they need to be constantly learning and growing. Managers, when they make the time to connect with employees and use that time to help employees assess what works and what doesn’t work in their performance, make learning and growing important in the workplace. This is key in the shift from managing to workplace coaching – to guide employees to better see and assess their performance and to own any required improvements. This encourages greater performance ownership and engagement.

There is no shortage of information and statistics supporting the premise that engaged employees consistently outperform disengaged employees. It is therefore the responsibility of every manager to intentionally choose how to be and what to do to encourage their employees’ engagement.

Take Action
Three simple things can help employees show up more engaged: know them, make time for them and develop them. What are you doing today to improve your employees’ engagement?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Drag Your Feet When Hiring New Talent

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Three Ways to Help Your Employees Become More Mindful

Mindfulness is all the rage, and for good reason. Mindfulness is the process of using what you gather by being aware in this moment to be more intentional and effective in your next decision or action. Think of it as going through your work day on purpose (not in habit mode or on autopilot).

Most employees do their jobs without much intention. They get into a routine and they look at customers, their workplace, their colleagues and their lives in very much the same way they did the day before. It’s not a flaw, it is just that we haven’t learned how to be really aware of what is going on in front of us to mindfully and intentionally use it to make our next choices, actions and decisions better. We’re unintentionally mindless, stuck in our habits, missing out on opportunities to see more, do more and be more.

But imagine if all of your employees paid attention on purpose and regularly asked the question, “What could I do to make this better?” What improvements and efficiencies could you see or benefit from? What improvements could result in your customer relationships? How might your workplace culture improve?

Here are three ways to help your employees become more aware and mindful to be tuned in and present, and to do more in the workplace on purpose.

  1. Reframe mindfulness. Many people think mindfulness means meditation – and they are either pulled to it or repelled by it. Though you can certainly develop mindfulness through meditation, I find reframing mindfulness for the workplace to mean “focused attention – paying attention on purpose and using that information to make better decisions.” This reframed definition helps organizations openly support and welcome mindfulness training. Consider making mindfulness an expectation of all roles and a core value of the organization.
  2. Teach mindfulness. Helping your senior managers learn how to be more mindful enables and empowers them to develop the same skills in their people. Engage a coach to help your senior team learn how to be both more aware and mindful. Then, provide education and practice for your employees to help them learn, use and benefit from being more aware and mindful. Constantly reinforce the value of attention and intention as a means to achieve goals and improve results, both personally and professionally.
  3. Applaud mindful performance.  As the saying goes, “what gets rewarded, gets repeated.” When you applaud your employees for their effort and progress in tuning in, thinking more intentionally and acting more mindfully, you encourage them to continue. By naturally paying greater attention, employees will see opportunities to resolve challenges, think differently and improve responses. Be on the watch for these improvements to applaud, support and encourage them.

Being mindful is a way of being in work and life. It is about being tuned in, present and watching on purpose to use the information in this moment to make your next moment better. This yields greater results than the habit and autopilot approaches most of us currently have.

Take Action
Develop your mindfulness habits then commit to helping your employees develop theirs. There is a great big world filled with information for you and your team to notice it, so you can use it to make your next decisions, actions and choices better.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading When is it Okay to Do Just Enough at Work?

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