Meetings: The First 15 Minutes Matter

Beginnings make a huge difference. 

Meetings offer a perfect example.

I was working with a VP who started off her 3-day, first quarter meeting with a 20 minute introduction. In that 20 minutes she crisply and energetically laid out:

  • The purpose and expected outcome of the three days
  • Three highlights and three lowlights from the previous year
  • Why people were seated, by name card, at their six-person tables. (There were actually two reasons):

Meetings   1. To include representatives of different functions at each table

    2.  To have a new manager at each table who had never been with the 60-person group before. 

It really beats spending an hour having new people introduce themselves, tell their histories, and then know nothing about the rest of the group. As a result of meals, breaks, and small group sessions, everyone knew everyone else pretty darned well by 6 p.m.

The overall impact of the opening? High energy, enthusiasm, and clarity.

The learning: Give people lots of information in advance so they can participate quickly and effectively.

Each day included small group sessions focused on product lines, operations, and continuous improvement. By 8:45 all participants knew which small groups they would be a part of on each day (they changed); why they were in that group; and what the task would be for each. By the time the first breakout sessions started at 1 p.m., everyone was mentally prepared to participate.

This isn't revolutionary stuff. It's the kind of intentional, thoughtful planning often forgotten in the haste of organizing agendas and travel plans. Yet these process details are the ones that make or break a successful meeting.

Learn How To Develop Others

"Developing Others" ranks dead last on just about every organizational skill level survey with which I've been involved or have read. 

It's not because people lack awareness of its importance; quite the contrary. It's because development takes time. It involves getting to know people and their capabilities at more than a surface level. To develop people, you have to follow a few fundamental steps.

Here's How To Begin

1. Start with an accurate picture of the person's strengths and weaknesses. They can't grow if they don't have good information about themselves. And managers can't help them develop without the same kind of clarity.

Develop Others Flower Bud2. Get ongoing feedback from multiple sources. The key words here are ongoing and multiple

Ongoing: Performance improves with information that is provided as close to an event as possible. That way, the situation is still fresh and the details clear. If I get feedback in November about something that happened in February, what am I really supposed to do about it? And I have to ask myself: "If it's so important, why did you wait this long to tell me?"

Multiple sources: We all have bosses and peers; if we're managing, we also have direct reports. When I do 360s for clients, I always insist on feedback from people outside of the person's direct chain of command, even external customers if there is a lot of customer interaction. When someone is working across boundaries on a project, there's a wealth of information available about the ability to build relationships and influence outside of the "power" sphere. 

3. Give first-time tasks that progressively stretch people. In a series of leadership conferences we conducted between 2006-2009, participants told us that the single most valuable contributor to their leadership growth was a series of stretch assignments. No one grows from doing the same thing more and more. '

4. Build a learner mentality. Encourage your people to think of themselves as professional learners as well as (job title). In meetings and one-on-on one, ask:

  • What are you learning that's new or different?
  • Where have you seen yourself improve most in the past year?
  • What have you learned in one situation that you can now use in others?

5. Use coaching, mentoring, classroom, online, books, coursework, and stretch assignments to promote and reinforce learning and development.

One of the byproducts of developing your people: you gain satisfaction and stature as a result of their success. 

Who will you help today?

Handle Objections With Questions

You and I come up with some pretty wonderful ideas, which--for some strange reason--aren't immediately embraced by those around us.

So what's our natural response? It's usually to start making statements in defense of our position, which then leads to "I'm going to win!"

Not a good posture. 

Questions 
 

Ask Questions

When you keep announcing the righteousness of your position, the problem defines you. When you respond with a question, both of you begin defining the problem and looking for solutions. Which do you want?

Here are four model questions that will help you stay above the fray:

  • "If this doesn't meet your requirements (criteria, needs), what can be done to ensure that it does?"
  • "If you like the idea but not the related cost, what can we do about the budget constraints?"
  • "If we can't start the project now, when do you think it would be a good time to get it going?"
  • "If you don't want to change anything and think the procedures are fine the way they are, what is it that you like about how they work now?"

You get the idea. The first part of the question acknowledges that you heard the issue;  the second invites action from the other person. That way, you stay out "argument" mode and create mutual make the responsibility for a solution.

Give it a try.

5 Tips Leaders Can Use Today

One of the benefits of working with lots of leaders in many different organizations is the chance to see what really works, regardless of the individual personality or industry. 

So, here are:

5 Tips That Make A Difference

1. Leading starts with clarity. The time that a leader spends getting clear about what needs to be done will pay off in quickly-focused effort as a result of increased understanding. 

When things aren't clear, the day doesn't  go well. Minds and bodies gravitate toward something that does seem clear. The world abhors a vacuum. When a vacuum is created, people will fill in the blanks with their own content.That content seldom matches your fuzzy intent and is frequently a more negative interpretation.

HelpfulTips

2. The Leader is the Mediator of Meaning. Clarity is the first part of the issue. The other part is taking the time to show exactly how "what" you are proposing to do is directly connected to the success of over-arching goals.Your kids will tell you to "make it real." Your employees are thinking it.

3. Leaders Understand How People Learn and Work. Intellectually, we all acknowledge that people learn and work differently. Really successful leaders take time to pinpoint what those styles are and genuinely acknowledge their inherent value. Hands-on 'Doers,' Readers, Questioners, Ponderers. . .

4. Leading Means Knowing How to Orchestrate the Experience. When to have a meeting or not have a meeting; who needs one-on-one attention? What isn't negotiable and what will work best with a full discussion? Is the objective really achievable--at the level of quality desired--in the originally designated timetable? (Go ahead and add your favorites to this list).

5. Leaders Lead from Every Proximity. You'll spot a good leader out in front of the group; alongside of a direct report who is struggling; or standing in the back of the room listening to a discussion and only joining in when re-direction or a fact is needed. And everyone knows how they're doing in relation to what's expected.

Consistently add these five to your repertoire and you'll bump up your game exponentially.

How Culture Impacts Perception

Re-published by request.

Clear-thinking people everywhere acknowledge that it's easy for two people to see the same situation very differently. 

In a world where we increasingly work across time zones and cultures, this would have even greater meaning if perceptions were influenced by one's culture. While those of us who work globally may have experienced--and thought about-- the inherent reality of these perceptive differences, Canadian and Japanese researchers  have confirmed some very specific distinctions.

EastWest When East Doesn't Meet West

According to the study:

Researchers showed Japanese and North American participants images, each of which consisted of one center model and four background models in each image. The researchers manipulated the facial emotion (happy, angry, sad) in the center or background models and asked the participants to determine the dominant emotion of the center figure.

The outcome?

The majority of Japanese participants (72%) reported that their judgments of the center person's emotions were influenced by the emotions of the background figures, while most North Americans (also 72%) reported they were not influenced by the background figures at all.

Takahiko Masuda, a Psychology professor from the University of Alberta, noted:

"Our results demonstrate that when North Americans are trying to figure out how a person is feeling, they selectively focus on that particular person's facial expression, whereas Japanese consider the emotions of the other people in the situation."

This may be because Japanese attention is not concentrated on the individual, but includes everyone in the group, says Masuda.

Why Is This Important for Business?

1. It has always baffled me when I've watched Western corporations decide to indiscriminately import programs and processes that  work well in the East. Looking for a "quick fix" or a "magic pill" is a very North American business characteristic. At the same time, there is no reason not to examine the principles behind things that work elsewhere; then, figure out what might be applicable and how to make it work,

When corporate meeting rooms ring with the cry, "Perception is reality," then Masuda's study should be a caution that global reality can't be driven by local perceptions.

2. Even more specifically, definitions of "team" hugely influence what happens across cultures. North American "teams" are made up of individuals who see themselves as individuals participating in a group with a common purpose for some finite period of time (my observation and experience). Eastern team members honor the group as the important entity to be served, not as a vehicle to one's individual career aspirations.

While time and exposure have somewhat altered instances of the above in the minds of some, Masuda's study should be taken seriously by organizations involved in East-West business and collaboration.

This is one instance where perception can be grounded in reality--for the good of all concerned.

 

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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