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Business Management coaching New Managers

Save your day from the Gottaminutes without being a jerk

If you’re a manager, leader, or otherwise work in some way with people, then chances are you’ve had at least part of your day derailed by a ‘gottaminute’. It all starts innocently enough; you’re sitting at your desk when you hear that curtesy ‘tap tap’ at your open door and someone pops their head in asking if you can spare them ‘a quick sec’.  After you say ‘of course, come on in’, the asker will usually enter your office, sit downand engage in conversation that is ALWAYS more than ‘just a sec’.  I’ve never met a manager who didn’t acknowledge that the gottaminutes were huge time sucks. These unscheduled, sometimes lengthy meetings, can derail you, and by extension your team. So why don’t we just say no?

Rest assured, managers aren’t merely saying ‘yes’ to the gottaminutes because they’re insecure people pleasers who don’t know how to say no (well, some are, but that’s not who this is directed to). We say yes because:

  • We appreciate our people and want them to know we’re available to them
  • We know that our people are often privy to valuable information that we’re not, and that it would be foolish to plug our ears when someone wants to talk
  • We enjoy interacting with our team
  • There is an issue that needs our input in order to be resolved
  • We are the only ones who can make certain decisions, and so need to find out if this is one of those
  • We’d prefer to be in the loop on any actions that need to be taken
  • We have carefully cultivated a culture encouraging open communication

So for all these reason, we tend to say ‘yes’ when there’s a gottaminute, and wonder if there’s a better way.

The trick is mining the gold from the gottaminutes and doing away with dross. To do that, we have to look at the four categories of gottaminutes. These are a) exchanges of non-urgent information b) coachable moments c) urgent issues and d) a side effect from micro-managing (you control freak, you).

Realistically, you’re never going to eliminate all the gottaminutes, and I’m not sure anyone would want to. But what we do want to do is give you, the manager, control back over your time while still maintaining a positive relationship with your team and a finger on the pulse of your operations.

The solution lies in setting up structures for your communication with your team. I recommend the weekly spot check, monthly one on one, the scheduled gottaminute, and the urgent gottaminute. It looks like this:

  1. Once a month you have a 30 minute one-on-one with your employee about their job, their goals, any projects, training needs, and general well-being. This is the time to talk about anything you’ve noticed in terms of performance trends, and to let them in on any company info they should know.
  2. Weekly spot checks are prescheduled times where they employee knows they’ll have your undivided attention to talk about anything. I recommend covering a few key points such as wins, obstacles, needs.
  3. Scheduled gottaminutes: Sounds counterintuitive, but the idea here is when someone needs your opinion or advice on a non-urgent gottaminute that you agree to meet later in the day at a time that works for you both. So if you’re in the middle of a report, or you have a meeting starting, you let the employee know that you want to be able to give them your full attention, and ask them to come back later.
  4. This leaves only the urgent gottaminutes, which you should legitimately make room for.

As you go through this process, there will be a period of retraining for your team and yourself, as you learn together what urgent and non-urgent really mean. A natural (and wonderful) by-product is that everyone will become weaned off the need for you to make every decision for everyone, and you’ll become more and more comfortable in the judgment of your team, and their ability to make decisions. They will also appreciate your efforts to give them your undivided attention, rather than a grudging, watch-checking (maybe even sighing) half-hearted gottaminute session.

Want to know more? Contact us today for more real-life support for managers.

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at info@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Business Management Leadership Development New Managers organizational development Uncategorized

What every manager ought to know about holding effective meetings

Ah, meetings. It’s not common to hear people raving about them, wistfully wondering why there can’t be just one more meeting this week. Although many companies have made significant progress into streamlining their meetings and eliminating the unnecessary ones, some companies are still decades behind the curve when it comes to meetings. There can be reluctance to change under the assumption that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, or a fear of under-informing employees.

Unfortunately, more meetings does not mean more effective communication, and what usually happens instead are some institutionalized weekly boredom sessions. Here are some signs that your meetings have become stagnant.

  • The agenda never changes
  • The majority of the time in the meeting is spent reviewing information
  • People don’t show up on time, or at all, and if they do they spend the time ‘multi-tasking’ (i.e. checked out)
  • No one can articulate the purpose of the meeting
  • Nothing changes as a result of the meeting occurring

There are some great resources out there to holding more effective meetings. I strongly recommend Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting for some innovative methods to completely revamp your approach. Organizational tolerance to some of Lencioni’s suggestions may vary but his underlying premise can be applied in any setting, and that is that the basis of any good meeting is constructive conflict. In other words, meetings should drive change and improvement, and this can only be done by challenging the status quo, speaking truth, being respectful, and examining other points of view.

I completely agree with this, and would hold that in addition to change and constructive conflict, another purpose for meetings is to foster team unity. Many people insist that this can only be done in person, but I’ve experienced excellent team building through virtual meetings. The fact remains that a properly facilitated meeting can bring people closer together, create shared experiences, and increase morale and unity.

Here are some things that I’ve found effective in accomplishing the objectives of creating change, achieving teamwork, and avoiding stagnation.

  • When building your agenda, consider what will be the most productive use of time. Reviewing numbers (after the team understands a P&L statement, of course) is something that can be done before the meeting. Discussing variances and best practices is a much better use of time. If you can’t trust your participants to review the material before the meeting, you have other work to do.
  • Another agenda item to include in big, bold letters is the intended outcome of the meeting. Put it right there on top: What do you hope to accomplish in this meeting? If you don’t have an intended outcome, other than ‘review x,y,z’ do you really need to have the meeting?
  • Set the expectations of your meeting clearly, and review as needed. Some of the expectations I like to set in a meeting are that people don’t look at their devices (and I include breaks to alleviate withdrawal symptoms), no sidebars, and minimal ‘piggybacking’ (restating someone else’s point).
  • Create an agenda where all the participants are talking equally. If you’re the manager and the one doing all the talking, you will probably be the only one who enjoyed the meeting.
  • If it’s a recurring meeting, change up the meeting every six months or so. Your cue to change the meetings up will be the level of energy and participation.
  • Get comfortable with silence, and force yourself not to answer it.
  • Team building and trust are critical if you hope to generate innovation in your meetings. It’s risky to volunteer a new idea, and people won’t do it in an environment where they don’t feel safe. You can’t force the trust, but you can increase the likelihood of it occurring by introducing exercises where the team gets to know one another more deeply. This should be an ongoing exercise. It’ s almost impossible to hate someone when you know their story, so as much as you can encourage this to happen, the more close knit your team will be.
  • Unique exercises. Some meeting outcomes that have always been important to me are brainstorming new ideas, and looking for positive occurrences in others. Because of this, I usually end up having two recurring agenda items in my meetings. One I call ‘Stupid Ideas that Just Might Work’, where people are encouraged to bring forth the most creative ideas possible. I called it that after noticing the tendency of people to say ‘this idea might be stupid, but’…the name of the exercise was ironic, and meant to drive home that all ideas are worth discussing and no one will die if the bring up an unfeasible one. Because we all know that all ideas are NOT good ideas. But that’s okay. Another is ‘Lines that Should be Mine’, where basically participants report on something a colleague said or did that they admired.

These are just some ideas, and there are countless more. The biggest piece of advice I can offer managers who are responsible for planning and executing meetings is to always keep it front and center that your role is to best serve your employees. Keep asking yourself what your employees need, and how do they need to hear it, and you won’t go wrong!

If you’re a leader who wants to learn more about how to create memorable meetings, click here to go deeper.

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Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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The magical formula for meetings that ‘don’t suck’

Any questions? Anyone? Anyone? It’s kind of a joke based on popular movies (at least, popular for my generation) but if you’ve ever led a meeting you know how it feels to try desperately to encourage interaction, only to be met with blank stares (or if you’re on a conference call not even that). I’ve seen meetings that were inspiring, awesome and trajectory-changing as well as meetings that gave a new definition to the word interminable. Having sat through and (unfortunately) led the bad as well as the good and researched the topic extensively, I’ve developed somewhat of a magic formula for fun and effective meetings (and that’s saying a lot for a confirmed introvert, let me tell you!)

It is all centered around the golden rule of meetings, which is that people remember what they say, not what you say. The more involved they are in the meeting, the more effective it will be. Period. It doesn’t matter what the purpose is of the meeting, or what information you have that they don’t. They will remember what engages them and they will be engaged when they are participating.

It took me a long time to a) learn this and b) use it effectively in most situations. In some cases, it’s obvious. If I’m gathering a group of managers together to discuss why sales are down then clearly I’m going to want a participative meeting, but what if I want to share they monthly financials? Or roll out a new incentive plan? Or discuss a current problem we’re facing? Or train folks on a new system or piece of equipment? Obviously in those cases, a lecture or presentation is most effective, with time for questions at the end, right?

Actually no. I’ve found that any time I’m lecturing or presenting info to people they are tuning out if they’re not talking, no matter how important the information is. The good news is that it’s possible to hold engaging, fun and participative meetings on even the most ‘boring’ of topics. Here’s my magic formula for engaging meetings:

1)      Develop a meeting intent

2)      Carefully balance an agenda to include participation, exercises and input

3)      Provide a specific expectation of meeting roles ahead of time

4)      Elicit and not just solicit input

5)      Employ brevity and humor (it’s a tie)

Regarding meeting intent, it’s important to be clear on the purpose of your meeting. If you’re just gathering people together because it’s been a while since you had a meeting (don’t laugh, I’ve heard this a lot) then you need to do a bit more prep. Don’t confuse the subject of the meeting with the purpose. There are all sorts of meeting subjects; sharing top down info, gaining bottom up info, training, financial review, policy implementations, etc.  To transition your mindset from subject to purpose, just keep asking why, and what do you want to be different as a result of this meeting? WHY do you want people to know the monthly financials? WHY are you training people? WHY do you want to tell them this info? It’s never just to give people more facts, but to help people do more or less or something different as a result of the facts. THAT is your meeting intent and THAT is what you need to keep front and center.

Balancing your agenda: Once you have your meeting purpose, it’s a lot easier to decide what should be on the agenda and how to present it. If you are reviewing financials, for example, your intent might be to have your managers take ownership of their departments, suggest ways to improve revenue and/or profit, or to account for the variances. OR, you might want to share a particular success with the intent of adopting it throughout the company, or continuing great progress. Alternatively, you may have identified a problem that needs quick resolution.  Knowing your intent allows you to decide how to deliver the info and what to ask of the participants. This will ensure that if you do decide to present the information in the meeting (rather than ahead of time) you can balance that part out with audience participation.

After you have an agenda that is balanced (or even better, weighted in favor of audience participation), it’s a good idea to share it ahead of time. For example, let your managers know that the purpose of the meeting will be to review their department’s financials and each manager will be delivering a five-minute presentation explaining their variance to plan (positive or negative). Or that you will be reviewing a decline in sales and asking each participant to review their contingency plan with the team. This will avoid your unduly embarrassing participants by ‘catching’ them being unprepared, and will also ensure people are actively engaged, knowing they will be playing a part in the meeting.

Fourth is to elicit and not just solicit input. This means you make sure everyone talks in your meeting. Because the point is not to catch people not paying attention but to ensure they are paying attention in the first place, make it clear at the outset that you WILL be calling on people. This is even more critical on conference calls where (like it or not) most people are muting the call and doing other things. Tell people that this is an interactive meeting and that each person on the call will be addressed directly at least once because you want to hear from them.

I couldn’t decide between humor and brevity for the final point. They both play critical roles in engaging people in meetings. As an act of human kindness, try to make your meetings as short as possible. Most people are just too busy to be able to stay engaged for very long. If you do require a long meeting do everything in your power as the leader to reduce other workload so as to keep people’s attention on the task at hand. And wherever you can, use humor. If you’re not funny, harness the funny person in the room for good, because otherwise they will derail your meeting for their own distracting purposes.  People can definitely laugh and learn at the same time and if they are enjoying themselves, they will not be doing other things during the meeting.

So there you have it…the magic formula for meeting preparation. If this was helpful to you, please let me know and happy planning!