Effective Meetings – 4 Tips for Great Meetings
Most of us dread going to meetings. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

Effective Meetings – 4 Tips for Great Meetings

Most of us dread going to meetings because we feel like they’re going to be a waste of our time. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

When I was a young Lieutenant in the Air Force I was talking to one of the other Lieutenants. He said, “I try to keep all of my meetings to an hour or less. I feel like any meeting that runs over an hour isn’t productive”. Looking at my experiences at the time, I found that I agreed with that philosophy. This became one of the main guidelines I used for meetings throughout my career. It’s not always possible to keep a meeting to an hour or less. Here are 4 tips to have an effective meeting, no matter how long it is.

Effective Meetings Tip #1 – Have a Clear Purpose

The most important tip for effective meetings is to have a clear purpose. Make sure everyone coming to the meeting knows that purpose. Meetings sometimes drag on because attendees bring up topics that aren’t related to the purpose. People often see an opportunity to handle an issue while others are together in the room. As the meeting leader, it’s our job to keep the meeting on purpose and avoid extraneous conversations.

We need to make sure we’re calling a meeting for the right reasons. Meetings are for making decisions or bringing together work that individuals can’t complete on their own. All too often we end up doing work at the meeting that should have been prepared ahead of time. This can prevent us achieving the purpose of the meeting and often is a waste of time for the attendees. Sometimes it’s necessary to get a group together to complete the work that will support a decision. In this case, we must be clear that the team will present this work to support a decision in another meeting.

Effective Meetings Tip #2 – Have an Agenda

Creating an agenda for a meeting is more work up front, but it pays off during the meeting. Add each decision required to the agenda. Also, include any presentations or information that support those decisions. It’s important to set not just a time limit for the meeting overall, but also a time limit for each item on the agenda. There are times that should extend a topic because it is critical to making a decision. As the leader of the meeting, it’s our job to make sure that we stick to the agenda and keep things moving in line with the meeting purpose.

Effective Meetings Tip #3 – Manage the Guest List

To successfully achieve the purpose of our meeting, we need to make sure that we have invited all of the people who have a stake in the outcome of the meeting. The meeting organizer should invite the decision maker, presenters, and people impacted by the decision. It’s also important to keep people out of the meeting who don’t have a contribution to make. In large organizations, people will often show up to a meeting because they heard it was happening. These individuals sometimes cloud the information being presented by the meeting and often derail the agenda because they aren’t up to speed on the topic. The meeting organizer’s job must bring all the right people to the meeting and keep the wrong people out.

Effective Meetings Tip #4 – Don’t Speculate!

Speculating about facts or information can impact the decision-making process and often result in bad decisions that are costly or time-intensive to fix.  When leading a meeting we must avoid speculating about facts and discourage others from speculating. If information critical to making the decision has not presented, we need to go get it. We may be able to do this in real-time. If not, adjourn the meeting and reconvene later when the facts are available. Speculation often turns into circular arguments and people trying to prove each other wrong. Taking the time to get and verify the information we need will result in better decision-making.

These 4 tips have been mostly focused on someone who is a meeting organizer. If you find yourself in a meeting that is going off the rails, try to use some of these tips to help the leader get things back on track. Following these tips will help your next meeting be productive and efficient. Your teammates will thank you for being considerate of their time and making it a valuable experience.

The last fear that we're going to cover is the fear of saying no. I hate to tell people no, but sometimes we have to in order to get the best outcome.

Saying No: Facing Fear

All through October we’ve been talking about the things that frighten us and how to face them. The last common fear that we’re going to cover is the fear of saying no. We all have it. This is one that I have a particularly hard time with. I hate to tell people no, but sometimes we have to in order to get the best outcome.

Why is it so hard for us to say no to people? Often we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or we’re afraid they won’t like us anymore. Saying no to our boss comes with some concern about how it will affect our career. The likelihood that someone will stop being our friend just because we said no to them is actually pretty small. Our real friends will understand if we can’t say yes to what they’re asking for. When we explain our reasons, they’re usually pretty cool with it.

As human beings we have empathy for those around us and we don’t want to hurt others feelings. We should consider though, will we be hurting that person more if we DON’T say no in this case? And when it comes to saying no to our boss, we could actually be hurting our company, department or our boss even more by holding back.

Saying No Scenario #1 – Peers

Have you ever had one of your peers ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?” Sometimes it’s not a good idea. The extreme cases are actually a little easier. “I’m going to stand in a bucket of water and hold on to these electric cables, do you think that’s a good idea?” That’s pretty easy to say no to. When the request is a little more nuanced it can be difficult to say no to our peers. We want them to like us. We want them to think we’re a team player and we want them to like us! How do we say no when our teammate has an idea that is not in the best interest of the team?

One way is to look back at our mission. Does this idea fit into that mission? Is it in the best interest of the team, the customer or the people we’re trying to serve? If the answer is no, that can be the basis for how to say no. You don’t have to limit yourself to just saying no. Thoughtful feedback to your coworker can get their idea more aligned with team goals.

Saying No Scenario #2 – As a Leader

Saying no if you’re the boss can be harder than it looks. Especially if you used to be on the team and then were promoted to being the boss. Looking  someone you used to work with in the eye and telling them what to do can be challenging.  Sometimes the people on your team will take actions or have ideas that you need to say no to. Just like with our peers, keeping the mission and best interest of the team in mind will help. Avoid being arbitrary about whose ideas you listen to and whose you reject. We want to evaluate suggestions and solutions based on merit, not on who brings them forward.

Sometimes you have access to information about the big picture that you should take into account when making your decisions. You may or may not choose to share this information depending on the situation. Don’t forget that one of our duties as a leader is to develop our team, so when you have to say no, keep giving that feedback on how that individual can make their idea or suggestion better so you can say yes in the future.

Saying No Scenario #3 – To our Boss

If saying no to our peers and our team is hard, saying no to our boss can be downright impossible. We owe it to our boss to ensure they have complete information or understanding of the impacts of a decision. We can ask, is this in alignment with our mission and in the best interest of the team? A lot of times the answer is maybe. Sometimes we have to pick our battles. If the decision won’t cause catastrophic failure or isn’t a clear violation of laws or regulations, maybe we let it go. If there will be a serious breakdown in accomplishing the mission or a clear conflict of our organizational core values, it’s time to speak up.

A technique that we’ve talked about before is the one challenge rule. The boss makes a decision, you speak up once to make sure that the boss has all the information. If the boss decides to go forward anyway, you said your peace and aired your objection. This may not result in the decision you wanted, but at least you tried to help your boss and your team accomplish their mission.

Saying No with Dignity and Respect

These are just a few examples of times you might need to say no to someone, but the principles are the same. When we do say no to someone, whether it is our peers, our team or our boss, we always want to do it with respect and dignity. Coming from a place of fear or anger can distort our message and break down relationships instead of making them stronger. We should always strive to build better connections with the people, even if it means telling them no.

One thing that absolutely terrifies most people is getting up in front of a group and speaking. I’ve heard that many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. If that’s the case for you, we have some tips today to help you out.

Public Speaking: Overcoming Our Fears

It’s almost Halloween and all this month we’re talking about things that scare us. One thing that absolutely terrifies most people is getting up in front of a group and speaking. I’ve heard that many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. If that’s the case for you, we have some tips today to help you out.

There are a lot of reasons we get nervous about speaking in front of a group. First, It’s hard for us as human beings to single ourselves out and face a group alone. It can feel really lonely when you’re up on that stage without anyone else next to you. It often feels like we don’t belong on stage, or we don’t have enough expertise in what we’re speaking about. We think no one wants to hear what we have to say or that they’ll make fun of us. Many of us have had bad experiences and are afraid we might forget everything, say the wrong thing or just mess up really bad.

All of these feelings are perfectly natural. Even people who have a lot of experience with public speaking feel this way sometimes. If you are terrified of getting up on stage to talk, we can work with these feelings. We can use them to prepare ourselves to get our message across to our audience. Keep in mind that public speaking is about communicating and that your message is important to others.

Public Speaking Fear #1: I don’t belong on this stage

Let’s start with the idea that we don’t belong up on stage or telling other people what to do. When we feel this way, we need to ask ourselves, why am I giving this speech? Did someone ask me to do it and why did they ask me to do it? If your boss asked you to speak, it’s because they believe you have insight to share. They believe in you and you’re not on stage with no support. If you decided to give this speech, consider your original motivations and intentions about why you wanted to do it. Is there information you feel like you need to share? Do you have unique expertise that can help the group solve a problem? Keep that reason in mind through all of your preparation right up to the moment you start talking.

Public Speaking Fear #2: I’m Not an Expert

It’s easy to feel like we’re not enough of an expert to speak publicly, but we don’t have to be. When we’re getting ready to speak it’s helpful to remember that we are sharing not just what we know. We share our perspective, opinion and recommendation on a topic. It’s very similar to sharing what we think with our friends or coworkers on the subject. If we’re worried we will get asked a tough question, we can always do more research and preparation. In fact, we should be doing research, even if we have extensive knowledge on the topic. Understanding the views of others, confirming facts and how they support our position is great preparation.

Public Speaking Fear #3: I’ve Had Bad Experiences

Bad experiences can make us more reluctant to speak in public. We remember when we forgot what we were going to say, dropped our notes all over the floor and people laughed, or that time we completely got off track. These things happen to even the most polished speakers. but we can learn from these experiences to improve. Practicing our speech keeps us from getting off track or forgetting what we wanted to say. If we practice enough, we probably won’t need notes, so we won’t drop them. Use your phone to video your practice and you’ll get a good idea of how you look while speaking. It will probably be uncomfortable to watch. I hated watching myself when I first started making videos, but you’ll get more comfortable with it over time. You can also enlist coworkers or friends to watch you practice and get helpful feedback that will improve your speech.

Public Speaking: Next Steps

We really just scratched the surface today and you may be saying “I’m still not ready to speak in front of a group!” and that’s okay. These are very natural feelings, it’s important that we don’t ignore them or try to push through them, but that we understand and embrace them to help us improve. Remembering that we have an important message to share as well as the expertise to convey that message will help us feel like we belong on that stage. Doing research and preparing ourselves for tough questions from others will give us confidence in that message. There’s no substitute for practice to help us build good habits that will help our audience stay focused on our message. Try these three tips before you give your next speech in front of a group and let us know how it goes for you!

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Status-Quo – How to Keep it from Holding You Back

“That’s the way we’ve always done it.” I’ve fought against those words for most of my career.  As leaders we often want to improve our teams and keep them from being held back by outdated practices. I know how it feels to come up against the resistance from others when we see better ways of accomplishing our mission. When we challenge the status-quo, it’s usually because we want to make things better for our team, not worse. If this is really our primary interest in making a change, then it’s helpful for us to understand what causes this resistance and makes the status-quo so powerful.

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately  lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Questions for Challenging the Status-Quo

  • “What if?” helps us to think about outcomes that might be better than the current outcomes
  • “Why?” helps us to identify challenges we may face as we try to bring about change 
  • “Who? Where? When? How?” help us put together details that will make the change a reality

It’s possible to answer these questions and decide that no changes to the status-quo are necessary at this time. Also, we could decide that the solution will create so much dissatisfaction that an alternate solution might be better. Change for the sake of change has destroyed many teams even though the intentions behind it were initially very good.

The take-home lesson today is that even though change is difficult for many people, as leaders, we can’t be afraid to challenge long-held ideas or practices that no longer serve our mission. We must approach change in a thoughtful and empathetic way to get the improvement we are looking for.

Many times, we passively collect the information makes it through our ears and into our brains and, as a result, we don't fully understand the message. We engage in active listening when we treat listening as a conscious effort to understand what is being said.

Active Listening & Non-Verbal Communication

For the past few weeks we’ve focused on the internal aspects of communication that influence how others receive our message. We’ve also discussed the barriers and filters that keep us from understanding others when they communicate with us. This week, we talk about practical actions that will improve our external communication skills by taking an active role in hearing others through active listening in addition to observing non-verbal communication.

Many times, we passively collect the information makes it through our ears and into our brains and, as a result, we don’t fully understand the message. We engage in active listening when we treat listening as a conscious effort to understand what is being said.

Active Listening Tips

Active listening doesn’t always come naturally, yet there are steps we can take to improve our listening skills. Making a conscious effort to listen ensures that we understanding what others are trying to tell us which consequently leads to making more informed decisions. We also can learn to recognize if others are actively listening to our message and really understanding us. These four practical tips will help transform our listening from passive to active and, as a result, improve our communication:

  • Avoid communication barriers
  • Take notes
  • Summarize, ask questions and clarify points
  • Observe non-verbal communication cues

Non-Verbal Communication as Part of Active Listening

Non-verbal cues convey a great deal about how well we are communicating with others and give us an indication if they are understanding our message. In the video, Jason talks about four different kinds of non-verbal communication behavior and how they pertain to active listening. He even demonstrates non-verbal cues that engaged and non-engaged listeners show.

  • Eye contact
  • Smiling
  • Posture
  • Mirroring

Finally, if you’re interested in finding our more about active listening and non-verbal communication, there is some great information on the site Skills You Need. There are some additional skills for you to try, as well as a few more types of non-verbal communication you can take a look at.

 

 

Sometimes, we can make understanding others even more difficult by unknowing putting conversation filters in place that impact how we understand others. These conversation filters can prevent us from fully grasping the message that others are trying to get across to us. In addition, these filters can negatively impact our professional relationships because we are perceived as someone who doesn't listen. Innovation and initiative often suffer on teams where the leader doesn't listen because team members have little incentive to offer ideas.

Conversation Filters That Obscure Communication

Communicating effectively is one of the most important leadership skills and can be difficult even under the best of circumstances. As we talked about in last week’s video, there are many barriers to communication that come from external sources. Sometimes, we can make understanding others even more difficult by unknowing putting conversation filters in place that impact how we listen. These conversation filters prevent us from fully grasping the message that others are trying to get across to us. In addition, our team members might perceive us as someone who doesn’t listen if we fall victim to these filters. Innovation and initiative often suffer on teams where the leader doesn’t listen because team members have little incentive to offer ideas.

Conversation Filters

There are many conversation filters that limit our ability to understand the message that others are trying to get across. In this week’s video, Jason talks about three of the most common filters that you may experience, how to recognize them and how to deal with them effectively if you run into them:

  • Correcting – interrupting others to interject our view of what the facts are.
  • Interrogating – drilling down with questions to trap someone or place blame
  • One-upping – emphasizing our own accomplishments over others

We gathered a lot of the information we used in this video from a post by Peter Vjada. If you’d like to learn about more conversation filters and how to keep them from impacting our understanding you can check out the article here.

Effective communication isn’t just about how well we speak. How we listen to others is often more important to leadership than what we say.  Leaders must create a climate where ideas are listened to without bias in order to encourage creative solutions. To improve communication on our team we need to understand conversation filters and how they impact our ability to listen.

As leaders we spend a lot of time communicating with others. We communicate with the members of our team, peers, more senior leaders, customers and stakeholders. Effective communication is vital to ensuring that everyone on our team fulfills their role and accomplishes their part of the mission in conjunction with all the other members of the team. Even the most skilled communicators run up against communication barriers when they speak with other people. What makes these leaders such effective communicators is that they recognize these barriers exist and find ways to break them down.Perhaps an even bigger challenge is to notice when these barriers exist inside ourselves and prevent us from fully understand what others are trying to communicate to us.

Communication Barriers – Video Guide

As leaders we spend a lot of time communicating with others, whether we are trying to convey information, persuade others to support our position, or tell others about a decision we have made. We communicate with the members of our team, peers, more senior leaders, customers and stakeholders. Effective communication is vital to ensuring that everyone on our team fulfills their role and accomplishes their part of the mission in conjunction with all the other members of the team. Even the most skilled communicators run up against communication barriers when they speak with other people. What makes these leaders such effective communicators is that they recognize these barriers exist and find ways to break them down. Perhaps an even bigger challenge is to notice when these barriers exist inside ourselves and prevent us from fully understand what others are trying to communicate to us. Without the ability to recognize these communication barriers we run the risk of others misunderstanding what we are trying to communicate to them, or we may miss critical information or context that others are trying to communicate to us.

Communication Barriers

There are many barriers to communication and in this week’s video, Jason talks about a several of the most common barriers  that we might encounter in our day-to-day interactions with others. He’ll discuss each of the following communication barriers in detail as well as how they come to occur in our daily communications:

  • Language
  • Power Dynamics
  • Beliefs and Values
  • Age
  • Gender
  • State of Mind
  • Emotions

Jason also talks about the challenges of recognizing some of these barriers within ourselves and others, as well as practical steps we can take to overcome each of these communication barriers when they arise. Learning to identify communication barriers in ourselves and others can help us become master communicators that use our skills to lead others to achieve highly successful outcomes and accomplish our missions.

 

It's pretty clear to most of us that effective communication is essential to becoming a great leader. Whether we are the boss or just want to influence others on our team to contribute to a successful outcome, we need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely using a variety of methods.

Effective Communication – June Leadership Challenge

It’s pretty clear to most of us that effective communication is essential to becoming a great leader. Whether we are the boss or just want to influence others on our team to contribute to a successful outcome, we need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely using a variety of methods. Without effective communication we can find our team headed off in a direction different from the one we intended them to take, or we may need to give them much more supervision than we originally intended because we weren’t clear in our intentions for them.

Effective Communication Challenge

This month our challenge is to take a look at the ways we communicate with each other most frequently and to assess how effective our communication is. What is our most common method of communication? Face-to-Face? Email? Social Media? Phone? Something else? Do we think we are getting our message across clearly and concisely? Are other confused about what we are saying and have a hard time understanding what we want them to do? Do we often find that others come back to us with questions or need clarification? Sometime, does our team execute exactly what we said to do, but we maybe didn’t say clearly what we mean for them to do?

Our goal for this challenge is to consciously understand how we communicate most frequently with our team and start to determine if we are effective using that method. If we find that we might not have as effective communication as we would like, we can make adjustments and improvements now that we are aware of it. This month at Evil Genius Leadership Consultants we’ll be putting out more videos to help us address the areas we find from this challenge and become more effective communicators!

Photo Credit: By Nbostonstudio (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This week we're going to shift the focus to a way that we can act courageously to complement the mindset we've started to develop. Avoiding groupthink is a problem that every team faces and it takes courageous leaders and followers to point out when it occurs and correct it.

Avoiding Groupthink – Video Guide

I hope everyone had a peaceful Memorial Day weekend and got to spend time with family and friends as we all remember the sacrifices that great men and women made in service of our nation. We’re wrapping up our month discussing topics about being courageous leaders. So far we’ve mostly talked about how to get in a healthy frame of mind to help us act courageously so that we can solve problems and make decisions courageously. This week we’re going to shift the focus to a way that we can act courageously to complement the mindset we’ve started to develop. Avoiding groupthink is a problem that every team faces and it takes courageous leaders and followers to point out when it occurs and correct it.

Groupthink occurs when members of the team are afraid to speak up or hold back information that is critical to the discussion because there may be social consequences for speaking out against the group. It can be very challenging for many people to contradict a position that the group has arrived at, especially if we are new in the group or we think that what we have to say will be unpopular with the other team members. As leaders, our job is to watch out for groupthink on out teams and cut through it to make sure that we’re getting all of the relevant information to make decisions.

In this week’s video, Jason discusses why avoiding groupthink is important for every team and describes some methods that we can use to recognize and avoid groupthink.

Avoiding Groupthink as Team Members

  • Speak up!
  • Include all relevant information
  • Be respectful of others
  • Employ Intellectual Honesty
  • Encourage others to speak up

Avoiding Groupthink as Leaders

  • Be prepared and research the topic
  • Understand different stakeholder interests
  • Insist that assertions are supported with evidence
  • Ask probing questions
  • Actively solicit information and perspective from quiet individuals
  • Consider the decision carefully before implementing

It’s also true that in many cases a group can reach a decision with a consensus without getting caught up in groupthink. Just because our team might come to an answer quickly and unanimously doesn’t mean that we have encountered a groupthink situation. As leaders, what we really want to ensure is that the group arrived at the result through a rational decision-making process and employed intellectual honesty in coming to a resolution.

Photo Credit: By Shane T. McCoy (U.S. Marshals Office of Public Affairs) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As we continue with our May theme of Courageous Leadership, this week Jason talks about the idea of intellectual honesty and how it is different from simply telling the truth. Intellectual honesty has a basis in problem solving but can be applied to make well-informed decisions in a variety of leadership situations. Striving to be intellectually honest helps us ensure that we have considered all factors when making a leadership decision. Developing our team members to be intellectually honest gives them the ability to provide depth to their work that will lead to solid decision making. In the video, Jason talks about how to differentiate between our interests and our positions and how that distinction relates to intellectual honesty.

Intellectual Honesty – Video Guide

As we continue with our May theme of Courageous Leadership, this week Jason talks about the idea of intellectual honesty and how it is different from simply telling the truth. Intellectual honesty has a basis in problem solving but can be applied to make well-informed decisions in a variety of leadership situations. Striving to be intellectually honest helps us ensure that we have considered all factors when making a leadership decision. Developing our team members to be intellectually honest gives them the ability to provide depth to their work that will lead to solid decision-making. In the video, Jason talks about how to differentiate between our interests and our positions and how that distinction relates to intellectual honesty.

Components of Intellectual Honesty

  • Not letting beliefs interfere with seeing the truth
  • Including all relevant facts in our decision
  • Presenting facts to others without bias or misleading
  • Giving credit to others for their work

Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_honesty

Being aware of these concepts as well as our own biases helps us to make decisions based on all of the relevant facts and not just on the ones that support our position while leaving out facts that go against our argument. Even if we are not the decision maker, we can apply the principles of intellectual honesty when we present information to others who are making a leadership decision.

Jason goes on to talk about some practical tips you can use from Good to Great by Jim Collins in order to help you and your team adopt the principles of intellectual honesty in your day-to-day activities. Applying intellectually honest principles to our information gathering and decision-making processes helps us to make better decisions that stand up to external scrutiny and stand the test of time.

Photo Credit: By European People’s Party [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pages:1234»