Meetings Don’t Have to Suck. 3 Steps to Better Meetings

Raise your hand if you love random meetings!

Okay, then, raise your hand if you love weekly team meetings. Quarterly check-in meetings? Client check-in meetings? Committee meetings?

If you’re like most people, you’re not a huge fan. And you’re probably frustrated with the lack of preparation, organization, progress, and productivity.

If you do have your hand in the air, you’re probably in the minority. Perhaps you’ve never been to a meeting. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve learned the secret to great meetings.

Are all meetings bad?

Of course not. But a lot of meetings are. Which is unfortunate, because it really doesn’t take much effort to create a good one.

There are dozens of ways to improve meetings, but here are three key things you can do to make your meetings less painful and more productive.

1.) Meet out of purpose, not obligation

Just because it’s on the schedule doesn’t mean it needs to happen.

Don’t waste everyone’s time by holding meetings out of obligation or without a defined purpose. Having a meeting simply because it’s the second Friday of the month is ridiculous. Even if there are snacks involved.

Reasons to have a meeting:

  • Your team is working collectively to achieve a specific, defined objective
  • There are important updates to communicate, and it can’t easily be done via email
  • The meeting content is educational and will better prepare each attendee to be more successful in his/her role

Reasons not to have a meeting:

  • It’s Tuesday, and you always meet on Tuesdays
  • You like getting everyone together just to catch up
  • Someone brought doughnuts

If you are going to take your people away from their desks and into a conference room, don’t pull a Michael Scott. Make it count.

  • Make sure there are worthy objectives to achieve by the end of the meeting.
  • Communicate that objective when the meeting is set and remind everyone of the objective when the meeting starts.
  • Continue the meeting until it’s achieved, and end the meeting as soon as it’s achieved.

Tip: Meetings don’t automatically need default to an hour. If you’ve got 20 minutes of material to cover, schedule 20 minutes.

2.) Always have an agenda

Never ask people to come to a meeting without explaining in reasonable detail what will happen when they get there.

This forces the facilitator to prepare and lets each attendee know what they need to do in order to contribute and benefit from the meeting.

Tip: The agenda doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as three bullet points.

NOTE: Going around the room and letting everyone talk for 5 or 10 minutes is NOT an agenda. If you like these kinds of meetings, start a club or join a support group.

3.) Confirm and Commit

Get confirmation on who is coming to the meeting before it happens. Everyone on the invite list should be critical to the objectives, so if one person is missing, your meeting could be a waste of time. If you know that key people can’t make it, you can cancel the meeting ahead of time and spare everyone the pain.

You should also confirm at the end of the meeting. Before everyone gets up and walks out the door:

  • Get verbal confirmation from each attendee that the objective was met.
  • Make sure everyone understands and commits to doing whatever is required of them to further the objective of the meeting.

Tip: attendees aren’t there to be entertained. They are there to participate and contribute. Ask them if they got what they expected out of the meeting, and confirm what they will do as a result.

Working your way toward better meetings

These three things will help provide a solid foundation to significantly improve meeting attitudes and outcomes.

If you’re still sitting there fuming over the horrible meetings you have to attend, take a minute to look in the mirror. Your colleagues, prospects, and clients could be feeling the same way about the meetings you are having with them.



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How to Make Your Team’s Workstyles Work For You

Many of us understand that our work not only reflects on us personally, but also on our coworkers and our organization. Unfortunately, there are times when our respective workstyles and expectations are not in alignment.

Having everyone on different pages (or in entirely different books!) can result in mixed messages, disagreements, and high levels of frustration.

What kind of employee or manager are you? A rule follower? An innovator? An over-achiever? An expectations manager? All of these working styles can help contribute to organizational success, as long as they fit in with the company needs, goals, and culture. 

Rule Followers: All about structure

Who they are

Rule followers work well under a defined set of work objectives and standards. They crave structure, routine and stability. These employees will be at their best when they are in positions that have clear, consistent processes, tasks, and outcomes.

What to expect

Rule followers thrive in environments where their responsibilities and challenges are known and predictable. They like established, documented procedures that follow logical patterns. If you put your rule followers into situations that require lots of nuance, flexibility, and “winging it,” you will throw them off their game. These otherwise stalwart, dependable team members won’t be comfortable making decisions or following through in these circumstances. Anxiety levels will be high, and productivity levels low.

How to help them succeed

Identify your rule followers and keep them in positions with structure and accountability. Never assume you’re rewarding your lead accountant by moving that person into a sales or leadership position. Doing so could be a recipe for disaster. Not only will you have a person in the new role who can’t succeed, you will have also lost a reliable worker bee in the former position.

Innovators: Rules? What Rules?

Who they are   

Innovators are people who use the rule book as more of a guideline rather than an instruction manual. These are your creative colleagues, the ones who are constantly coming up with new ideas and looking for ways to streamline and improve processes. Innovative employees have a higher risk tolerance than rule followers and are much more comfortable going with the flow.

What to expect

Innovators are fans of progress and mixing things up. They value creativity and variety over tradition and routine. Innovators are comfortable taking on new things and working on the fly, and they thrive in flexible environments. If you put an innovator in a job with repetitive tasks and lots of constraints, that person will quickly lose enthusiasm. And because innovators are so comfortable with change, they won’t be afraid to start looking for a way out.

How to help them succeed

It’s pretty easy to recognize your innovators. They are the ones most likely to say things like, “What if we did this?” or “You know what would be even better?” Make sure these people are in positions where they have some level of autonomy over their work and a department or manager who is open to new ideas and process improvements. You don’t have to take on every suggestion an innovator makes, but creating a culture of stagnation will eventually chase your most creative employees away.   

Overachievers: Going above and beyond

Who they are

Much like innovators, overachievers are not fans of the status quo. But unlike innovators, they aren’t necessarily motivated by creativity and new ideas. They could also be motivated by personal accountability, competition, or perfectionism. No matter what motivation is driving them on, overachievers will often invest copious amounts of time and energy into everything they do, from the smallest task to the largest project.     

What to expect

Overachievers can be a huge asset to your organization. When their dedication and ambition is channeled in a positive way, their behavior can help set the standard for other employees. Because they recognize that results are a reflection of not just them, but the entire team, over-achievers are often helpful workmates and mentors. That said, adding an overachiever to a team full of lackluster employees as a quick performance fix will not serve you well. If the overachiever is the only one in the group with a desire to go above and beyond, resentment will set in quickly on both sides.

How to help them succeed

Overachievers are often motivated by career growth and recognition. If you have them on your team, make sure they can see options for future development when they succeed. You’ll also want to recognize their hard work and efforts. Sometimes, overachievers are motivated by perfectionism and/or a fear of failure. This is when overachieving can have adverse effects.

Fear-based overachieving can result in things like creating tedious or redundant processes, micromanaging teammates, even agonizing over what color font to use. Keep an eye on your overachievers to make sure they aren’t funneling too much time and energy into the wrong things. Help them prioritize their tasks, create efficient processes, and be able to recognize when good enough really is good enough.

Expectation managers: Whoa! Hold on there, champ.

Who they are

Expectation managers are those team members who help keep everyone’s big ideas in check. Generally speaking, expectation managers have been around a while and have a lot of knowledge. They would probably refer to themselves as realists. Or experts. Expectation managers feel they have a lot to offer and they want their voices to be heard.

What to expect

These folks come in two flavors: Helpful process managers and Negative Nellies. Helpful process managers have a gift for big picture thinking and a genuine love of strategy, planning, and execution. They know what needs to get done and what it’s going to take to do it. Negative Nellies tend to come at things from a worst case scenario or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” perspective. Both types of expectation managers can be helpful to your organization, especially in an environment filled with innovators and overachievers where the tendency is to bite off more than you can chew.

How to help them succeed

Using your expectation managers wisely requires striking a balance between their advice, your team’s enthusiasm, and your organizational goals. Do remember that many expectation managers have been around the block a few times. Their experiences can be of great use. That said, some of your so-called realists are basing their views on outdated models and processes, or a reality that no longer exists.

And a few of them are super intense rule followers— who just want to keep living by the old rules. If you’ve got expectation managers that are keeping the team focused on how to set and achieve attainable goals, that’s a good thing. If you’ve got expectation managers who are holding your team back, you’ll need to go about re-setting their expectations instead.

What’s your organizational makeup?

Let’s face it. Very few businesses are filled with only one kind of employee. But a good leadership team can help bring out the best in everybody. Get to know your employees and manage to their strengths.

If you want your organization to appeal to a particular type of employee, get to work building a company culture that supports those same values and work ethics. Once you have that groundwork laid, it will be exponentially easier to hire the kind of employees you’re looking for. In fact, they just may start looking for you.

Photo by Bigemrg

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How to Fail at Making Your New Hire Successful

Having the right people performing the right roles is a bit science, a bit art. We get people into roles for a variety of reasons – sometimes good and sometimes not so good. When we get a mismatch, we need to fix it – quickly.

The rest of the team can see the misfit, and often the person herself knows it. Everyone is just waiting for leadership to recognize and fix it.

But sometimes the mismatches are so great and glaring that we can’t even see them. Or maybe we don’t want do. Or we just don’t know what to do about it. So we wait.

I once worked at a company that had an entry-level marketing position open, and I recommended an acquaintance for the job. She interviewed, they loved her, and hired her.

In the day or two before she started, the shipping person quit and out of sheer desperation, they moved this new marketing hire into the shipping position – just until they hired someone for the job. Which was never. They forgot about the last-minute move and began to think of her as the permanent shipping person.

To make matters worse, she was so bad at her “new job” (in shipping) that they didn’t want to move her into a marketing position because they viewed that as a reward. And how can you reward someone for a job poorly done?

Well, let’s look at it another way

If she’s a good cultural fit (which she was), then what if we evaluate what her interests and skills are and then see what positions (or needs) we have in the company?

It’s quite possible that there is such a gross mismatch of skills that someone appears absolutely incompetent. But if you move them into a position that removes the activities at which they fail and adds in the activities in which they thrive, you might find yourself with a stellar employee on your hands.

This person wanted to be in PR, talking with editors at publications, developing messaging, writing press releases and articles. Not organizing the intricate details required for shipping hundreds of packages and ordering office supplies.

She tried to hold in there and be a team player because she really liked the company and the people, but found herself falling further and further into the ill-will of many at the company for her lack of attention to those details.

She eventually made the best decision for everyone and left the company to go work for a competitor…in their PR department. Where she was very successful. Go figure.

Leadership determines the outcomes

It’s unfortunate that the leaders couldn’t or wouldn’t take the time to properly manage the investment they made into their staff. They were always too busy with their heads down doing their “jobs” to worry about such details.

If you are in a leadership role, it’s your responsibility to make sure you are getting the best out of your team– including making your new hire successful.

This means coaching for job responsibilities, skill training, and personal/career development. When this is done well, with necessary actions taken, you’ll have a great performance management program and successful, productive employees.

Photo by irishwildcat.

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Is Basic Skills Training for Employees a Waste of Time?

Or are you wasting more time by not doing it?

Sure, it might be a little embarrassing for you or your employees to admit to a lack of knowledge or skills, especially when it comes to the basic office programs and technology you use every single day.

But here’s the kicker: You might not even realize what you don’t know— until someone shows you a better way.

You don’t know what you don’t know 

How many times have you smacked yourself on the head after learning a new time-saving trick and said, “Holy crap! I wish I’d known that years ago!” I’ll admit to more than my share of these moments. (This may have happened yesterday.)

Let’s face it. When you invest in training your people to better use the technology integral to their jobs, you will have happier, more skilled employees, and end up saving them significant amounts of time and frustration. 

And if time = money, it’s good for your bottom line as well.

Other perks of on the job skills training for employees include:

  • A culture that promotes continual education and professional development 
  • Improved employee confidence, morale and engagement
  • Removal of the stigma associated with asking for help

Sounds good, right? So what’s next?

Tap internal resources

Every company has one or more people who know the systems really well. Often, these are the go-to people when questions come up. 

One such woman I know begged her employer to let her host short, technical training sessions for the staff on a regular basis. We’re talking 10 minutes at a time, a couple of times a week. She was even brave enough to guarantee results and increased productivity

Management quickly dismissed the offer, declaring it wasn’t necessary. Unfortunately, that decision was made by people who weren’t stuck at their desks plugging away at complicated documents and spreadsheets day in and day out.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team knew this person was a tech whiz and often went to her on their own to learn various shortcuts, processes and fixes. So instead of this person giving the entire team 10 minutes twice a week, she ended up giving away countless hours to individual colleagues, 10 or 15 minutes at a time, on a regular basis. How’s that for a productivity loss?

Let’s go over that again. One of your most competent employees offered to provide useful skills in a streamlined way to everyone, and was turned down. Instead, she now spends significantly more time helping individuals one on one, while her own work sits.

Don’t allow this to happen in your organization. If you have an internal star, invite them to share what they know. If not with everyone, then at least within their department. A quick 10 minutes at each team meeting could result in vastly increased efficiency and productivity.

Seek outside help

If you don’t have anyone qualified (or willing) to mentor others internally, seek help from outside experts. This is especially critical if you’re implementing a new technology or onboarding new employees.

  • Bring experts to your location to host on-site training sessions
  • Send staff to local community colleges for skills enhancement
  • Reimburse employees who are motivated to do this on their own
  • Take advantage of online training, classes and certification programs

If you’re investing in new technology, hire someone from that organization to come in and help get your team to get up to speed. Chances are, your new system is already expensive. What does your ROI look like if no one knows how to use it properly? 

Build staff training into the projected cost upfront. It’s money and time well spent.

Ain’t no shame

If you’re reading this article and recognize yourself as someone with some skills gaps, don’t worry! You’re in the vast majority. 

The only reason to feel bad is if you waste the opportunity to improve.

This is the second post in a two-part series of blogs about employee skills training. For more information on this topic, read What Your Employees Don’t Know Can Hurt Them– And You. Subscribe to this blog to receive new HR-related posts and updates each week.

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What Your Employees Don’t Know Can Hurt Them. And You.

Ever wonder how much time and productivity is wasted because people don’t really know how to use the programs they need to do their jobs?

These days, proficiency in basic office software is both expected and assumed. We’re told to leave this detail off our resumes because it’s a given. As a result, no focus or training is invested in educating staff on how to efficiently and effectively use those programs. This is a giant mistake.

When it comes to workplace technology, the majority of us are self-taught. In other words, most of your employees learned these programs out of necessity— and on their own. This system sounds pretty good until you consider that many people are probably only learning a.) basic functionality and b.) on a need-to-know basis. 

To make matters worse, the way you learn to do something the first time is likely the way you will continue to do it year after year, even if it takes you three extra steps.

True confessions

All right. I’ll admit it. I’m a classic example of this phenomenon. I’ve learned pretty much all of my technology skills on the job, based on whatever I was doing at the time. 

Over the years, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time alone at my desk, sweating it out, trying to figure out how to do certain things, only to find out later that I had creatively engineered some highly inefficient processes, and then continued to use them for way too long. 

The thing is, I know I’m not alone. I’ve watched fellow co-workers use equally cumbersome processes to do simple things. I’ve also witnessed plenty of people, leadership included, who literally do not know how to use basic technologies that are integral to the success of their positions and the organization. 

I even worked with one individual WHO TYPED EMAILS WITH THE CAPS LOCK ON to make life just a little bit easier. Capital letters are hard, y’all.

Passing the buck

Those in higher-level positions may have the luxury of passing certain tasks off to others in lieu of learning new technologies. Call it delegating if you like, but at some point, this evasion tactic will eventually become a point of contention for the team. 

As for the rest of us? Well, we don’t have a choice. We just get to figure the sh*t out. 

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone on your team wasn’t just competent with your database, CRM, and operating systems, but rockin’ them out? Imagine the time, energy and cash you could save! And that’s not even counting the reduction in migraines.

Bottom Line: I guarantee your productivity will go up once your staff really knows how to use their tools.

Why not do everyone a favor and make that possible?

This is the first post in a two-part series of blogs about employee skills training. For more information on this topic, read Is Basic Skills Training for Employees a Waste of Time?. Subscribe to this blog to receive new HR-related posts and updates each week.

Photo by Pavlo Syvak

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