Category Archives: Productivity

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

2016-04-20 16.05.46

Have I said, I hate Meetings?!   Here is what Dave Barry said about meetings — “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.”

Recently I compiled some information about how to improve meetings.    I think the number one thing you can do is carefully evaluate and protect everyone’s time and avoiding then unless it is the only way to effectively accomplish the purpose.

I’ve been in some great meetings with the Secretary of the Air Force, once with Dick Cheney in Afghanistan, with the Air Force Chief of Staff during the 9-11 attacks, etc.    When in the Air Force, we loved Staff Meetings, and based on span of control, I often attended two or three staff meetings every day, yea!   You had to have the prep meeting (with the staff) for the prep meeting (with my peers) for the actual meeting (with the boss) [my usual statement, “Sir, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”]  and the review meeting (with the staff).   That was about 3 hours every day.    Thank God we didn’t have iphones or facebook!

Anyway, I’ve compiled some thoughts, techniques, and considerations for holding meetings.   I stole them from Forbes, HBR, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Tom LaForce’s book (Meeting Hero), and the Bazillion meetings I have attended.   I’d love to get your feedback or additional consideration in the comments below.

Here are a couple Metaphor’s Tom used to describe meetings:

  1.  A Meeting is a Machine of Production, needs quality inputs, process of work, quality output
  2.  A Meeting is a Play – needs to be well-written, rehearsed, transformative, interesting, and end with an ovation
  3.  A Meeting is a Expedition – People working together to overcome difficulty in achieving a common destination.

A few statistics:

  • Employees average over 62 meetings per month
  • Executives spend 40 to 50% of their time in meetings
  • 33.9% of all meetings are wasted time for attendees
Executive Summary:
Meetings need clear intention and purpose
Meetings need to respect time and resources
Meetings need active engagement & collaboration
Meetings exist to drive action
Types of meetings:
  1. Staff Meetings – share common information at a single time/space – General McCrystal joint call to 6000 special ops troops weekly
  2. Informational Meeting – should be avoided if information can be disseminated and sent another way, might be used when information causes emotional impact or requires clarification of expectations
  3. Creative Meeting – Seeks collaboration of knowledge, experience, judgment and ideas.
  4. Executive Decisions – Courses of Action are announced or determined.
  5. Legislation of Responsibilities – Confirm decisions, decipher responsibilities & assign accountability
  6. Coffee Meetings – Youch! – Meeting to see about common possibilities, sales, investment, networking, etc…
  7. Roll-Call – Meetings for camaraderie or story-telling, chance to pass lessons informally
  8. Huddles – Quick standing meetings to focus group on a task
Direct Meetings:   (Cut to the Chase) – 2 Slides
  1. What is this about?
  2. What decision do you want me to make?
Assign Roles
  1. Leader – Drives Agenda & Discussion
  2. Facilitator – Manages Energy and Ensures Focus (Purpose & People)
  3. Notetaker – Keeps Minutes, Holds Parking Lot, Tracks Action Items — Reviews all at end of meeting
  4. Time-Keeper – Informs Leader and Speakers of time limits
Possible Meeting Agreements (for example):
  • Say what you are thinking
  • Ask the questions you want answered.
  • Put your concerns on the table. Raising them after the meeting isn’t helpful.
  • Consensus means everyone is willing to support a decision. Consensus is the method by which we will make all important decisions.
  • Let others finish before jumping in on the discussion.
  • No side conversations.
  • Turn off all electronic devices, and if you need to use one, leave the room.
  • Stay on topic until it is finished.
  • Listen with an open mind.
  • Once a point has been made and recognized, there’s no need to repeat it.
  • Keep comments brief and to the point.
  • Use respectful body language and tone.
  • Raise concerns about the meeting process, if you have them.
  • Identify and challenge any assumption.
  • Test all decisions against its likely impact on the goal( s).
When evaluating holding a meeting you should consider the following costs:
  • Travel Expense + Travel Time + Lost Productivity + Actual time in meeting + Lost Cognitive Energy
  1. Determine attendees.   Try to limit around 7 for span of control.  Greater numbers start to impact the subtle clues and body language.    Also, as size grows, individual effort decreases, resulting in less engagement and participation.
    • You might consider the unique/special bias each member might be bringing (stove-pipe org perspective, personal bias, historical experience, cultural norms, etc)
  2. Send intention and agenda ahead.   Request thoughts and suggestions.   Publish final 24 hours prior to meeting.
    • Request each person provide expected outcome and three questions they wish answered
      • I know the meeting was successful when…
    • Meeting Agenda items:
      • Stage-Setting (10% time)
        • Welcome
        • Intention / Expected outcomes
        • Ground Rules
        • Introductions
        • Ice-breaker – warm-up
      • Meeting Issue (80%)
      • Wrap-up (10%)
        • Final Comments & Parking Lot
        • Minutes / Action Items
  3. Expected Time – try for no longer than 43 minutes – meetings will grow to fill time alloted, leave time for social & informal talk
  4. Potentially start meeting at an unusual time, create a little pre-meeting cognitive dissodance
  5. Review what would be make it a “successful meeting”
Meeting considerations:
  1. Set the tone by starting the meeting on time; and surprise people by finishing on time.   (CEO’s, CTO’s, and Founders are most often late to meetings)   Women are more often late than men (10% more & 16% later than their male counterparts).   However, Women attend 11% more meetings than men.)
  2. Share Expected Outcomes around room as meeting starts or as an ice-breaker
  3. Remember to ask questions or clarifications.   The answers always lie in the questions
  4. Give space to uncomfortable silence
  5. Set clear agreements (above)
  6. Consider Stand-up Meeting – I had to do this at the Pentagon (34% shorter than average meetings)
  7. Cold-Call people who are not participating, warn that this may happen.  Do this in a positive way, don’t embarrass someone an impact trust and safety.
  8. Be clear, authentic, and honest in communication; watch for side-swipes and passive aggressive hits when attendees are silently upset.
  9. Decision Fatigue – Meetings contribute to the limited amount of band-width or cognitive resources available.   Don’t overtax.
  10. Create a parking lot to hold ideas that are off-topic, revisit prior to end of meeting.
  11. Ensure everyone has a voice in the meeting.   Consider giving people quiet time for reflection.
  12. Give people time to socialize afterwards and connect on side issues.
  13. Make sure to send a quick summary of critical discussion and action items after meeting.
  14. Utilizing virtual meeting software like zoom or google hangouts with chat function to maximize participation & engagement
  15. End Meeting with a quick evaluation of “how that went”, to create ownership by group and positive completion
  16. Celebrate and leave time for informal discussions afterward
Watched the following video to truly understand virtual meeting challenges:
LaForce, Tom. Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings (Kindle Locations 1779-1780). Tom LaForce. Kindle Edition.
HBR Website
Forbes Website
Entrepreneur Magazine
A bazillion meetings I’ve attended

Just Say Yes

OK – this weekend I finished a blog about the importance of saying NO.    So, God has to shake it up, and put someone else’s blog into my email today about the power of saying “YES”.    Never one to deny serendipity, I feel it is importance to acknowledge my appreciation of the importance  of saying YES.

The blog I received was from LANDMARK Insights… and I quote as follows:

“Yes” extends boundaries, establishes new playing fields, moves possibility from ideas to actuality. Actress and improv artist Tina Fey points to the opportunity yes affords us when she says, “the first rule of improv is agree—agree with whatever your partner has created. The second rule is yes, and—agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with ‘I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,’ and you just say, ‘Yeah…’ we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say, ‘I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,’ and you say, ‘Yes, it can’t be good for the wax figures,’ now we’re getting somewhere.” 

So how do I reconcile saying YES, while not putting myself into a productivity drain, or by saying NO, and not leaving me “wanting.”

I believe the answer remains, as discussed in the previous blog, that my decision to say YES or NO must come from alignment with my integrity (alignment of intentions or alignment with my highest purpose).

I must understand my values, vision, mission, goals and objectives and overall intention in the world.    This “strategic guidance” for our lives (or businesses) ensures focused productivity and then guides me to say YES or NO from a place of strength.

Because, when I say YES, it is an agreement, a commitment, a responsibility that reflects upon my character and requires my action and follow through.    Saying YES is saying I commit to you this action and I will stand by it.

As I discuss with my son, it is only my actions that tell my story and not the words I use.   Therefore, saying YES or NO to you is an insight to who I am.

But to end, I must acknowledge that many times I say NO to avoid leaving my comfort zone and hide.   Saying YES in that regard is really saying, step into your fear, make room for possibility, live life to the fullest, take a chance.   And although I agree with all of these wholeheartedly, saying YES or NO is about being alignment with all of who I am.

Blessings – Pierre


Just Say No

Two days ago, Matt Prater, the Denver Bronco’s clutch kicker was released.  Matt Prater holds the record for the longest field goal in NFL history and was nearly perfect last year, only missing one field goal.   Last year, in an intra-divisional rivalry game, Matt Prater secured a game winning field goal after San Diego’s Nick Novak missed a 53 yard field goal.   Matt Prater was 21 of 27 attempts outside of 50 yards over his entire career.   Matt Prater was set to make $2.1M this year the fourth most in the NFL (over Adam Vinatiere, who one Super Bowl 2003 for New England).   Matt is out of a job, because he couldn’t say No!

Almost all personal and business productivity discussions include a the importance of learning to say “no”.   It should be easy.    I’ve been desperately trying to tell other people NO since I was born.   But this is no easy task, why?

My coach and longtime friend reminded me that some of my best character traits are related to saying yes.   I want to make a difference in the world.   I see opportunities that may develop into possibilities.   I want to cultivate new and budding relationships and deepen old ones.  I care and want to provide empathy to others.    To me, saying YES means getting things done!

However, on the darker side, my shadow is in play.   I say YES because I’m fearful that I might miss lucking into a big reward, or miss a chance to be recognized as worthy by others.   I am fearful that saying NO might make other think less of me.   Frankly, I’m ashamed if I’m not seen as good enough.

Therefore, I say “yes” to investment opportunities, coffee meetings, errands, following internet rabbit holes, and worse of all, time-share promises; most of which suck my productivity, time or energy out of me.

So, how can I say NO, when pushing against all of these challenges.

Of course, like everything, it means living in truth, truth to my integrity, purpose, or “God’s will for my life.”   Every and any organization (individuals included) need to have a visceral understanding of their aligned purpose.  Understanding operating values, intentions (both strategic and tactical) mission and vision provide structures for what we should do AND what we shouldn’t do.

For example, my mission is to create a world of transformation through supporting the transformation of myself and others.   In 2014, that meant being holistically fit, leading my company, and loving my family.    Recently, a great equity investment opportunity was presented to my company.   Our company has a carefully crafted allocation strategy to manage risk and return.    This investment was not aligned with our current strategy; and after much consternation,  I said NO.   I felt bad.  I might have missed the next “Facebook.”  But, when peaking into my gut, it felt aligned.    Consciously weighing decisions against our integrity (purpose) creates a simple framework to say yes or no.

So back to Matt Prater.   My guess is Matt Prater’s purpose was to be the most consistent kicker in the NFL, a pro-bowler and maybe even a hall-of-famer.    After a previous substance abuse issue with the NFL, Matt made an agreement (whether fair or not), that he would not drink alcohol or be suspended.    As the media has portrayed, Matt said YES to a beer during the off-season, and then tested positive for blood alcohol, was suspended for four weeks, and ultimately lost his job with one of the best football franchises in the NFL.

Without a framework to weigh the consequences of our choices, it probably was easy for Matt to grab a beer from the refrigerator and say, sure, no big deal.   But if he could have weighed it against his integrity, maybe he could have said NO (addiction challenges aside).

I’m sad for Matt Prater, I’m sad for the Broncos, and I’m sad for the million times I’ve regretted saying YES to something that stole my time, energy, and dreams.    Build the framework and live from integrity, and saying NO becomes easier.

Blessings – Pierre