Sunday, March 3, 2019

Ways to Keeping Your Work Meetings on Track

When is the last time you were at a fantastic meeting? I would venture to say the majority of internal meetings are painful and expensive time sucks, especially if you consider the collective wages and time your organization is losing for however many people to sit around and talk.
How often do you regret going to your staff or management meetings?  Be honest. I have only worked in a few places where all the staff enjoyed and participated in meetings and worked as a team. 

Lately, I hate attending staff, management or planning meetings because the same people practice and rehearse different ways to derail the meeting and to never stop talking until they are certain that nothing has been accomplished. I keep waiting for the leadership to stop the nonsense, but it hasn't happened yet. 

Have you seen this behavior before? If not prepare yourself for a show of people that give new meaning to being obnoxious. They never stop talking and I keep wondering if they ever pause to ask themselves, why am I talking?

Here is a snapshot of W.A.I.T. - Why am I talking?
There are a few things that can be used to make your meetings better.
1. Stop derailment before it starts.
Results," Roger Schwarz recently wrote a guest blog for Harvard Business Review in which he said there are three things you can do to keep a meeting from going off-track.
First, spell out and get agreement on the purpose of each part of the meeting. If someone believes other issues need to be addressed they'll have the opportunity to say so instead of bringing them forward as rabbit trails once the meeting is rolling along.
"If it's not your meeting and there is no agenda, simply ask, 'Can we take a minute to get clear on the purpose and topics for the meeting to make sure we accomplish what you need?'" Schwarz writes.
Also, don't move to a new subject without properly closing out the prior one. Ask people if there's anything else that needs to be addressed regarding the topic. If someone isn't ready to move on, find out why not. Doing so lessens the chance they'll reintroduce the same subjects down the road.
And if you think someone is derailing a meeting, determine if they're doing it for a legitimate reason. Tactfully ask him or her how what they're talking about relates to the subject in question. Maybe there's a connection you or others hadn't considered.
2. Hold your stand-up meetings at 5 p.m.
Stand-up meetings aren't new, but making people do it at a time of day when they want to go home is an unconventional way to ensure a meeting doesn't stray off-course.
3. Make sure everyone is on the same page.  
LinkedIn has done away with in-meeting presentations because people can read them on their own. But CEO Jeff Weiner has some other strong beliefs about meeting etiquette. He stresses the importance of defining semantics. He writes:
It never ceases to amaze me how often meetings go off the rails by virtue of semantic differences. Picture a United Nations General Assembly gathering without the real-time translation headphones and you'll have the right visual. Words have power, and as such, it's worth investing time upfront to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of what certain keywords, phrases, and concepts mean to the various constituencies around the table.  
Weiner says it's also important to identify one person to "keep the car on the road" by making sure the conversation remains relevant, no one dominates the discussion, and adjunct discussions are taken offline.
4. Agree on rules and have them enforced by an issue-neutral person.
The worst offenders when it comes to derailing meetings are ramblers, bores, show-offs, latecomers, naysayers, time wasters, and minutia-minders, writes Charlie Hawkins, president of Seahawk Associates, an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based management resource for strategic planning, idea generation, and communications effectiveness.
The first thing to do, he says, to agree on ground rules. For example, your team could agree that meetings will start and end on time, a prioritized agenda will be followed and no side conversations are allowed. You could even make a rule that chronic latecomers will be tasked with facilitating the next meeting.
Then, when ramblers ramble, someone can raise the agenda rule. Use some kind of parking lot--board, paper or another mechanism--for capturing side issues that can be addressed at a later time. And you can appease attention-seekers or derailers by giving them a job, such as a timekeeper.
Hawkins says gentle but assertive facilitation is better than direct confrontation and should be employed by an issue-neutral person who's not the boss or someone otherwise invested in the outcome.
Work with a particularly disruptive person? Don't invite him or her to meetings. If that's not possible, the person's supervisor will have to initiate a frank conversation. This direct approach might not be fun for anyone, but it's worth doing if it results in less time wasted in meetings.
The following tips can help when setting ground rules for your next meeting: 

  • Show up on time and come prepared. Be prompt in arriving at the meeting and in returning from breaks
  • Stay mentally and physically present
  • Contribute to meeting goals
  • Let everyone participate
  • Listen with an open mind
  • Think before speaking
  • Stay on point and on time
  • Attack the problem, not the person
  • Close decisions and identify action items
  • Record outcomes and follow up

It is possible to make the workplace a great place with the right leadership and management stepping forward. Information in this blog is shared from an article in Inc. Magazine by Christina DeMarais called 4 Ways to Keep People from Derailing Meetings.

Mikael Wagner - Promotions West -


Many years ago I entered the field of broadcast media with no skills or any understanding of media. A woman interviewed me for the position of Assistant Public Affairs Director and gave me the assignment to write a news story on a specific topic that could be read in 30 seconds. I wasn't worried because I had been a teacher and knew how to write. Being very proud of my work, she took one look and I thought uh uh I am doomed. She took the time to explain the difference in writing like an educator and writing for the ear like media people do. With her help and guidance, she worked with me until I got the news copy correct.  She left the room and the next thing I heard was my news story being reported. At that moment I was confused and excited. She thanked me for my time because she had other interviews scheduled but would be in touch. Again, I thought I flunked the test. Within 2 weeks, I was the new Assistant Public Affairs Director learning as fast as I could to understand and try new things without being afraid of failing. From the position of Assistant Director, I became the Director of Public Affairs once my boss moved to a more powerful radio station. From there I was able to move into many other exciting positions in radio and television. My training in broadcast media helped me to start my own Public Relations and Marketing agency.
My director, best friend, and the best mentor ever was the late Dr. Julia Hare.

My boss, I later discovered was one of the founders of the Black Think Tank and a great author of many books with her husband, Nathan Hare, Ph.D.  It didn't stop there, she had a doctorate in Psychology, was known on every national talk show and throughout the media. If it wasn't for her playing a major role in my life I would not be the person I am today. She was tough on me but loving, pushed me as hard as she could, but always waiting to catch me if I tripped and she taught me everything about broadcasting, writing, how to dress, how to speak and how to be a true champ. She also taught me major lessons on being proud, about Black history, jazz and all types of music, lessons of racism and hatred that exist all over the world, about prisons and the Black community, about the fake war on drugs, and most importantly to always remember the color of my skin and always greet another brother or sister that looks like you. She also taught me about Blacks that desire more than anything to not be black, she called them Tom and Tomasina. The most important lesson she taught me was to always hire someone smarter than me so that another will have a chance to grow.

Dr. Julia Hare’s work has brought her many awards and honors including Educator of the Year for Washington, D.C. by the Junior Chamber of Commerce and World Book Encyclopedia in coordination with American University; The Abe Lincoln Award for Outstanding Broadcasting, The Carter G. Woodson Education Award, The Association of Black Social Workers’ Harambee Award; the Scholar of the Year Award from the Association of African Historians; and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Black Writers and Artists Union. Hare has been inducted into the Hall of Fame of her high school alma mater, Booker T. Washington High, was given a Presidential Citation from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and was named one of the ten most influential African Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Here are some of the books by Nathan and Julia Hare. In fact, I am re-reading the Black Anglo Saxons and the ink is still wet like it was written this morning.

Julia Hare was my lifetime mentor. Even today, she is with me in every political meeting in the Mayor's office or even a staff meeting. She taught me how to enter a room and evaluate it within 5 seconds to know where the hatred is or where the racism sits. To this day, I evaluate every room that I am about to enter.

A good mentor possesses the following qualities: Willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise. A good mentor is willing to teach what he/she knows and accept the mentee where they currently are in their professional development. Good mentors can remember what it was like just starting out in the field.

Have you ever had a mentor, someones that genuinely care about your growth? I hope that everyone says YES, but I know that may not be the case.

Here is a video of Dr. Hare speaking out about life. Makes me sad that many of the same issues are being dealt with every day while living, breathing, working, driving or shopping while being Black. 

I wanted to share my feelings on the importance of having a mentor in life. I lost my mentor at the end of February. Most appropriately that it was Black History Month. When you care about someone it's difficult to accept the news. I cried, then I smiled because at that moment I knew that she would always be with me and guiding me on the correct path.

I would love to hear about your mentors that help to guide you. Please share the great qualities that were shared with you.

Mikael Wagner - Promotions West -