Make Meetings Work

If you’ve read my book, “The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership”  you know I’ve devoted a fair amount of thought and study to the subject of effective meetings. While many people hate meetings, I’ve found that efficiently run meetings are productive and even fun. Just when I thought I had the perfect formula for meeting magic, I ran across a great business leadership book called “Traction,” by Gino Wickman, which expanded my thinking and meeting practices in a number of positive ways.

Traction provided some great ideas for making our meetings better than ever. For example, not only do we find time to connect as people and colleagues (without the meeting veering off into a 20-minute account of someone’s new car or perfect golf game), we definitely focus on the issues that matter most. Wickman calls this a “meeting pulse,” which gets taken with the help of his “Level 10 Meeting Agenda.” He says, “The Level 10 Meeting Agenda is a tool that will help you get to the core of what makes for great meetings, namely conflict and resolution.”

Here are some takeaways that might help kick start your meetings too (see my sample agenda at the end and feel free to adapt it for your own organization):

  • Start with sharing personal items during the “Segue” portion of the meeting, which helps to build personal connections.  This is where I ask everyone to share something personal to build personal bonds (like, my kid is having challenges in school, and I’m doing A/B/C to help). The agenda has suggested time allotments for each section. This helps everyone to remember to share meaningful information concisely.
  • In the part of the meeting where people share customer/employee highlights the idea is to get the meeting off on a positive note. I don’t want to ignore problems or issues, which we tackle in the “workout” section, but remembering the positive employee and customer experiences is especially important since our leadership team only meets once per month.
  • Covering the Scorecard (see my previous post for more on Scorecards) and goals/rocks right away without discussion is by design because this section of the meeting just sets the stage for the in-depth discussion to follow.
  • The bulk of the L10 meeting is to discuss ideas/issues.  As things come up from one month to the next, I’ll email our office manager, who keeps the agenda, to make sure these items are added to the agenda. This process makes it simple to create the agenda (anyone on the leadership team can add items knowing they’ll be covered at the next meeting).

Intertech Meeting Agenda:

  1. Segue (11:00, 5 Minutes). Each meeting answer one of the following:  What’s one good personal and professional thing since the last workout?  What’s working at Intertech?  What is one highlight from the weekend?  What’s the biggest win in the last seven days.
  2. Scorecard (11:05, 5 Minutes). Review of financial and operating metrics.  Update, not discussion.
  3. Rock Review (11:10, 5 Minutes). Review top goals.  Update, not discussion.
  4. Customer/Employee Headlines (11:15, 5 Minutes). Share positive wins since last meeting.
  5. Workout (11:20, 90 Minutes). This is the core of the meeting.  It is going over upcoming plans for
  6. strategic goals and important issues that surfaced in end-of-day huddles.  Review/update quarterly goals (All).  Review/update Work Plan items (All).  Define 90-day work plan for ’18 goals
  7. Conclude (12:50, 10 Minutes).  Recap To-Do List. What shook out today that needs to be tackled by whom?  Cascading messages. What messages need to be communicated company-wide?  Next meeting: When’s the next meeting?  Rate meeting 1-10 (Should be 8+). Less than 8 merits discussion so we can improve.
  8. Next Meeting Date

How to cultivate winning client-consultant relationships

Much like members of Congress must “reach across the aisle” to forge effective political partnerships, effective client-consultant relationships work best when both parties communicate, participate, treat each other with respect and share responsibility for outcomes.

Unfortunately, as frequent legislative failures demonstrate, people do not always play by common-sense rules.

When they do, however, the results can be impressive. As the owner and CEO of a consulting company that works with hundreds of organizations to build software, I can attest that great work happens when we partner with clients who share these values. In fact, our people will go far beyond what is reasonably expected when a client follows these simple principles… read the full article in Upsize magazine’s “How to cultivate winning client-consultant relationships.”

5 ways to increase workplace flow — and happiness








Wasting time at work costs businesses thousands of hours in lost productivity every year.

There are so many distractions vying for employees’ attention — from silly social media to long, pointless emails and meetings — some employees confess they waste at least half of every eight-hour workday.

Read my full article 5 ways to increase workplace flow — and happiness at The Business Journals.

Good Leaders Mentor

If you’re a leader, you’re also a teacher – whether you realize it or not. A recent Harvard Business Review article, “The Best Leaders are Great Teachers” by Sydney Finkelstein (Jan/Feb 2018) made me think more about this important role leaders share. For many of us, teaching others happens simply by setting examples (good or bad). That’s powerful and important, but taking an intentional approach is worth the time and effort too. In fact, Finkelstein, faculty director for the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, argues that taking an intentional approach to teaching within your organization will strengthen your staff and drive superior business performance.

This makes sense but how do you go about it? Organizational leaders are busy people and adding “teaching” to your already groaning “to do” list might sound daunting. But Finkelstein, who has studied world-class leaders for more than a decade, has found that it’s easier than you might suspect. He found that “teaching” can be defined broadly, falling into three main categories:

  1. Pointers on professionalism
  2. Technical knowledge
  3. Broader life lessons

He also found that many looked for opportunities on the fly, in addition to formal scheduled opportunities (such as annual reviews). Many also created teaching moments, often by taking protégés off-site for informal conversations in less stressful situations. I’m a big believer in setting a schedule, like meeting every quarter, to ensure consistency. And when it comes to teaching by example, nothing beats sticking to your scheduled appointments and respecting everyone’s time by starting and stopping as scheduled. I’ve developed a few teaching tips and mentoring techniques of my own over the years:

  1. If you’re an introvert, let the voice in your head come out (they can’t read your mind!).
  2. Recommend other thought leaders that can positively influence thinking. Whether it’s a book, course or other coaches, I always try to provide additional resources to inspire those I’m coaching or advising.
  3. Help other people in their network when possible, such as people who may report up to the person you’re coaching or teaching.
  4. Use your network and frequently ask, “who in my network might be able to help this person with what her or she is trying to achieve?”
  5. Remember that no relationship lasts forever. Know when you’ve imparted most of what you have to offer and be on the lookout for someone else who may be able to teach/inspire your mentee in new ways.

Finkelstein notes that leaders in his extensive study helped to make lessons “stick” by (1) customizing instruction to the needs, personality and development path of each individual, (2) asking pertinent questions to deepen learning, and (3) modeling the behavior they want others to practice.”

Here’s my practical advice to those seeking to maximize the benefits of a mentoring relationship:

  1. Listen and don’t be defensive.
  2. Take notes. It shows you’re taking things seriously.
  3. Follow-up on action items.
  4. Do what you promise or clearly explain why you did not.
  5. Say thank you in a meaningful way. In most cases, your mentor has more than enough money and doesn’t need a gift. Most people, however, are hoping to make an impact. Let your mentor know that he or she did and how that is making a difference in your life or career.
  6. Pay it forward. Look for someone you can teach or mentor and pass along the valuable lessons you’ve learned yourself!