How To Run a Great Meeting

By Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA
Leadership Coach
http://www.redpointcoaching.com

‘One either meets or one works’ – Peter Drucker

‘Shadowing’ my clients at meetings they lead or participate in is an important part of my leadership coaching. It is a highly effective coaching technique that allows for just-in-time feedback to my clients.

Through these shadowing sessions, I get to experience many different meeting settings and styles. Time and time again I am amazed how poorly some of these meetings are run (yes, even by some of my clients…). No wonder our people complain about meetings: they are boring, the boss just drones on, we don’t actually accomplish anything, etc. etc.

By following three very basic principles, you will be virtually guaranteed to run a solid – maybe even a great – meeting. You will help your team achieve bigger goals, resolve and even prevent unhealthy conflict, and promote good teamwork.

Like with many things in life, the 80/20 rule applies: apply these basic three principles to your meetings (20%) and you will take care of 80% of the usual meeting dysfunctions.

Before I get to the three principles, one thing upfront: only have a meeting if you need a two-way conversation. Meetings are meant for discussion, debate, and decision making. If you merely need to relay information one way, consider other methods (such as email).

 

Define Outcome Goals for Every Agenda Item

Get into the disciplined habit of sharing outcome goals with your team at the onset of every discussion. Start every agenda item with the following sentence: “The outcome goal of this discussion is to….”.

Here is a list of things I hear all too often that are NOT outcome goals:

  • ‘talk about…’
  • ‘further discuss…..’
  • ‘tell you all about…’

 

Here is a list of good outcome goals:

  • ‘make a decision on….
  • ‘develop a clear plan for…’
  • ‘brainstorm and capture ideas for ….’
  • ‘get buy in for….’
  • ‘receive input on…’
  • ‘get everyone’s questions on … answered’

By forcing yourself to define an outcome goal, you clarify for yourself and your team why this is worthy of discussion.

 

Clarify How You Will Make Decisions

Before capturing any decision you are making during the meeting, clarify how you will make it. I have experienced countless cases where leaders did not communicate how they will make their decision leading to huge frustrations on the team’s part.

Here is the classic scenario: the leaders simply wants input from the team, but in her mind it’s clear that she will make the decision on her own after listening to her team’s discussion. As far as she is concerned, the team has consulting/influencing power but no decision-making power. The team members, on the other hand, assume that they actually have decision-making power (e.g. through a vote) and are stunned that the leader wraps up the discussion by stating that she will announce her decision next week.

To avoid the frustration, the leader could have clarified at the onset of the discussion: ‘I will make the decision next week after hearing everyone’s opinion and input today.’ Alternatively she could have said: ‘We will make this decision by majority vote,’ or

‘It is important to me that everyone is 100% on board with the decision we reach. Hence we will make the decision by consensus.’

No matter how you will decide, communicate your decision-making process upfront, thereby avoiding misunderstandings and frustration!

 

Capture Decisions, Next Steps and Accountability

Many people dislike meetings because they feel nothing ever gets decided or acted upon. Don’t run one of those meetings.

Your goal as the meeting chair is to make sure that all team members understand what has been decided on at the meeting, what the next step is, who will take it, and by when.

Once you have reached a decision, have your team members verbalize/paraphrase their understanding of the decision. You will be amazed how this simple exercise of paraphrasing surfaces misunderstandings about decisions you assumed had been made!

Don’t keep minutes – capture decisions, action items, ownership, and timelines. After the meeting, send brief notes out to all the participants of the meeting.

These notes might look something like this:

 

Decision?

Fill the open position in our department by end of September 2015.

 

Next deliverable?

Draft job ad in conjunction with HR and email to all before next meeting. Finalize at next team meeting.

 

By whom?

Bill (Director of Marketing)

 

By when?

Email job ad to all before next meeting

Be sure to bring these notes forward to your next meeting. Start the next meeting with a review of the outstanding action items from last meeting. You will be surprised at how productive your people will be when they know that they will be held accountable in front of their peers. If they haven’t made progress, use this time to figure out why and help them remove obstacles.

I believe that even the late, great Peter Drucker would have agreed that meetings which follow these three basic principles would be worth attending!

 

How To Drive Success In Your Business (And Family) by Urs Koenig

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Want your staff and children to be more successful?

Yes, of course you do!

It’s oh so very easy:)  Simply cultivate the following combination of traits in your employees and your kids:

 

  1. A Superiority Complex. Instill in them a deep seated belief in their exceptionality.
  1. Insecurity. Make them feel that who they are or what they have done is not good enough.
  1. Impulse control. Teach them the ability to systematically delay gratification.

It’s odd to think of people feeling simultaneously superior and insecure. Yet it’s exactly this contrary combination that two Yale law school professors found that generates drive. In their book , “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America,” they detail how a chip on the shoulder and a burning desire to prove yourself, combined with the ability to sacrifice present gratification in pursuit of future attainment creates a  winning combination for success.

Chue & Rebenfeld, whose work was recently featured in the New York Times found a seemingly un-American fact about America today: for some cultural groups, the American dream of upward mobility is much more alive than for others. Some of the winners include Indian Americans, Iranians, Lebanese and Chinese. These groups, on average, earn almost double the national income.

Among religious groups, the success of Mormons in corporate America is well documented. Jews make only about two percent of the United State’s adult population yet make up a third of the current Supreme Court and about a third of American Nobel Prize winners.

Merely stating the fact that certain groups do better than others, as measured by income and test scores, can set off a firestorm and accusations of racism. It’s almost too obvious to state but these facts don’t make one group ‘better’ than others and material success does not equal a life well lived.

Groups rise and fall over time. This points to the fact that there are cultural forces at work here and debunks the idea that groups succeed because of innate biological differences (third generation Chinese American students for example perform no better than their white peers).

In isolation, each of these traits is insufficient, and potentially damaging. A superiority complex often leads to complacency, insecurity can be crippling and impulse control often results in an inability to experience pleasure.

Success is propelled by the combined triple package of superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control. These simple qualities are cultural, learnable and hence open to anyone. We can model and teach them in our business and in our own family.

I have personally experienced how some of the world’s top management consultancies such as McKinsey, BCG, Bain et al.  do an outstanding job at cultivating the above traits. These firms pride themselves on hiring only the top students from business schools. Once hired, you belong to the ‘chosen few’. There is no question that these firms employ some of the brightest people and yet almost every single consultant I have ever met has deep seated insecurities about never being good enough, which makes them work so incredibly hard.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. A Superiority complex
  • What stories and metaphors are you using to instill a belief of exceptionality in your people?
  • How do you ensure people who work at your company feel like they are ‘the chosen one’? Part of a superior elite?
  • What rituals are you employing to foster the belief that your business is the ONE that is going to make it big and leave the competition in the dust?
  1. Insecurity
  • How are you creating a culture of ‘good enough is never good enough’ in your business?
  • How do you get your people to relentlessly strive for continued improvement?
  • What stories are you sharing so that you make it clear that ‘around here, we are never satisfied with the status quo no matter how good it is’?
  1. Impulse control
  • What systems and incentive do you have in place so that folks are committed for the long haul?
  • How do you ensure that your people become exemplars of your company’s culture and vision?

And of course, don’t forget: nothing is more powerful than modeling behavior you want to see!

 

In 2014: Design The Best Place To Work, by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA, Principal, Redpoint Coaching

by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA, Principal, Redpoint Coaching

jsw_kidbuildingAs we embark onto 2014 I would like challenge you to design the very best place to work! How would this organization of our dreams look do you ask? Read on…

Rob Goffee, an emeritus professor of organizational behavioral at the London School of Business, and Gareth Jones, a visiting professor at the IF Business School in Madrid, posed the question about what the company of our dreams looks like to hundreds of leaders. They summarized their findings in the May 2013 edition of the Harvard Business Review (“Creating the best workplace on earth: what employees really require to be their most productive”)

Here is what they found. In the organization of our dreams:

  1. I can be myself
  2. I am told what is really going on
  3. My strengths are magnified
  4. The company stands for something meaningful
  5. My daily work is rewarding
  6. Stupid rules don’t exist

These principles might all sound like common sense. Who wouldn’t want to work in a place that followed them? Most leaders and all of our clients are aware of the benefits of such a ‘dream organization’, which many studies have confirmed. And yet, no organization we are aware of possesses all six virtues.

Why is that so? Several of the attributes run counter to traditional and well established practices and deeply ingrained habits. Others are complicated and costly to implement. Some conflict with each other. All of them require you as the leader to carefully balance competing interests and to rethink how you allocate your time and energy.

So as Goffee and Jones point out, the company of our dreams remains largely aspirational.  I therefore offer the below assessment as a challenge to you and your people to aim at creating the most productive and rewarding working environment possible.

The Dream Company Diagnostic

How close is your business to the ideal? The more checks, the closer you are.

  1. Take the assessment yourself
  2. Have your senior team and a cross section of your people take the assessment
  3. Compare the findings and discuss inconsistencies

Let me be myself

___ I am the same person at home as I am at work

___ I feel comfortable being myself

___ We are all encouraged to express our differences

___ People who think differently from most do well here

___ Passion is encouraged, even when it leads to conflict

___ More than one type of person fits in here

Tell me what’s really going on

___ We’re all told the whole story

___ Information is not “spun”

___ It’s not disloyal to say something negative

___ My manager wants to hear bad news

___ Top executives want to hear bad news

___ Many channels of communication are available to us

___ I feel comfortable signing my name to comments I make

 Discover and magnify my strengths

___ I am given the chance to develop

___ Every employee is given the chance to develop

___ The best people want to strut their stuff here

___ The weakest performers can see a path to improvement

___ Compensation is fairly distributed throughout the organization

___ We generate value for ourselves by adding value to others

Make me proud I work here

___ I know what we stand for

___ I value what we stand for

___ I want to exceed my current duties

___ Profit is not our overriding goal

___ I am accomplishing something worthwhile

___ I like to tell people where I work

Make my work meaningful

___ My job is meaningful to me

___ My duties make sense to me

___ My work gives me energy and pleasure

___ I understand how my job fits with everyone else’s

___ Everyone’s job is necessary

___ At work we share a common cause

Don’t hinder me with stupid rules

___ We keep things simple

___ The rules are clear and apply equally to everyone

___ I know what the rules are for

___ Everyone knows what the rules are for

___ We, as an organization, resist red tape

___ Authority is respected

Decide where you believe the most important deficits are and take action during 2014 in order to move your organization one step closer towards the very best place to work.

To Hire the Best: Make Them Work! by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA

jsw_job_interview_4One of the most important tasks you have as a leader is to build a great team. Building a great team, of course, means hiring right! You cannot spend too much time or effort on hiring wisely. The alternative to hiring wisely? Managing toughly, which is much more time consuming, costly, and emotionally draining.

I have always been intrigued by how so many of our clients and colleagues agree with this on paper but then keep doing the “same old, same old” when it comes to interviewing.

Interviews are often poor predictors for how the person will perform at their job. Some subpar candidates interview well while some great candidates simply don’t present themselves well at all during an interview.  What to do? Make each candidate perform actual work before you make your final hiring decision!

 Homework

The New York Times recently featured the CEO of Palo Alto Software, Sabrina Parson, who does it this way: “Everyone who interviews with us, no matter what the position, gets homework. We do an initial phone interview, and then they get homework before the in-person interview. It’s two hours of work. The purpose of it is not to find the correct answer, but more to see their thought process. But more than 50 percent of the people you send the homework to never contact you again. It’s great because we don’t want that person.”

So there you have it: Giving candidates homework weeds out half of the people; the half you don’t want to talk to anyway! The money and time you save with this approach needs to be invested into working with those who actually submit their homework.

Once you are further into the process and you are down to your top three candidates, have them spend a day in your business doing actual work.

Actual Work

Yes, you will have to be somewhat creative here and yes, of course it might feel a bit staged and artificial but being able to observe each candidate at work or – even better – working side by side with each candidate, beats the best interview hands down! Not only are you able to observe the candidate at his or her tasks, you are also getting insights on how the candidate show up in a somewhat stressful situation and – maybe most importantly – how the person interact with your team members.

But you ask: What about more managerial positions?

Remember: leaders and managers get stuff done through people. Most of the work any leader or manager does includes interacting with people (vs. doing stuff). How can you simulate the real work of a leader or a manager? Have them interact with our team! Not just by having a nice chat but by actually battling out some real business problems.

Again, you need to be somewhat creative here. Ask yourself: what are some of the most important things you expect them to do during their first six months in the job?

Developing and implementing a new product strategy?

Have them walk you and your team through their thinking on a white board. Engage them in a hard discussion and observe how they show up. How concisely do they communicate? How do they build on other people’s ideas? Are they able to explain their thinking without getting defensive?

Building a team?

Have them outline their hiring process to you. Have them conduct a meeting with your existing team. How about a one-on-one goal setting meeting with one of their potential direct reports?

Remember, no matter what job position you are interviewing for: by having the job candidate do real work in your business you will significantly increase your chances of hiring right vs. having to manage toughly.

 Ask yourself:

  • How much has it cost in the past to correct a hiring mistake – in training time, salary costs, and lost energy and opportunities?
  • How can my organization improve our hiring by making candidates do real work?
  • What is the one step I commit to implementing in order to make our hiring more effective?

For more leadership resources and tools, visit Redpoint Coaching.

Dealing With A Co-Worker Who Drives You Crazy

The Only Boat You Ever Control Is Your Own

Intro by Urs Koenig, Phd, MBA,  Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

Have you ever tried changing someone who drove you absolutely crazy but had no interest in changing? You? Of course not! I know, me neither!

Those of us who have ever tried to change a co-worker, direct report, spouse or kid who drove us nuts but had no interest in changing know how futile that effort is.

Take it from someone who is highly passionate about helping people getting better: don’t waste your energy or time. As our teacher Marshal Goldsmith puts it well in our article this month: the only boat that you can ever control is your own!

Dealing with a Co-Worker Who Drives You Crazy

By Marshall Goldsmith

Almost all of us work with someone who drives us absolutely crazy — one person who consistently frustrates us or makes us feel guilty or angry. Dwelling on how much we hate these coworkers is never a great idea. If you believe, as I do, that it’s our own behavior that holds us back from achieving as much as we can, then one of the larger impediments to our progress is the time and energy we waste being upset with someone else — especially someone we can’t change.

Not sure what your behavior has to do with someone else’s craziness? An old Buddhist parable may help illuminate the issue. A young farmer was paddling his boat up the river to deliver his produce to the village. He was in a hurry. It was a hot day and the farmer, covered with sweat, wanted to make his delivery and get home before dark. Looking ahead, he spied another vessel moving rapidly downstream toward his boat. The vessel seemed to be trying desperately to hit him.

“Change direction, you idiot!” he yelled at the other boat. “You’re going to hit me!” But his cries were to no avail. Although the farmer rowed furiously to get out of the way, the other boat hit him with a sudden thud. Enraged, he stood up and shouted, “You moron! How could you manage to hit my boat in the middle of this wide river? What’s wrong with you?”

As he strained to see the pilot of the other vessel, he was surprised to realize that it was empty. He was screaming at an empty boat that had broken free of its moorings and was just floating downstream with the current.

The next time you get angry and get ready to blow up because of someone else, just remember: there is never anyone in the other boat. When we are screaming, we are always screaming at an empty vessel. Getting angry with other people for being who they are makes about as much sense as getting upset with your chair for being a chair. Your chair cannot help being a chair; that’s what it is. If you had that other person’s history, genes, family, and life, you would be that other person — and do exactly whatever it is they’re doing that you can’t stand.

You don’t have to agree with, like or even respect the other person; just don’t let him make you crazy. After all, he probably isn’t losing sleep over you. You’re the one being punished — and you’re also the person who’s doing the punishing.

The next time a coworker starts making you crazy, try redirecting your energy to change yourself. The only boat that you can ever control is your own.

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the world’s leading executive coaches and author of the bestselling book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Lauren and I are certified Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaches. For more information on our results-oriented executive coaching process, visit http://www.redpointcoaching.com/services/leadership_coaching.aspx.

One-on-One Meetings: One of the Most Effective Leadership Tools by Urs Koenig

by Urs Koenig, Phd, MBA, Principal, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

One on Ones for Better LeadershipDuring his tenure as CIO of Swissair (the former Swiss Airline) my dad applied for the top job at the Swiss Disaster Relief Agency. During the interview, he was asked to define leadership. He responded with a one liner (and was expected to present a thesis and as a result didn’t get the job…): “Being a leader means getting things done through your people.”

While I like his definition for its brevity, the question remains: how do you get stuff done through your people? You engage them, you inspire them, you listen to them, you set goals for them and you hold them accountable.
And what is one of the most effective and efficient ways to engage, inspire, listen, set goals and hold your people accountable?

You guessed it: Conducting regular and meaningful one-on-one meetings with your direct reports.
As with so many of the things we coach our clients on, conducting regular, productive and meaningful one-on-ones is a very simple concept but not always easy to pull off.

Why have yet another meeting and what if I don’t have time?

If you are like 90 % of the managers out there, most of your interactions with your people occur in an ad hoc manner — during team meetings (even if many of the people present don’t need to be part of the conversation), in hurried emails and voicemails, in passing in the hallway, or when a big problem desperately needs attention.

While all of these often interrupted, incomplete and hurried interactions are one-on-ones, they are seldom the most effective ones. Often there is no logic to the timing of these conversations. In fact, they are usually random, incomplete, and often too late to head off a problem or solve it before it grows large.

Regular one-on-one meetings will get you ahead of this curve. Not only will your people prepare for the time they have your undivided attention, they will discuss issues they won’t bring up in a group meeting or in impromptu discussions: their dissatisfaction with part of their current role, interpersonal challenges or other problems that could keep them from succeeding at work.

One on OnesIf your direct report is falling short, the one-on-one setting enables you to communicate in no uncertain terms what changes you need to see happening. Following the principal of praising in public and criticizing in private, you can be firmer and sterner during a one-on-one than during a team meeting. Think of the perfect one-on-one meeting as hybrid of an information gathering, planning, coaching and accountability meeting.

Like any meaningful meeting, not having it will cost you an expensive multiple of the time you would have spent in the meeting. Having it will save you time and headaches in the long run. There is one more important, not often talked about benefit to regular, meaningful on-on-ones. By sitting down with your direct reports and demonstrating true interest and concern not only for their productivity but also for their input, opinions and development, you build a more committed and engaged team which leads to all sorts of well documented soft benefits (e.g. increased job satisfaction) and hard benefits (e.g. lower turn-over, lower recruiting and training costs).

But how do I best do them?

Schedule 30 minute one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports at least every other week, better every week. Make it a regular, re-occurring meeting. Don’t use travel as an excuse not to have it; conduct a phone meeting instead.

Keep a file for each of your direct reports where you gather all the none-time sensitive questions and issues you need to discuss with them. So rather than interrupting your folks constantly whenever you think of something, drop it in the file for discussion during the one-on-one. Take notes of issues raised in the one-on-one and agreed upon courses of action.

Here is my suggestion for a standing agenda for your one on one meeting:

1. Update on action items/commitments from last time
2. What is going well?
3. What are the obstacles and how can I (the manager) help?
4. Action items going forward

Once a quarter, I recommend you go ‘bigger’ and cover the following:

1. Where are we going (the organization)?
2. Where are you going?
3. What are you and your part of the biz doing well? What are you proud of?
4. What are your suggestions for improvements for the future (for the organization, for your part of the biz, for yourself)?
5. How can I help?
6. What suggestions for improvement do you have for me?

Have the one-on-one meeting primarily driven by your direct report. Make this a coaching conversation by asking lots of questions and listening well. Provide guidance if it’s needed but do not fall into the trap of filling the time with your own talk. If you are taking up more than 30 % of air time, you are talking too much.

How to Delegate Effectively By Urs Koenig, MBA, Phd, Principal Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

by Urs Koenig, MBA, Phd, Principal, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

Is This You?

Learn How to Delegate EffectivelyJoe is the managing partner of private equity firm. He has tons of balls in the air at any one time. He is generally good at delegating projects and tasks. Yet when his stress level rises, he feels the urge to re-engage in projects he previously delegated and ends up frustrating his people. Joe is micro managing and getting overly involved with his subordinates’ projects.

Susanne is the Senior Vice President of Operations. She has a background in sales and enjoys nothing more than building relationships. Because of her position, she gets bombarded with requests for meetings and calls. By her own admission, she finds herself too often spending time with people who should be talking to her sales force instead of her. Susanne is engaged in tasks that be done effectively by someone at a lower level in the company.

Recognize yourself or one of your managers in the above behavior patterns? If so, read on!

Delegate More of The Right Stuff

Most leaders we talk to feel that they need to do a better job at delegating. Indeed, effectively delegating might arguably be THE hardest leadership competency to master. While the majority of leaders and managers need to delegate more, it’s not just a question of delegating as much as possible but delegating the right stuff. It might actually be that your people need you more and not less involved in certain areas.

Ask Your People

Our advice is simple. Sit down with each of your direct reports and ask them the following questions (credit to Marshall Goldsmith) about each of their areas of responsibility:

  • Are there areas and projects where you believe that I am too hands-on and can let go more? Are there projects where I need to get more involved and provide you with more guidance?

During the course of this discussion you will inevitably find that you are micro managing in certain areas and that more delegation is needed there, while more of your involvement is asked for in other areas.

Then Ask Your Direct Reports:

  • Do you ever see me working on tasks that someone at my level doesn’t need to do? Are there areas where I can help other people grow and develop, and give myself more time to focus on strategy and long-term planning?

I will virtually guarantee you that your direct reports will come up with great suggestions for you on things a person in your position should not be doing.

Ask yourself and your people these tough questions. The responses will most likely be eye opening and will save you time, energy and make you more effective. All the things good delegation is supposed to do!

Following our coaching philosophy we encourage you to commit to concrete action steps to your direct reports on how you will improve your delegation and then check in with them on a regular basis on how you are doing.

And remember the ‘D’ in LeaDership stands for Delegating!