Are Your Incentives Actually Incentivizing?

Still want to chew gum during the test?

Still want to chew gum during the test?

In my job working with organizations and business I often hear about new initiatives designed to build employee engagement.  Engaged employees, as the rationale goes, are more productive and loyal.  That’s a good thing.  The key of course is to figure out how to engage them.

Some companies try to be competitive with pay and benefits.  Others design educational and professional development incentives.  Some attempt to be Google, implementing organizational redesign with open workspaces, game rooms, and elaborate cafeterias.

And then there are those who use privileges to win over employees.  That’s also effective.  When done in the right spirit.

A colleague of mine shared the note that you can read in this blog.  It was given to all the kids in his daughter’s class in preparation for the standardized tests that are given each Spring.  The school was going to allow students to chew gum or Lifesavers during the test as a privilege, but first each student AND their parents had to sign a contract.  The gum chewing right came with a laundry list of requirements and rules.  What was designed to incentivize students was really no different than the standard set of rules they had to follow each day.  When the privilege has caveats, it ceases to be a privilege.

The idea of motivating people hinges around the concept that people are satisfied when they get WHAT they need, WHEN they need it.  Pay is only a part of it although to be fair, should be enough.  Privileges, like casual dress and bring-your-dog-to-work day should be those little surprises that dazzle and provide a spike in productivity.  But those privileges lose their luster when accompanies by a bunch of rules.  Granted, standards are important.  Provocative or offensive clothing can be a liability and nobody wants to step in dog crap when walking to the copier.  The rules are fine if the spirit of the privilege is not lost.

Which brings us to the gum-chewing contract.  With the fear of punishment high, combined with the added stress of standardized testing, I’m thinking students enter the test with lower morale than if gum was just outlawed.  The incentives just won’t incentivize.

So if your organization want to use incentives, keep the following in mind:

  1. Make the incentives special and limited in time.  Getting people accustomed to the incentive leads to it being seen as a right.  Now you’re stuck leaving it in place for good.
  2. Make the incentive something that the employee would want, not necessarily what you would want.  While I would love a new firearm as a gift, I’m pretty sure my wife wouldn’t see it as an appropriate anniversary gift.
  3. Make the incentive as rule-free as possible.  When privileges come with a host of regulations and rules, they just aren’t as special.
  4. Make the incentive as condition-free as possible.  My ex’s father paid to have the kitchen in her condo refurbished.  His condition was that she had to get rid of her pets and her son couldn’t fry doughnuts in the kitchen.  I’m not sure a gift should have that many conditions.

All of us love to give and get privileges.  Before giving them, take a moment to run through the checklist.  You don’t want your well-intentioned gift to have a negative impact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worst Things First

fish headsHave you ever had one of those days where you knew you had an unpleasant task to take care of but didn’t want to do it?  It may have been a call to return with an unhappy client.  Maybe an uncomfortable conversation with an employee.  Perhaps it was a sales call that you were terrified of.

If you’re like me (or most people for that matter) you probably lost sleep the night before and once at work, began to barricade your time with busywork that would occupy every corner of the day and prevent you from the task.  If you did this correctly, you could honestly say that you would have made that call or had that conversation but were slammed with crisis after crisis.  That bought you some peace, until you came home and realized that unpleasant item would now be waiting for you the next morning…only now the situation would be even more difficult to deal with.

Pain avoidance is normal.  Most of us hate pain and our nature is to do anything to never have it.  Sadly, avoiding just won’t work in most cases.  I’ve learned over time that the best way to deal with it is to use a variation of one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits for guidance.

In 1989, Stephen Covey authored one of the most popular business books of all time,

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  In this book, he detailed principles for personal and professional success.  One of them, First Things First, was clear guidance for priority and time management.   I modified that one into:

Worst Things First

Like ripping off a Band-Aid, eating your Brussels sprouts first, or doing things like making the scary call or having that dreaded conversation, getting stuff out of the way is the best way to power through.  The longer an uncomfortable task is avoided, the harder it will be to recover from it.

Years ago, when stationed overseas at NAVCOMMSTA Harold E. Holt in Western Australia I befriended a group of SEABEES, the Navy construction folks that ran the public works department on base.  Their division officer was universally hated by the group and after enduring him for two years, they came up with a fitting farewell gift.  The night before his car was crated to be sent on the two-month journey back to the States, they stuffed a bag of fish heads under the front seat.  Imagine what that would have smelled like when he retrieved it?

That’s what happens the longer one of your uncomfortable goes unaddressed.  Fish heads are nasty, but it’s better to handle them on Day 1 then on Day 60.

This week, think about those “fish head” tasks you’ve been avoiding.  Why not get busy doing the Worst Things First and free up your time, energy, and emotional health?

 

 

 

Don’t Make Your Solution More Complicated Than the Problem

Complicated or simple.I recently spoke to a group of learning and development professionals on the topic of performance management.  I always start the talk off with my Top 10 list of the Biggest Mistakes Made by Companies in Performance Management Programs.  I start with #10 (a la David Letterman) and then get down to #1.  With this group I let the suspense build by making the #1 mistake a multiple choice quiz question.  Can you figure out the biggest mistake?

  1. Confusing the ROI of training with the value-add of performance management.
  2. Juxtaposing the syntax of Kirkpatrick’s Model with the Reuterbaga Model of Performance Excellence® Model for peak performance enhancement.
  3. Combining mindfulness with strategic learning and thinking.
  4. Looping change management complexities with the principles of learning management and knowledge transfer.
  5. I don’t know.

The answer is actually “I don’t know” (which leads to the real #1 problem which is making performance management a once-a-year event).  In fact, the other four choices are just a bunch of training mumbo jumbo I threw together.  Everyone fell for the bait though and thought since it was the BIGGEST mistake, you would need the BIGGEST and MOST COMPLICATED solution.

In my experience, sometimes a complicated solution makes a complicated problem even bigger.  How can we tackle a complex problem more effectively and efficiently?  Try the following steps:

  1. Clearly define the problem.  A problem is simply a condition where current reality doesn’t meet our expectation.
  2. Narrow the problem down to its root issue.  Think actual condition, not symptoms.
  3. Identify if it’s a people problem or a process problem.  Don’t get these two mixed up.  If you blame a problem on people but they can’t be successful because of a broken process, fix the process.
  4. For people problems, use my 3-Legged Stool of Great Performance® model to figure out if it’s a Skill (needs training), Will (needs motivation, or Focus (needs guiding or coaching).
  5. For process problems, start by mapping out the process the way it currently exists using a flowchart.  Be honest here.  Show it exactly like it is.  Then draw out the ideal.  Where the discrepencies are, begin your intervention…
  6. …Which should always be done in small steps that should be tested.  Don’t tweak everything at once.  Small step, test, next step, test etc.

Don’t be afraid to admit the problem is simple and needs a simple fix.  Big problems are simply a whole bunch of little problems joined together in a tangled mess, much like that big ball of Christmas lights you have to untangle every November.

Problem-solvers are respected, compensated well, and sought after.  Why not work this week to improve your problem-solving skills.  Think simple, not simplistic and you’ll be on your way to solving those big, complicated problems.

5 Ways to Implement a Change Without Screwing Everything Up in the Process

change aheadOne of the most common calls we get at our company sounds something like this:

We are looking for some training on how to deal with change. Right now our company is undergoing some massive changes and we can’t seem to get the employees onboard with them. Do you provide any workshops that will teach our people to embrace this change?

Now since training only fixes issues with skills, the client assumes it’s a skill problem. It’s not though. Dealing with change as a skill is a reactive approach that can’t be taught once the emotions of the change have set in. Trust me on this. I have done WAY too many of these workshops when I worked with a large training vendor years ago. The best change adaptation tools won’t help if everyone’s attitude sucks. Most of these sessions turned into “bitch sessions” and attendees left worse off for the experience. The key to having a positive reaction to change is to implement it the right way in the first place.

Why is this so?

Any time you introduce a change to your organization, you shift the status quo. It doesn’t matter if the change is an improvement. Rocking the boat freaks people out.

Knowing this will happen regardless (and it’s doesn’t matter if the change is driven from the top either) means you’ll have to spend a huge amount of time planning and anticipating all reactions before you settle on your change initiative.

Based on my experiences with companies that have done it the right and wrong ways, I’d like to offer up five strategies to help your next change effort go over a whole lot better.

Here we go!

1. Communicate Well

In any change effort, communication is key. By being open and up front with people, you’ll be able to fill in gaps of knowledge with real, legitimate information. Here are some suggestions:

Good Marketing

Be sure any communication puts information in a positive light. Be very clear about the upcoming changes. Don’t hold back on any small details. Acknowledge the pain, but work to reframe it in a favorable light. (“doing these burpees is going to hurt like hell but imagine how good you’ll look in that Speedo this summer!”)

Allow People an Opportunity to Vent (productively)

We often expect people to handle difficult news professionally, but human nature dictates otherwise. Allow people an opportunity to vent their questions and frustrations.  This should be a facilitated event, with professionals keeping the discussion on track. “Bitch sessions” don’t work and often exacerbate the problem. Use good active listening skills and help manage yours, and the emotions of the people around you.

Discuss Rumors

The Grapevine is a tricky issue. 75% of what’s carried on it is usually true, which makes it credible enough to be believed as fact. When you hear rumors, be sure to address them with facts whenever possible. Ignoring rumors gives them credibility.

Be Sensitive

Empathy (as opposed to sympathy) is a helpful behavior for managers and supervisors. Don’t blow off your employees’ fears. Look at the situation through their eyes. Empathy means you listen intently and offer suggestions and help.

Be Optimistic

Optimism is an attitude. We have to choose our attitudes. You can’t expect employees to handle change well if you’re giving off negative vibes. Fix your own attitude before you try to fix those of your employees.

Don’t Ignore Your Employees’ Fears and Questions

Again, be willing to dialog with employees. Ask probing questions. Get their feedback. Establish an environment where they feel comfortable coming to you with their uncertainties.

2. Use Good Policies and Procedures

In any large change effort, you’ll need to lock in some really good policies and procedures to leave your supervisors and employees equipped for success.

Clearly Communicate the Program

This builds on Point #1. Let people know as much information as you have to give them. Don’t allow the Grapevine to do your job for you. Refer them to websites and information sessions as much as you can.

Set Up a Support System

If you’re implementing a new program or system, have the program representative take an active role in giving out communication. Set up a portal on your website to link employees to information,  training, and send out regular email containing program updates. Equip your managers and supervisors. They have to carry the torch for this program.

Encourage Managers to Have Open Conversations

MACK Worldwide’s Interactive Supervisory Skills courses teach the techniques to have these productive conversations using the principles of active listening and negotiation. Contact us if you are interested in providing this course for your managers and supervisors.

3. Effective Performance Management

Performance management is a critical element of a change effort.  Employees are required to show value-added in meeting the company’s goals and mission. Performance management is a constant process that requires a hands-on approach.

Set Clear Expectations

You can’t expect a marksman to hit a target he can’t see. The same applies to employee performance. Your job is to set clear goals and objectives for your employees at the beginning of the cycle and continue to check with them throughout the year. Don’t be vague – your employees need clear communication on your expectations for them.

Link People to the Mission

Do your employees know what your agency or company exists for? If not, educate them! Show them what you’re all about and how their job ties directly into the company’s success. All employees should be evaluated based on their contribution to the mission. Be sure they know what the contribution looks like!

Clearly Communicate Throughout the Year

Traditional performance management gives the goal at the beginning of the cycle and then rewards/punishes a year later. There’s no way to do a course correction in performance if the employee doesn’t know they’ve gone off course. Set regular intervals to check in with your employees and talk about their performance.

Dialog in Person

Don’t give important feedback (good or bad) through email. Let people know up front, in real time. Recognizing good performance verbally encourages more good performance. Addressing poor performance verbally (and professionally) when it happens is much better than waiting until the employee forgets about it.

4. Good and Effective Training

Training is often seen as a panacea for changes, but good training helps facilitate a process through difficult stages. Here are two approaches we recommend change efforts:

Relational/Communication

These courses should come first. They equip managers and supervisors to have productive conversations with employees and give them initial help in addressing performance issues.

Technical

These courses include anything that builds the skills needed in the new change. Be sure to equip employees before expecting them to successfully implement your change.

5. Management Skill Building

Well-prepared and equipped managers and supervisors will ensure your efforts will succeed. Part of this is training and the other part is attitudinal. Here are some suggestions:

Measure Success as What You Do Through and For Your People

This is the leadership component to management. Management in a large part refers to processes and functions but the key element is developing people. Do what you can to build and grow the most important resource you have, your people.

Keep Learning!

You’ll never learn all there is to know when it comes to dealing with people. People skills are hard to come by and even harder to master. Commit to studying one hour per day on managing and leading people. You spend this much time on technical skills, why not devote it to your people skills?

Conclusion

Managing change is difficult. It’s more difficult when it deals with people and in the way people are paid and evaluated. Keep these five principles as you implement these and other changes in your organization.

If you’d like us to sit down with you and help you think through your upcoming change initiative, just give us a call at (931) 221-2988 and let’s set up some time to chat!

How to Deliver a Winning Pitch

Interpreter ServicesYour syntax was convoluted.

It was November, 1980 and our new high school Bible III teacher, Dr. Bahnsen had just finished delivering a scathing analysis of the first essays we had written in his class, ending with the above critique.  What promised to be a fun Junior year at Newport Christian High School went quickly south as our former teacher, an affable guy named Mr. Smyth was fired and replaced by this taskmaster with a PhD in ethics from USC.  Bahnsen was brought in to up the ante in academic rigor and he delivered.  I had him for two classes and barely passed.

And yet I still had no idea what a syntax was nor what it meant to be convoluted.  Bahnsen had lots of knowledge but just couldn’t express it in a way that this 17-year-old could understand.  The message was lost in translation.

I recently watched an episode of Shark Tank where these two crazy smart scientists invented a really neat technology that they pitched to the investors.  The valuation of the company was at $40 million which extraordinarily high for the show.  The inventors tried unsuccessfully to communicate in their language (science) to the Sharks (who speak money) about why this product would change the world and would be worth the valuation (the language of regular people like me.)   They did not get an investment.  Even after multiple prompts from the Sharks, they couldn’t explain the product in any other language than science.

All of us have a mother tongue.  Mine is English.  We also have a conversational preference.  Some speak science.  Others data.  I speak story, simple story.  If we want to convince others of something, we need to use their language.  Since much of our success in business depends on others “buying in,” it’s important to follow some important steps to getting our point across.

  1. Figure out what you want to communicate.  This is key.  What are you pitching?  Is it a new idea, product, service, or concept?  Is it tangible or theoretical?  Is it brand new or a variation of the old?
  2. Figure out who you need to communicate the idea to.  Who is the decision-maker?  Who are they influenced by?
  3. Figure out what you want from that audience.  Support?  Buy-in?  Money?  Resources?
  4. Figure out the language of that audience.  Do they speak science or emotion?  Money or relationship?  Pragmatism or enthusiasm?
  5. Develop your pitch to encompass all the above information using the medium they prefer.

In a perfect world, everyone would speak and understand as we do.  They don’t.  Dr. Bahnsen probably realized this as our graduating class commenced in 1982 nearly half the size it was at the beginning of our Junior year, with none of us, as far as I could tell, any better at resolving ethical dilemmas or biblical truth than we were before he taught us.  The entrepreneurs on that episode of Shark Tank are probably working extra hard now to really quantify their idea in greater scientific detail to convince other investors.  It’s not going to work.  Unless they find some really rich, PhD-carrying investors.

Our ability to speak the language of others is the only way we can influence.  This week, take some time to re-think who you need to influence and look at better ways to communicate.  It’s the only way you’ll get your important points across, even if you do manage to unconvolute your syntax…

The Proactive Approach to Time Management

sign at the hospital points towards the emergency room entrance.When we lived in Maryland, we seemed to make regular trips to the ER at Walter Reed National Capitol Medical Center (formerly, and properly named Naval Hospital Bethesda!).  All of managed to get ill or injured outside of normal clinic hours so we’d often head to the ER out of necessity.

The ER was the last place I wanted to be.  Normally it’s packed and the wait time to get seen is at least 2-3 hours.  Then you wait another 30 minutes or so to get your drugs from the pharmacy.  I always packed my Kindle, iPad, and MacBook and prepared myself for a long wait.

Occassionaly though, we got seen right away.  Depending on the patient load, we were triaged in quickly.  Triage is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.  So if I go in with a sinus infection, I’ll be bumped down the priority list by someone having chest pain (I guess that’s fair) but it also means that it’s pretty hard to ever plan out your evening if you’re an ER staff.

One of the most requested classes I get is anything related to time management.  I’ve long advocated that you can’t manage time, only your reaction to it.  There is no magic solution for time management either since different personalities seem to all approach it in a unique fashion.  Maybe the best way you do it is by apply the principle of proactivity.

The ER is by definition a reactive entity.  There’s no predicting what comes through the door.  You can’t plan, only react.  When multiple patients come in, the triage process helps you sort out what’s most important, then of course that lineup changes if something more urgent comes in.

Proactivity can best be likened to a wellness clinic.  Wellness clinics work to treat proactively by encouraging healthy diet, lifestyle, and preemptive medical examinations.  By scheduling appointments at regular intervals, a person could possibly prevent conditions that would send them into an ER.  This would then allow ERs to care for only the most urgent illnesses (not my little sinus infection) and victims of trauma.

So how does this apply to time management?  Be proactive!  At the beginning of each day, visualize the outcome you’d like at the end of the day.  Some folks use a “to-do” list and put the steps down.  Others tend to follow a looser structure.  Regardless, by determining what’s most important early in the day, you can take deliberate steps throughout the day to get it done.  The alternative is to live out of your In-Box and by whoever calls you first.  Your day will be filled with emergent matters followed by down time trying to recover.  At the end of the day, you’ll still have those unfinished priorities but be completely exhausted by the reactionary approach you took to the day.

Outcomes in an ER aren’t always successful and they always cost – time, money, and sometimes more.  Proactive care may take time on the front end, but it’s possible you’ll gain much more later on.

This week, think of some steps you can take to be more proactive.  It might be more effective than how you manage yourself towards time now.  Who knows, it might even save you a trip to the ER!

A (Perfect) Day in the Life of a Manager

Smiling warehouse managers talking together in a large warehouseWhenever I talk with managers, I get the sense that their day consists of putting out fires, mediating problems with employees, sitting in endless meetings, and answering email.  Oh yes, and most of the time they’re still involved in the very technical tasks they were promoted to management from.

I often see them with that “1,000 Yard Stare” and sense their mental and physical exhaustion.  Sadly, in spite of that, most of them aren’t particularly clear on what their actual job in “management” really is.  That lack of clear focus and purpose wears on them.  It’s a whole lot of activity with no real sense of accomplishment.

What if that could be turned around?

One of my clients has a very elaborate labor-tracking system they use.  When I met with them recently, one of the managers mentioned that for managers, there is an actually time code that represents what a manager is supposed to do.  They refer to it as Management Oversight.  It’s the only time I’ve actually seen a company designate time to “management.”

Identifying WHAT to call the time is a good start.  What needs to get DONE in that time is important.  I have three suggestions.

  1. Develop Your People.  This is job #1.  When you focus time on building rapport, assigning goals and tasks, giving feedback and coaching on those tasks, and engaging an employee in planning their career both inside and out of your organization, it’s a safe bet to say that work will get done!  I know it sounds counter-intuitive when you’re used to running around like your ass is on fire, but take the time to develop your people and you’ll find that work will get done much more efficiently.
  2. Stabilize Systems and Processes.  Most managers will feel comfortable with this task.  It’s the closest thing to their previous technical job.  It doesn’t mean working in those jobs though.  A manager has to ensure processes are stable and efficient.  Systems need to be aligned with corporate goals and those metrics and targets met.  Finally, any flaws, impediments, and breakdowns in the systems need to be fixed.  The manager has to identify those and assign staff to repair.  Yes, this gets done WHILE developing people.
  3. Protect the House.  Managers also need to ensure their department, people, products, and services are in compliance with all regulations.  This requires them to be HR experts, lawyers, auditors, and inspectors (but of course they aren’t so they need to know where to get that expertise).  This means taking and not sleeping through those HR briefings on FMLA, ADA, OSHA, and other acronym-laden areas.  Legal experts have already determined that a manager should or should-have-known where there are violations.  Better that you actually know and address these!  Yes, this also gets done while developing people.

I know it sounds like a lot but really, if you get your people developed and trained, much of protecting the house will happen automatically.  You’ll also have fewer systems and processes to stabilize because your people will know how to do things right.

Management Oversight is one of the most valuable gifts you give to your organization.  Be sure to identify these as tangible tasks and let your superiors know exactly what your roles and goals are as a manager.  Managing with a purpose will give you that specific, rewarding credibility that you seek!

For Managers: How to Have Your Best Day Ever

Desperate unhappy young business womanIn my work as an organizational repairman, I find the most common cause of problems in a company is the quality of the management.  Much of my work revolves around training managers to be more effective.

If I could nail down the one time a day that sets a manager up for success or failure, it would have to be the first contact with employees in the morning or at the beginning of a shift.  That contact sets the tone for the shift and allows the manager and employee to communicate so that the entire shift runs well.  It’s a crucial moment…

…that usually doesn’t happen.  Most managers get into their office, grab some coffee, and immediately start browsing email.  They may watch as employees file in but often trust this function to a line supervisor.  Soon the calls start coming in and the crises grow.  By lunchtime, that manager has sat in at least one useless meeting and put out several fires.  The afternoon runs much the same and at 5PM or later, the manager leaves work exhausted.  The next day brings more of the same, as does the next and the next and the next.

If you’re a manager, how can you stop this madness and set yourself up for success?  Be deliberate in how you handle that first contact of the morning.

Let’s be honest.  The main reason managers hide in their offices is because they’re afraid to talk to the staff.  They hide this fear with the “I’m so busy” excuse.  After all, if they walk the floors, they may be made aware of problems that they’ll have to fix.  It seems they’d rather avoid those problems now so they can read an email about them or hear about them in a meeting a day or two later.  How about quit being such a big wuss and get more proactive!

Here’s my suggestion.  In the morning, greet your employees with the following questions: (Be sure to bring a pad of paper and a pencil with you.)

  • How are you doing?
  • What are you working on today?
  • What updates do you have?
  • What problems need my attention?

Four quick questions.  Sometimes nothing needs to be said.  Other times, major problems can be headed off early.  Either way, if you get your team used to it, this can go pretty fast.  Now, here are some things to be careful of:

  1. Build rapport first.  Don’t expect your employees to open up to you if they don’t trust you.  Work now on building a better relationship (not buddy-buddy) with them now.
  2. Don’t fall into the trap of doing a meeting each day for this.  That’s a time waster.  If you HAVE to do it thjs way, use the model I learned in the Navy of morning quarters.  That was a 10 minute max meeting, where everyone stood (to avoid getting comfortable and letting the meeting drag on) and heard the plan of the day.  There was a few minutes for questions and then off to work we went.

Finally, if you’re an employee reading this, forward a copy of it to your boss.  This technique not only makes the boss’s day a whole lot better, it does the same for you to too!

How to Spot a Professional

self-motivatedIf we have a problem or dilemma, we often search for solution.  Our hope of course is to find a professional, someone who solves our sort of problem for a living, and is an expert in it.  Ideally, we all are professionals in something.  If so, it’s our responsibility to grow in our profession to become even more, well, professional!

But how do you find a professional?  We ask for referrals, look online,  and look for examples of expertise.  That’s our responsibility.  But professionals have a responsibility too – looking the part of the professional.

On our recent summer vacation aboard a Carnival cruise ship, my then 17-year-old daughter became a bit enamored with one of the entertainers, a young acoustic guitar player.  He did solo shows around the ship singing covers of popular songs.  On the second Day-At-Sea, I spotted a young man walking out to a lounge chair with a guitar.  He opened up the case and started picking a song.  I poked my daughter who was asleep on the lounge chair and told her that her “friend” was poolside.  She looked up and then shook her head.

“That’s not him dad.”

“How do you know?” I replied.

“He’s reading sheet music.”

In her mind, a professional doesn’t need sheet music, at least in front of others.  This was just some hack with a guitar.

She has a point though.  If you act and dress like a professional, there’s a good chance people might believe you actually are.

Me with the Duck Dynasty look.  My "unprofessional" days.  At least my daughter still wanted her picture taken with me!

Me with the Duck Dynasty look. My “unprofessional” days. At least my daughter still wanted her picture taken with me!

It made me think a lot about how I carry myself.  As a professional consultant, it’s important I at least look like a professional.  When we moved to Middle Tennessee, I attempted to blend in a bit better so I grew out my greying beard and wore camo and boots.  When I began to look more like an evil Santa Claus than a consultant, my wife and daughter pointed it out.  I shaved, bought some nice shoes, and had my baggy dress shirts tailored.  Hopefully I look more like the professional I profess to be.

What about you?  Regardless of age or position, all of us need to have an image to go along with what we profess to be expert in.  Identify what that is and adjust accordingly and you should be well on your way to being seen as that consummate professional!

How to Run an Effective Staff Meeting

Boring presentation. Group of young business people in smart casual wear looking bored while sitting together at the table and looking awayStaff meetings are one of the bigger time wasters in any organization.  Back before I started my company, I worked for a trade association in Washington, DC.  Staff meetings there turned into a 60-minute plus event where each of us gave a status update on projects.  They turned into nothing more than a chat session where at the end, nothing was accomplished.

My experience isn’t an isolated one.  One of the biggest complaints I hear with clients is the lack of productivity due to incessant meetings.  Managers and executives whine the amount of time they spend in them and lament the fact that some days they go from meeting to meeting to meeting which leaves them no time to do anything else.

I have a solution for you.   It comes from my time in the Navy.  Hold Morning Quarters.

One of the few efficiencies I witnessed in my 15 year career in the Navy was Morning Quarters.  As the Leading Petty Officer at the Branch Dental Clinic in at the Bangor Submarine Base in Silverdale Washington in the mid-1990s, I’d assemble the staff in the dental lab at 0650.  After calling them to attention, I’d read the official Plan of the Day which was a daily briefing from the command regarding events and policies.  I’d ask the staff if there were any issues and then dismiss them to their jobs.  10 minutes max.  What were the secrets and how can you implement them into your non-military organization?

  1. Do the meeting first thing in the morning.  Quarters were held before the patients filed in .  It required having the workplace set up the night before so you could hit the ground running.  Nothing worse than a long meeting followed up by unresolved issues that await you when it’s over.
  2. Stand at attention.  Three important suggestions here.  Meetings go faster when people are uncomfortable.  Sit them in a nice room with comfortable chairs and they’ll soon check out.  Secondly, calling a group to attention (and I know this isn’t doable in a civilian workplace) requires them to stand still and focus straight ahead – no distractions.  Your challenge in your workplace is to remove the distractions.  Keep electronic devices OUT of your meetings.  Pencil and paper only.  Finally, when the group is at attention, only the meeting leader speaks.  Don’t worry, there is time allotted for others to ask questions once the word is passed.
  3. Use a Plan of the Day as a script.  The POD highlighted the most important information.  Your version could include important deadlines, events to attend, or new policies to be aware of.  Use the script.  Don’t deviate.
  4. Keep it short and sweet.  When you’re standing, focused, and get the information in a clear, quick, and concise format, the meeting goes quicker.  Keep staff meetings to 15 minutes or less.  If that seems too short, then you’ve just become accustomed to wasting time as an organizational norm.  If it’s that important, put the information out in a different format that doesn’t require everyone to sit in a meeting.

As a business owner, I know the value and cost of time and what it means to waste it.  If you’re a manager or executive in an organization, you need to think about this and then start counting up how much time is spent in meetings.  Time is money.  Meetings are the thieves that steal it.