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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I am JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of the book “JoyPowered®,” the inspiration for this podcast, and I’m here with my co-host, Susan White, a national HR consultant.
I don’t know if this is technically an HR topic, Susan, but it’s something I feel somewhat passionate about, and I love training on meeting skills and helping people be better, because I feel that we spend a lot of time in meetings and a whole lot of time in not productive meetings. What do you think?
Oh, gosh, I have to tell you, JoDee, I’ve had so many people say to me, boy, that was a waste of my time. There’s an hour I’m never getting back.
Yeah, I feel like when I’m training on meeting skills or other different topics, I hear a lot of grumbling from people about ineffective meetings or just too many unnecessary meetings, as well.
You know, I think, with the pace of work today, that every single moment you’re at work is precious. And if you’re going to decide to go spend, I don’t know, half hour, an hour, in a meeting, you really want a return on that investment.
Right. And although we’re here, as always, and as I mentioned in our intro, this is about the workspace, however, everything we’ll talk about today also applies to meetings outside of work. You know, it might be a nonprofit board that we serve on or an activity at our kids’ school or at church or any number of other types of meetings that we might be attending.
I think that is such a great add, because you’re not getting paid to sit in those meetings, so you really want to get a return on on your investment
Right. And it is my thought that I think very few people have actually ever been trained on running a meeting, and that we rarely hold others accountable for even participating in a meeting. We might ask participants to prepare ahead of time, to review the agenda, to attend on time, to bring their thoughts and ideas, but I think many times it doesn’t happen. Either that we don’t even ask for that much or that we do ask and people still don’t prepare for it ahead of time.
And I think most of us learned how to run a meeting by watching other people and liking how they did it, then we try to emulate it. So I think we can get a lot smarter about this.
Right. Because when this occurs, everyone in the meeting is typically, I think, uncomfortable and just prays that the meeting will end soon. So we just keep repeating. It’s sort of that definition of insanity, right? We just keep doing the same thing over and over and hope for a different result. But the first time I attended meeting skills training, the facilitator talked about the importance of being prepared and taking responsibility as a participant in the meeting, not just being the facilitator, which I do think, as a facilitator, even if we don’t do it very well, I think typically, people want to have an effective meeting, but I think for a participant that most of us don’t even think about that and that we have a responsibility to…to be prepared. I always felt the success of the meeting was solely dependent on the facilitator and I didn’t take the responsibility for myself. I didn’t always read the agenda. I didn’t always bring my thoughts. I’m pretty timely, but not always was I on time, and thinking about that more has really made a difference in how I prepare for and engage in meetings that I’m not in charge of.
I think that’s a really valid point. I do think that when you’re a participant in meeting, first of all, you’re relieved you’re not leading it, and you start to think, I’m in the audience, you know, my goal…I’m supposed to be in the room, but you really don’t take on some of the responsibilities that you mentioned. So I think that’s a really interesting perspective.
And two books, by the way, that I may refer to a couple times, but if you like to read, two books on on meeting skills I think are very effective, one is called “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni. I have to admit, when I read it the first time, he talked from almost the very beginning about the importance of having more meetings, and I kept…I kept thinking throughout the book that he was going to say he was only kidding and that he really we should have less meetings, but what he does stress is the importance of having effective meetings, maybe shorter meeting stand up meetings, ensuring that we define the type of meeting that we’re having, creating some conflict, which sounds a little bit scary, and how to get others engaged in the meeting. So he…he talks about all of those in the book.
I worked in an organization and part of the organization was retail-oriented, and every day they’d start with a huddle and those huddles were all standing up. And I mean to tell you, when you’re in a meeting that’s a stand up meeting, people are crisp, there’s nobody going on and on. So I do have a real appreciation, if you want to do something quick, have people standing.
Yeah. Actually, I think I’ll write that down for our own Purple Ink meetings. Maybe we should have…be standing, as well. So the second book that I really like is by Edward de Bono called “The Six Thinking Hats,” and this…he doesn’t describe it as really a book about conducting meetings, but as a way to help you think better and a positive approach to making decisions and exploring ideas. So I think it’s…it’s very effective and certainly applicable to running a meeting, but I think if you Google “books on meeting skills,” you…this one might not pop up, but I have found is a great way to organize a meeting and is an especially effective tool when the topic might have some strong feelings or opinions or could be some opposition, although I think it could really be used for all types of meetings. He says that the main difficulty of thinking is confusion, and I don’t know about you, but I think we create a whole lot of confusion in many meetings.
Oh, yeah, I think there’s usually a lot of different meetings going on in the meeting.
Yeah. Whoever came with the agenda usually has a story to tell or action that they’re wanting to get done, and other people in the room sometimes have their own agenda, and it’s…simple things can get really sideways pretty quickly.
Right. And I think a lot of times in meetings, there’s emotions, there’s information, there’s logic, there’s hope, there’s creativity, that we’re trying to get all of that or use all of those all at one time, and he suggests that we separate these into individual pockets. So let’s take an example, Susan. If your company, or business unit, whatever, maybe was thinking about starting a new service or having a new product or an offering, and he would suggest that you think about it in terms of what he calls “the six hats.” The white hat is about facts and figures; the red hat is about emotions; black is the devil’s advocate; yellow is sunny and positive; green is growth, creativity, new ideas, and brainstorming; and blue is the organization of it all.
Is he suggesting that you put on different hats at different points in the meeting?
Yes. Yeah. So as an example, let’s say you’re going into the meeting and people know the topic is about creating a new service or a new product. So there could be some opinions already formed before the meeting ever starts. Right? Some people might be thinking, “I’m busy enough, I don’t have time to create a new service or product,” or some people might be thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is so exciting, a new opportunity.” So you might already have some strong opinions before you ever start. So he suggests, again, that, for example, that you start by what he would call “putting on your white hat.” Talking only about the facts and the figures and things…like, maybe, how many people need this service, or how many people have bought this product, cost, how many people might you need to hire, any…any facts or figures that are known or assumed or have been researched or have been looked into.
So then if somebody tries to put on a devil’s advocate hat for all of a sudden and say, “Hey, you know, this has been done before. We don’t want to do this,” blah, blah, blah, he says, “Hey, this is not the black hat time.”?
I like it. Keeps people focused.
Right. That…you hit the nail right on the head there, Susan, about getting people to focus. So think of someone, maybe, who is all excited about creating a new product or service. But if I said “let’s put our black hat on,” even…even the people or person who is really excited still might have some black hat items, right? For example, we’re working too much already, we’re…we need to focus on what we do well, we…whatever their opinions are, so that you keep people focused all on the same topic at the same time. It also then does away with disagreements or arguments or conflict in the moment. Not that…here, I just told you Patrick Lencioni’s approach says to create some conflict. What Patrick Lencioni really means is get people talking about both sides, right? So this, the six thinking hats, is a very structured approach to getting opinions from all different sides and all different angles.
I love it. I keep pic…I’m picturing a meeting where we all had different colored caps to put on and when it’s time for green, I want everybody putting on the green.
Right, right, right. And I think really could be crazy effective to literally do that, right?
And it super keeps people focused. Then once you get all the ideas, all the thoughts out on the table, and you can maybe visually look at them, did you have 14 black hat comments of reasons why you shouldn’t do it, but you had 25 yellow, sunny, positive facts about why you should do it. You know, it just makes it much more visible to view it.
I like it. Is there any order of the hats that they recommend? Should you start with the facts first, and then go to the emotions around it, the devil’s advocate, the black hat, or does it just let the meeting flow?
Well, so I’m pretty sure…I have to admit, when I took my notes on this, that I wrote it in the order of the chapters in the book, so he must suggest the white hat, facts and figures, red hat, emotions, black hat, devil’s advocate, yellow, sunny and positive, and green, growth, creativity, new ideas. Technically there are five hats, because the blue hat is what keeps the whole process organized. But I’ll admit, Susan, as I’m sort of a rule breaker, I’ve led this approach before and not stayed in this order.
And I didn’t…so I do like the idea of ending on the green hat, which is where…the growth, the creativity, the new ideas, the brainstorming. I think people are…your information can sort of flow a little bit better if that one’s last, after you’ve listed some of the others. Sort of the reasons, good and bad and emotional and all that, to get that out there and then allow people to be more creative, but I’m not sure.
Oh, sure. Well, I would…I would love to experiment with facilitating a meeting using the hats. I really think it’s a really clever idea.
Yeah. Yeah. And again, I think you can use this approach for any sort of meeting, but it’s…I find it particularly helpful when, you know, there might be some emotions or strong opinions on the subject and…and to keep people focused. We all know sometimes the devil’s advocate might be the loudest person in the room or the person who speaks up most, when really, the yellow hats, the sunny and positive, might have a more powerful case, but not speak up as much, or vice versa. Right?
And this provides for equal time because you’re not ignoring any single hat.
All right. So are there any skills, characteristics of a meeting that you think are particularly important for an effective meeting?
You know, I would tell you that one of the ones that I’ve discovered over the last, you know, maybe, say, decade is that I would lead meetings and there would always be somebody in the room, at least one, sometimes more, of individuals who were not speaking up, not talking very much. And I tried experimenting with different things earlier in my career, like making sure that I go to JoDee and say, “JoDee, I know we haven’t heard anything from you yet today. Is there anything you’d like to add?” I try to figure out ways to pull in people who maybe were not being very, you know, participative. What I…a few years ago, and I know we were together when we heard her speak, Susan Cain, the author of “The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” And I have to tell you, she really caused me to sort of rethink things, rather than making, potentially, the person in the room who’s rather quiet…I don’t want to put them on the spot, especially if it’s a topic that we’ve introduced just then, just that day, that maybe we haven’t had a chance to really wrestle with, because maybe that individual is an introvert, maybe they need to process what we’re talking about longer. And then, you know, more than likely, given how bright most introverts are, they’re going to come back with a suggestion or a tweak to what we’re doing that’s far better than anything that we would have just, you know, extemporaneously shouted out in the in the room. So something I’m doing differently with meetings now that I have found to be fairly effective, especially if it’s a new situation, that we bri…bring up in the meeting, I say, listen, we’re going to close the meeting now, but I want you to feel like this agenda is open for another 24 hours, because some of you do your best thinking on your drive home or in the shower tomorrow, and so this meeting really isn’t ending for another 24 hours. Feel free to email me or call me any new ideas you have or any of your thoughts based on what we talked about today. I truly have had people get back to me that night, the next morning, and it’s been the people who are not very loud in the meeting, and maybe they didn’t say anything, they’ve come back with really great input that I think has made the product of whatever we’re meeting really far better.
I love that idea. And I do think overarching of that, the thought of engaging people in different ways is really important. It takes me back years ago, at a firm I was working with, where there was one particular guy, they…these were executive level meetings, and I think every person in the room would have told you that this man, Jeff was his name, was probably the smartest person in the room. Now that’s not to say his opinion on every topic was the best opinion, but he rarely ever added anything to the meeting. He was very quiet. And I asked him one day after the meeting, I said, “Jeff, your opinion is so important, I think, to the rest of the group. Why don’t you ever share it?” And he said, “Because every time, I feel that someone in the room has already said what I was thinking,” and so he didn’t think, by repeating their comment, added value to the meeting, but I said, “Jeff, I think sometimes even if you just said the words, ‘I agree.'”
Yes, because he’s so influential, it sounds like, right?
Yes. He was so influential in such a quiet manner, right?
And so that if he just said those words during the topic, that it would really have…have added value to it. But I think people, too, even for the introvert who might not speak up or might not feel like their opinion needs to be shared, I think engaging people in the meeting can make the meeting so much better for the meeting itself, but also for each individual participant. And that…I think sometimes we walk away from meetings frustrated, because we felt like we didn’t add value or get value. So I like what you said earlier, even though it can be a little awkward or you don’t want to make people feel awkward by calling them out per se, but by just asking the question sometimes, like, if I had said in in those meetings earlier, “Jeff, what do you think about it?”
And I think if you do that a time or two, that people get in the habit of being better prepared for the meeting, knowing that you might specifically ask their opinion.
It makes them stay in the moment.
It’s a good idea.
So, I think that works on lots of different levels, gets more participation and gets more thoughts out on the table. Another question I have, Susan, I think it’s typically always a good idea to have an agenda prepared and agenda sent out ahead of time when we can. But what do you think about timed agendas?
Well, I do agree about having an agenda, and it’s ideal if people get it in advance. However, there’s going to be times where you don’t have time, you need to pull a, you know, group of people together, we have a real issue. I strongly believe that at the start of the meeting, if there’s no agenda, you ought to say, listen, let’s put together what we want to accomplish in this meeting, and let’s put together a quick agenda. I think that’s very respectful of the people that you’ve pulled out of their…their normal workflow and asked them to come and meet with you so that you don’t get off track. So I totally think having the agenda’s extremely important. Now, let’s talk about a timed agenda. I think that if you’re under the gun and you really do only have…like, we have 45 minutes and we need to solve world hunger, then we’d better…and we have four things to accomplish, let’s give each of them, you know, 10 and a half minutes. But other than that, I don’t think I would do item by item with a time limit on it, unless there were some extraordinary reason. How about you? Have you used it, and is it effective?
Yeah, I typically don’t like it. I think the risk in having a timed agenda is that you don’t allow for items that need more time. Or if you have too much time on the topic, people sort of keep talking to fill the time. Right? They think, oh, we have 15 minutes on this topic, so I’m going to keep sharing, even if I’m not adding any real value. I think…remember that I’m an accountant by trade, and so I find myself, still, when I’m in meetings with a timed agenda, that I’m checking things off along the way and I’m thinking, ooh, we’re 10 minutes ahead of schedule, I’m going to get out early, or I’m 10 minutes behind schedule, I don’t want this meeting to run over. So I get a little obsessive about it.
And that’s distracting, right?
From what you’re there to talk about. I agree.
Right, right. I do think it’s really important to start meetings on time.
You know what? if you’re not a person who starts it on time, people will start not showing up on time.
That’s right. And that can be tricky sometimes, too, when maybe the person that you most need in the meeting is not on time. So one thing I do around that is…I just did it this morning, as a matter of fact, I moved some things around on the agenda so that we could focus on some things that didn’t need everyone in the meeting, and I pushed other items back so that the meeting could start on time and we could keep moving without having to repeat some things or wait on information that…that people who weren’t there early were able to do. But I think to…absolutely, coming late to meetings can be a habit, and if…if attendees feel that it won’t start on time, they’re not going to attend on time.
It just breeds a culture of people not coming on time if you…if you start, say, you know what, let’s wait till everyone’s here, or if you always, historically, are starting meetings five to 10 minutes late, people start coming five to 10 minutes late, and that…it’s just a big time waster, I think.
Right. And of course, we haven’t really even mentioned, I think one of the obvious is making sure that the right people are in the meeting, that…both ways, that you have people in the meeting who need to be in the meeting, but that you don’t have people in the meeting who don’t need to be in the meeting. Or at least that you maybe explain why people are in the meeting. For example, I have taken younger staff people or interns to meetings, sometimes just to say, I want you to be here to observe, I don’t think you need to add, you can feel free to add, but…and I’ve said that in front of the client or the other meeting participants, as well, too, so they don’t have to feel awkward about why they’re there or what their expected role is in the meeting.
I think that’s really smart. And I think that is respectful of the people wondering “why is JoDee bringing an entourage with her…”
“…into the room,” so they need to know. I think when we talk about attendees, it is not a bad idea to…when you bring people together, that you do a quick reintroduction of individuals and maybe what their roles are. I worked in a very large organization and I…there’d be times where whoever called the meeting knows everyone, but it’s just to take a moment and refresh everyone that, you know, this is so-and-so from IT and so-and-so from finance, so on and so forth. I think that’s a good best practice.
Right. Jumping back a little bit, too, Susan, when I talked about engagement in the meeting. I think anytime that people can be given a real role in the meeting is helpful to people to encourage them to be prepared and be ready, even if it’s just a piece of the meeting or a particular topic. I know I’ve never actually been a member of Toastmasters, but I’ve attended Toastmaster meetings, and they are the ultimate at assigning…every single person in the room has a task and a responsibility for every single meeting. Have you been to one of their meetings?
I never have, but boy, everyone I know who’s ever been part of Toastmasters raves about it.
It is fantastic. So they have someone who times, they have someone who counts ums and ahhs, they have someone who presents, they have someone who runs the meeting, they…I mean, there’s a job for everything. A joke master, a tip of the day, I think…I forget what all the rules are. But I am not…obviously, not everyone needs an assignment every time, but I think if people feel that I’m responsible for the section, this part, for sharing my thoughts, for…even if it’s observing, so that they understand why they’re there and why it’s important for them to be at the meeting. Of course, a lot of times now, Susan, we have more and more meetings on conference calls or a video type meeting. Any thoughts on that?
Well, given the choice, I think a video meeting makes all the sense in the world so that people actually get to go eyeball to eyeball with each other. And I think that causes you not to be distracted and start doing some half-tasking or semi-tasking, where you’re doing something simultaneously. It’s just too tempting, I think, when you’re on the phone, to let your mind wander and start to look your emails or texts that are coming in, and so on and so forth. So I think video conferences can be just as effective as being in person. Kind of another reason why we believe in remote work, is that not everybody has to be sitting side by side in a room.
Right. I have to tell you, when I worked at one organization for a short time…when I went there – and I was on the executive team – the company actually had no meetings. Or, well, maybe I should say it as no regularly scheduled, group executive meetings. None whatsoever. So for so many years, I had complained about having too many meetings, and then I went to an organization who had no meetings, so I went to the CEO pretty early on. Now granted, I was the newbie to the group, so one of the reasons why I wanted there to be meetings was because I felt like it would be a faster way for me…
…to get to understand what was going on in the company, what people’s roles were, what people’s thoughts and opinions were. So I suggested to the CEO that we have some regularly scheduled executive meetings, and would you believe…and I know this sounds like torture, Susan, but I truly believe his intention was to keep people focused on their work during the day and then have the meeting, so he scheduled the executive meetings at four o’clock on a Friday. It didn’t go over too well for my reputation as the new person in the group because they all knew it was my idea.
Oh, I imagine. I think it’d be pretty tough to be collaborative in an organization if you didn’t, you know, periodically come together and talk about what each other’s doing, share ideas, build on each other. So four o’clock on Friday may not be the ideal time, but at least you got the team together.
Right. Right. And there was some value in that. I think then, on top of the timing wasn’t well, the structure of the meeting…which, I take responsibility. It was my idea to have the meeting. I should have also suggested the purpose for the meeting, a structure for the meeting, but what we did is we went around the table and people were asked to share what was one of the most important things they were working on. Well, what it…it turned out to be was I think people felt like they needed to share something regardless of whether it really added value or maybe if they had told us the exact same thing the week before. And so it became, oh, I have to have something when it gets around to me, so I’ll just talk about this again, or I’ll say it in a different way. And they were definitely some of the most unproductive meetings I’ve ever been to. So shame on me for not following up with that structure.
You know, we talked about how important it is to start meetings on time, but it’s just as important to make sure you end meetings on time.
There’s nothing worse than being held hostage in a meeting where you thought it was going to be a 45 minute meeting and it’s an hour and a half later.
Right. Very important. I think a good tip on that is, for example, if the meeting’s scheduled for an hour and you’re 40 to 45 minutes in, to it…to either ask permission to extend the meeting and see if that works for people, which many times probably won’t be the right answer, but it’s worth a shot sometimes, or to…to just stop and say, “let’s look at the agenda, and where do we really need to focus for this last 15, 20 minutes?” And that might need to be skipping some items or postponing some items or scheduling another meeting to discuss some of those items.
And when is it appropriate…or do you think, recommended, that an outside person – could be outside of the organization, outside of the department, whatever that might mean – to facilitate a meeting, or in general, maybe, who should be the facilitator sometimes? Should it always be the leader?
You know, I think that’s a wonderful topic to think about. There’s been times, as an HR consultant, I’ve been hired to come into companies and facilitate discussions. It’s usually when the senior leader truly wants to elicit true opinions from everyone around his or her table. And I think they recognize if they’re the CEO, or what oth…other senior leader is there, they don’t…when a…when the CEO does not want to influence the outcome, when they truly do want the senior leadership team to come to a decision or create a strategic plan or whatever it is, maybe it’s succession planning, maybe it’s whatever major topic, and the CEO is fearful that if they are the facilitator that their opinion will be the one that prevails, and they don’t want that. They truly want to have good group discussion. But I think that’s a great time to bring in an outside facilitator. Now inside a large organization, that could be somebody from the training department, from HR, from, you know, somewhere else that is skilled at being a facilitator, but that’s a good example. How about you, JoDee? When do you see it?
Yes. So I know, even for myself in my company, I have enjoyed, many times, having other people lead meetings so that I could sit back and listen better. And early in my career, I worked for an organization where the CEO rarely ran a meeting, and for a while, I thought that was because he wasn’t interested or didn’t really feel too passionate about it, and it took me a while to figure out that he was a really good listener and was doing just what you said, that he wanted the group to engage more so that he could sit back and listen and make a better decision. But it took me a while to figure that out, that that is what was happening. But I think many times we probably, in groups or companies or leadership teams, should think about who is the best person to lead this meeting, and that might not always be the leader of the group.
I think it’s a great developmental opportunity sometimes for people deeper in the organization to really enhance their facilitation skills, if there’s something important going on a particular line of business, to have somebody say, “you know what, we’re going to task you with being the facilitator of this meeting,” and I think that is good growth experience for them.
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So JoDee, I’d love to welcome Tom Hinkley to our call on this topic today.
Tom is a gentleman who I had the privilege of working with in the past. He’s worked in corporate America, he’s worked in the private sector, he has worked in the nonprofit world, and currently runs his own business. So Tom, welcome to the show. We’d love to hear a little bit about your job today, and then we’re going to ask you some questions about running meetings, really, in all those different types of sectors. So Tom, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sure. Thank you, Susan. I appreciate that. I currently have…for the last 14 years have had my own business with a primary focus on executive search, but also have done consulting with a variety of organizations, whether it be in the for profit world or nonprofit world, in the area of recruiting, as well as fundraising or manage…managing fundraising operations. So those have been the primary focuses that I’ve…I’ve had, but the bread and butter has been the executive search component.
So Tom, I have to imagine in…during those variety of different things that you’ve done, that you’ve had to run a few meetings. Am I right?
Just a few. Yep.
Well, I would love for you to share with us and for the listeners. Can you tell us any tips or tactics that you have employed over the years that you think really helps run an effective meeting? And then maybe even after that, some things that you’ve seen happen when someone else is facilitating a meeting that you have seen just not work so that we can avoid those.
Sure. Thank you for the opportunity today. The…again, as Susan mentioned, I’ve had the pleasure of working in…for a couple of different Fortune 500 companies as well as the nonprofit world, so some…some meetings that have been extremely professional with high level executives to meetings with some of those that are very early in their career or maybe still in…in their…pursuing their…their educational pursuits. So it’s a variety of different audiences. So the first thing I always look at is, what is the form for the meeting? Are we meeting in person? Is it a teleconference? Are we…and more recently, you have opportunities, you can do some video meetings. So the forum is always, always important. One of the first things I always look at is who is going to be involved and what do they…what is their…their point of reference for the topic we are trying to…to address, so I always try to take take a few minutes, for each of the participants, to try to…to get in their shoes a little bit. Where are they coming from? What is their perspective? Because as you’re organizing the meeting, I don’t want be taking anything for granted or be surprised if someone’s at a different spot on the topic from where…where we are.
Sure, and Tom, I’ll just ask you real quick. So do you, depending on the forum, like, if you’re going to be videotaping or doing it by phone, do you change the preparation that you do trying to figure out people’s perspectives, or is that pretty consistent, you really try to figure out where they might be coming from before the meeting?
For any meeting, I always try to to get that that piece, because no matter what form, that’s a…very much impacts the effectiveness of what you’re trying to accomplish. The form…in my experience, the form has always dictated somewhat the…the length of the meeting. Well, an in-person meeting has opportunity to be more constructive and really get some true work done. I’ve found teleconferences to be more effective in updates and can be very respectful of people’s time if you go much over an hour, because there’s so…you get to etiquette on meetings, and in teleconferences, people still have the tendency of pressing mute or trying to multitask where they’re participating in a…in a teleconference. So to try…just try to keep their attention and then be respectful. If you think someone’s checked out, you can call them on a little bit, say, hey, we really need everyone to focus for this…this time, we’re able to…to concentrate our…our time to…to this one hour, so we’re able to just dedicate to that, we’d appreciate it so we can get through this.
Yeah, no, that makes good sense.
Sure, and the video is something that’s really come…getting a lot of traction in recent years and, you know, you see a few different bloopers online with things that can go wrong with…with things happening in the…in the…in the background, but particularly in my executive…the executive search world, you can find people to do Skype interviews now, and…or people actually taping a, what I will call a pre-introductory interview, where I, as a recruiter, can interview a candidate and can it, so to speak, and with the candidate’s permission, I can share that canned video with prospective hiring authorities so they can get a sense of who the individual is before they start interviewing.
Oh, that makes sense.
And how have you used that? Do you have the candidate record it themselves or do you prep with the candidate? Yeah.
No, no. I…as Susan can probably attest to, I try to make sure I keep my hands on a lot of things to make sure it gets done right, because even in today’s world, there’s…while…while we think there’s a lot of standardization, different file formats can take place, and you have to make sure that there’s a compatibility. So if I am…if I conduct that the tape or the canned…what I call canned interviews, it’s more digital, I guess, would be the proper term, if I conduct the digital interview and save a copy, I can then make sure that format is going to be available for that…for the hiring authority and can share that with them appropriately.
And do you use a certain software to do that or just record from your computer?
I’d have to look to see what…if there’s a…if it’s proprietary or not. So it’s just a program I have on my computer that helps me record it, and it…there’s a variety of different ones out there today. But I have the ability then of sharing that out through…I want to say it’s email, just shoot it the web, through a sending a link to a hiring authority, so they can just click on it and then it plays for them.
Right. That’s excellent.
I have to say that I am such a fan of any meeting that allows me to see the other people so it keeps me honest, it keeps me engaged, and I…my tendency to sometimes drift thinking about other things, I can’t do that. So I love the idea if we can’t be in person that, you know, use Skype or Google Chat or some of the ones…which one do you use, JoDee?
Zoom. Yes, which is really nice quality.
Getting back to the meetings, one of the things I’ve really found that’s been most important is making sure that there is an agenda developed ahead of time. And if you’re asking participants to be knowledgeable on a particular topic, or come prepared to discuss a particular topic, that agenda helps drive that. And also, they can hold people accountable if they haven’t done their homework. Because any organization I’ve been involved with, time is our most precious commodity, and when we’re taking other people’s time to participate in a meeting, we can always set that up as we call the meeting, and say, hey, remember, time is our most precious commodity. If you’re not prepared to participate, it might be best if you don’t join us. So…
Woah, it kind of scares me, but I get it.
Yeah, good for you.
Because otherwise, you’re diminishing the value of other people’s time that have taken…have been prepared. Particularly when I’ve worked on…I’ve had some clients that have search committees, and I needed them to…to review candidates’ backgrounds and make sure we’re doing testing on on skills, competencies, and experiences that people are bringing to the table. And if they’re not familiar with the candidate’s background and taking the time to look at material, or they’re just looking at it when we’re…when we’re in a meeting, you don’t get a quality output there. Just going off the cuff doesn’t…doesn’t work out as well.
And, Tom, is that just a consistent expectation that you set for a lot, or most, of your meetings, that people know if they’re not going to be prepared, it’s better off they just don’t join?
Absolutely. I usually, if it’s a in-person meeting, it’s harder for someone to cut out, but if it’s a Google Chat or online meeting that I have with…with them, I’ll send out a note a couple hours ahead of time. “As a reminder, if you haven’t had a chance to review material, please email me ahead of time, and it’d be best for you not to be able to join us.” And then when the meeting starts, I don’t try to shame somebody. I just say that, you know, that individuals had a conflict come up and not able to join us.
Little do they know the conflict is with you.
Yeah. I sure like that idea. That’s a tip I’ll be using.
Yeah, it’s a good one.
Yeah, absolutely. But again, that…also to try to make sure you…with that agenda, you have a set time, because everyone’s calendar is important to them. So if you say you’re going to have an hour meeting, make sure you keep it. I always try to keep it to 55 minutes, because as soon as you have some expectation that it’s going to last a period of time, it…people will start checking their clocks. Now, when I have had, occasionally, you know, when I get to, like, the 50 minute mark, and I see that we’re not going to get through our agenda, I will always take a take a moment to say, you know, looking at our agenda and where we are on the clock, it doesn’t appear that we’ll get done. We have two choices. We can, while I have everyone on the phone, we can find a convenient time on everyone’s calendar to continue our conversation, or if everyone has another 15 minutes now, we can we can plow through, but we need consensus to make that happen.
That’s a great tip. Yeah, I love that.
So you just don’t…again, you want to be respectful of other people’s calendars and making sure that things…things work through.
I like that. I also like the idea that, if it’s a 60 minute meeting, that you really drive it to finish at 55 minutes, so you’ve really under-committed and over-delivered.
I had somebody teach me that at some point in time, maybe early in my career. I’ve always…whether it be a…and when I’ve done training workshops for folks, same thing. You always just try to make sure you’re…you manage those expectations and you work through it.
Tom, one thing I struggle with ea…whether I’m running the meeting or participating in the meeting, is when some people are live and some people are on video or on a call. And it seems like I always spend the meeting worrying about if the people on video or on the call can hear everything or if they feel that they can participate at it. Do you have any specific tips on that, or is that an occurrence you have very often?
Oh, sure, particularly with…it’s more common if it’s in person and someone dials in on the phone, and that’s because the video is…where everyone is taking advantage of video, that’s been my experience. It’s not always always the case, but that’s more common than not. A trick I’ve always tried to do is – before any meeting – is another little side trick I always do. I…I always take my watch off. I’m still an old-fashioned person with a wristwatch, which is less common nowadays, but I always take my watch off and I prop it up in front of me so it doesn’t look like I’m looking at my watch to check the time, where I’m always aware of what the time is.
And then when I have somebody on the phone, I will mark five minute intervals and whatever topic is coming up, I’ll say, “Joe, do you have a comment on what Sharon just shared?”
And they…just to try to make sure that they know we’re valuing their opinion.
Trying to get them to participate.
That’s nice. I’ve been…I’ve been on…in meetings where there was one person calling in, and honestly, we went on and on and all of a sudden the person on the phone said something. We all jumped. We forgot they were there.
Yeah. I feel like that happens frequently.
Yeah. If whoever’s…if there’s one person responsible for the meeting, when I’ve been responsible for them, I’ve always tried to make sure I pulled them in, and many times when I’m not, when I’m a participant and I get a sense that, you know, we’re not engaging the person that might be on the phone, I’ll just say, “Hey, I…on this topic, I’d like to hear what what Tina has to say.” And let’s give that person a chance to…
Which, really, I think, is an effective tool, sometimes even for people in the room…
…who might not be participating, and not to call them out in a negative way, but to invite them to participate. So.
Oh, absolutely. Getting back to that multitasking point, where folks can do that when they’re on the phone. Many times you find people doing that in live meetings, because now we’ve…we’ve gone paperless, so often people have their laptops, tablets, what have you, up in front of them to follow along, but you can get a sense that they might be doing emails or doing some other work while something’s going on, and I’ve always taken the chance to say, “Gosh, you know, that’s such a good point. You know, Joe, have you ever seen that in your department?” And Joe all of a sudden gets a little startled. “What was that?”
Just to try to bring them back into the conversation.
I think that’s great.
Well, and it sets expectations for people to pay attention, so I think that’s very positive.
So Tom, I know that we don’t want to take too much of your time. Is there any other advice you have for us or anything that you’ve witnessed that, yikes, you know, warning to us, don’t ever do this or else?
Well, not so much a warning what to do. One tool I’ve used in the past that I think sometimes goes underutilized is the parking lot, where many times you have a participant that will…you might be talking to you, you have an agenda to work through a particular problem or some particular thing, and then someone will bring up a topic that is important, but just not relevant to what you’re trying to accomplish in that meeting, and you don’t want to diminish the importance of the topic the person’s brought up, but you always ask them if, you know, that’s…we do need to talk about that, but today, we need to work through this. Is it okay if we take that topic and put it on a parking lot? If we have time at the end of our time today, we will certainly revisit that, or that can be added to our agenda for the next meeting.
I think you’re right. I think it’s smart to use parking lots.
Right. Good advice.
Well, I have to say, JoDee, Tom was probably one of the most effective leaders I have ever worked with, so picking your brain today and understanding how you run meetings really has been helpful to me, and I hope it will be to our listeners.
Certainly. Pleased to take the time and…and chat with you guys, and wish you guys all the best.
All right. Thanks for joining us, Tom.
Okay, Susan, we have a listener question today, and this question is from Michael in Oklahoma. “JoDee and Susan, I lead a highly qualified team of four employees. They’re highly skilled and very experienced in their positions, and overall, they do a very nice job in their day-to-day roles. My issue, though, is that I really struggle with holding two of them accountable for responsibilities outside of the day-to-day. We meet several times a year to talk about individual team and company goals. They have great ideas on how to achieve the goals and seem to have a strong plan to accomplish them, but every time we meet, they have an excuse, which I have to admit always seems valid to me at the time, but their excuse on why it didn’t get finished or why it would happen soon. The other team members don’t seem to struggle with their goals at all. We are not allowed to create a bonus program, so what else can I do to hold them accountable for their goals?”
You know, Michael, what’s so interesting about your call and your question is that when you listen to their excuses, they do seem to have merit. And it’s interesting that they’ve kind of created a pattern of excuses and you are continuing to, you know, buy into it. So it could be, you know, possibly that they just have, you know, unforeseen circumstances that other people don’t have. But more likely…I think it’s important that you sit down with them and talk about, we need to control the controllable. And is it that the goals that we’re setting for outside your day-to-day activities…Are they attainable? You know, are they realistic? And I’m guessing that they are, since they signed off on them in the beginning of the year. And then I think that you have to let the individual know that. It’s up to you as you have obstacles arise, that I need you…you’re welcome to pull me in, but we have to figure out how do we knock down those obstacles so at the end of the year, we don’t look back again and say that, you know, unforeseen circumstances arose and we didn’t get it done. So I…JoDee, my advice when this kind of thing comes up is that, Michael, I would say you ought to have periodic check-ins throughout the year, and maybe that’s monthly, or maybe it’s quarterly, whatever works for you and for your business and for your staff members to say, “Okay, if we know that our goal is XYZ for this year, in the first quarter, how much of that should get done? And how about the second quarter?” So that way, by the time you get to the end of the year, there’s no…no surprises. We know in quarter one that we had we missed something, or in quarter one, there’s things that you, Michael, could do to help shore up some of the resources or needs that the individual has. What do you think, JoDee?
Good advice. I think that’s great advice. I’m going to start encouraging people to get their buy in, which I think your method encourages, and then to also ask people from the very beginning…How would you celebrate when you achieve the goal? I think can show some sign of what’s important to them and how…how important is this goal? And what will they do, whether it’s as a team or as an individual, to celebrate, so it gives them something to look forward to.
I like that. I also heard, JoDee, that you recently, as you were talking to your team about goals, you introduced the concept of accountability partners. Would you want to talk about that for a moment?
Yeah, so that is a new thing we’re doing, which I think can be really helpful, too. Of course, as the owner of the company, and we have other supervisors and managers who will be working with people on their goals, but I thought it would be a great process to go through, myself included, to have accountability partners for people who could share and talk about what their goals are and what they’re doing to accomplish them. So in addition to that manager/supervisor meeting and talking to them and helping to hold them accountable, just to have another person to maybe brainstorm with or to help hold them accountable as well.
I love…I’m gonna have fun watching that, because I think it’s a really innovative idea.
Okay. So in our in the news topic, Susan, we did an earlier podcast on working remotely, and we are both advocates, I know, of flexible work schedules, remote workers, teleworking, and alternative work schedules. And although we have worked from home or remotely for seven years or more, it appears that this trend is continuing. Ironically, though, SHRM recently reported that some companies are actually moving away from it. So just when we thought the trend was going up, some companies are now going back the other way. So let’s look at some numbers. Gallup recently reported that 43% of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, and SHRM reports that employers can save over $11,000 per half time telecommuter a year. IBM alone reported that it has saved over $100 million a year by allowing telecommuting, and Cisco says telework has helped them save tens of millions of dollars in real estate and travel and allowed them to recruit top talent. So why is Best Buy, Yahoo, Honeywell, and Bank of America are going the other way and moving away from it? Well, their message was that they wanted to improve communication, collaboration, and teamwork by bringing employees back into the office. Ironically, Gallup’s studies point out that employees who telework at least three days a week are actually more engaged. So very conflicting information here. But SHRM studies report that if a telework program isn’t working, it’s usually due to a lack of communication and a culture that doesn’t embrace it. So I guess my comment on that is I just cringe at seeing companies moving away from it. Instead of just canceling it or forcing people back into the office, to rethink the process. What can they do to…to increase engagement, to increase communication and collaboration and teamwork? Which are all important, but can still happen when people work remotely as well.
And I do believe that from a recruitment, retention, and engagement standpoint, that companies that are refusing to allow employees the flexibility that they’re craving are really, in the long run, I think they’re at risk of losing talent that they need.
Great. So listeners, please tune in next time and thank you for listening today. If you have missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all episodes for free at iTunes, Google Play, or Podbean by searching on the word “JoyPowered.” If you have questions on any HR topic, you can call us at 317-688-1613 or give feedback on our podcast via our JoyPowered® Facebook account or on Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listener questions and comments.
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