Category Archives: leadership

Why Business Meetings are often a waste of time and productivity

Internal meetings are the bane of corporate life. There are too many meetings, they take too long, and they get too little accomplished.

Why? Because most meetings are really not necessary. Before you call a meeting, think about whether you can accomplish your goals through email or a quick phone call. You rarely need to call a meeting if you’re just planning on sharing information or issuing action instructions. By contrast, meetings may be needed to debate issues or to develop new approaches.

You also shouldn’t feel the need to attend every meeting to which you’re invited. Quite often, you can politely refuse an invitation by pointing out your imminent deadlines. Even if you can’t avoid the meeting completely, it can give you a good excuse for bowing out after a set time limit (30 or 60 minutes, for instance).

Even if a meeting is necessary, you can still reduce the employee-hours spent in meetings by limiting invitations to only those employees who are vitally necessary—letting as many people as possible avoid the meeting entirely. Empirical research suggests that a smaller group (five to seven) is more effective at decision-making, so making your meetings smaller should make for a more productive meeting as well.

Most importantly, you should keep your meetings as short as possible. Meetings rarely need to last for more than one hour, and virtually never past 90 minutes. After that, employees will lose concentration and little more will get done. One way to enforce time limits is to take the chairs out of the meeting room; when standing up, participants get down to business very quickly.

When there are meetings, good preparation is the key to their productivity. When some participants don’t prepare for a meeting, the first part must be devoted to getting everyone up to speed. This is a disincentive for anyone to prepare for future meetings.

To encourage good preparation, the leader should send out background materials and an agenda, at least a day in advance. If you find that a particular leader often forgets this step, you can make your attendance conditional on receiving these materials with enough lead-time. But be sure to fulfill your end of the bargain: if the leader sends out advance materials, read them carefully before the meeting.

If everyone prepares, you can have a more productive meeting. After brief introductory remark by the leader (15 minutes or so), participants can debate the issue in question or develop new approaches. But often the introduction goes on and on, leaving little time for discussion. That totally undercuts the primary purpose for having a meeting.

Long introductions are particularly irritating when they take the form of PowerPoint presentations. We have all been bored to death when someone marches through 20 or 30 PowerPoint slides, reading every word on each slide. If that starts to happen, nicely say, “Your points are really interesting, so I hope we can have as much time as possible to discuss your presentation.”

At the end of any meeting, all participants should agree on the next steps, along with a deadline for each step. The leader should resist the urge to make this decision himself or herself: if participants can set their own goals, they’ll be more likely to buy into them.

In short, you cannot eliminate meetings totally. But you can get rid of most of them, limit their size, and keep them short. And you can structure the necessary meetings to maximize their productivity.

Read full article: Why Business Meetings are often a waste of time and productivity »

5 Tips for Managing Employees in a Post-PC Era

Make no mistake: Your employees will use their own mobile devices to do their jobs. Here’s how to ensure your data stays safe.

Intel executives probably wish they could have just stayed in bed. The company’s stock has continued its downward trend since the company announced Friday that its revenue for 2012 will be lower than expected. It’s a no-brainer, many observers observed. Intel serves the PC market pretty much exclusively. And personal computers are rapidly losing their relevance.

Intel’s woes are just one more sign that we are entering the post-PC era, where everyone who can will choose a smartphone, tablet, or other device to do the stuff he or she used to do on a desktop or laptop. This has major implications for your marketing strategy, of course. But you may also need to rethink how you manage your employees in this new era where computers are old hat.

Here are five things you should already be doing to manage a workforce that–no matter what industry you’re in–increasingly wants to be mobile.

1. Create a BYOD policy. – “BYOD” stands for “bring your own device” and this widespread trend has tech execs at large corporations all in a tizzy. Make no mistake: You want your employees bringing their own devices. Research confirms what you’ve probably noticed already, that employees who can work on mobile devices tend to do work more. A recent study by the global wireless provider iPass found mobile-enabled employees report putting in up to 20 more hours online per week thanks to the greater flexibility mobility provides. And if you don’t have a BYOD policy, chances are employees will use their devices for work anyway, whether you want them to or not.

2. Protect your data. – One of the first requirements in your BYOD policy should be the ability to remotely wipe all data off a mobile device if it is stolen or lost. Otherwise, everything from your new product design to the balance in your business accounts could become public knowledge if a smartphone falls out of someone’s pocket, or gets forgotten in a bar as famously happened to Apple–twice.

Remote wiping capability is “IT Security 101″ according to the iPass report. Yet only 55% of employees in the survey said their companies require it. Does yours?

3. Make it easy to comply. – One important feature of your BYOD policy is that it should be painless for employees to follow. Why? Because if it’s not, they’ll circumvent it. Twenty-four percent of smartphone users and 35% of tablet users in the iPass survey say they’ve used an unauthorized workaround to gain access to corporate information on mobile devices, most often because they need to do something quickly and working with IT to gain access takes too long. Avoid this security risk by making sure employees have secure and hassle-free mobile access to your company’s systems before they need it.

4. Make sure your internal systems work in a mobile world. – You already know you need mobile versions of your websites and/or apps that customers can quickly and easily use from anywhere. The same goes for your internal portals and systems. Not only will this make it easier for employees to do their jobs better, it will avoid security risks from forcing them to borrow other people’s computers. Would you rather a sales rep accessed your internal financial information from a tablet with your approved anti-virus software installed, or by logging in remotely from a desktop in your customer’s office?

5. Consider redesigning your workplace. – Here’s a question that might blow your mind: If employees are fully mobile, do they need a fixed work space anymore? Some companies have taken mobility all the way, letting employees do everything by smartphone, laptop, or tablet–and then eliminating assigned cubicles or desks.

The advantage of a more fluid workspace is that people who need to work together temporarily on a project can sit together for as long as they need to and then disperse. Gathering for a meeting becomes a more seamless process. Employees get to know everyone else in the company, not just the people who happen to sit next to them.

In some companies, decorating one’s work space with family pictures and children’s art projects is very important, and if yours is one of them, this may not work. But for the right company, an approach like this could might make for a more dynamic, nimble, and cohesive work force.

Read the full article: 5 Tips for Managing Employees in a Post-PC Era »

Is Your Leadership Showing?

Most members of a team know when they’re doing their work well. They often have a particular area of expertise, and they have deadlines and deliverables.

For leaders, it’s a bit different. How do you show that you’re leading? Here are five competencies that good leaders demonstrate. They are related to one another, and each is framed with a question to help you think about opportunities to display leadership.

1. Visibility – We know that leaders need to be seen by followers–from formal presentations and announcements, to a crisis, to simple “managing by walking around.” The less-obvious occasions, however, are easily overlooked. They can be lost opportunities, or powerful expressions of leadership.

As a leader, when do you feel out of your comfort zone? Maybe it’s when you have to deliver bad or unpopular news, or mediate a conflict between direct reports, or perform a necessary task that you just don’t like. One CEO client told me that he found it hard to celebrate the “small to medium wins” that his team wanted acknowledged. He considered these victories just part of doing business. His solution was to ask his executives to publicize accomplishments up to a certain level, allowing him to save his praise for the really big achievements.

Ask yourself, “How am I visible to others when I don’t want to be?” The answer is not to pretend to like being visible–far from it. Instead, ask yourself this question prior to an uncomfortable event, and use it to help you prepare. Consider some behavioral options, and put yourself in a different mental space. Then you’ll be able to be visible in a more productive, less stressful manner.

2. Preparation – Many leaders are great at preparing the logistics of leadership (the facts and figures in a plan, or the pitch for a presentation). Too many leaders, however, don’t prepare regularly for the deeper daily requirements of leadership. This is a shame, because most leaders face complex challenges, relentless claims on their time, and increasing pressures to deliver on goals over which they don’t have direct control. A bit of regular preparation goes a long way.

Just as athletic activities involve physical, mental, and emotional energies, leadership is a “whole-body practice” and requires preparation of the whole person. The next time you are running through your checklist prior to a leadership event, ask yourself, “How have I prepared my whole self for this?”

3. Comfort – This is closely related to preparation, because leadership discomfort is greatly enhanced by a lack of preparation. In order to be more comfortable as a leader and to appear that way to other people, you need to practice (which is simple preparation repeated). By “comfortable,” I don’t mean perpetually happy or even relaxed–I mean grounded in your complete embodiment of leadership.

Ask yourself, “How do I display that I am comfortable with the responsibilities and demands of leadership?” Look for nagging doubts in the back of your mind; or instincts that need to be surfaced around what you feel should be happening instead of what is happening, or that feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach about an issue not faced. This is valuable data, and if you do not address your lack of grounding and comfort, others will certainly sense it for you.

4. Listening – One reason that modern leadership is hard is because an effective modern leader must listen to others. Though few people manage to do it, this may be one of the easiest competencies to demonstrate–provided you can resist the urge to talk.

Ask yourself, “What one thing can I tell myself as a reminder to listen more?” It’s vitally important that you think up an effective cue. If you can’t come up with one, that in itself could indicate a deeper internal misalignment.

5. Blend – This list started with visibility. When the opposite is required, a leader must blend in. Otherwise, he or she risks drawing attention away from the people and issues at hand. When you pull back, it makes it easier for other people to bring you hard problems, bad news, and perspectives that challenge the status quo.

As a leader, it’s not all about you. The clearest way to demonstrate this is to find the right moments to step out of the spotlight so that other people get the attention they need. Ask yourself, “When necessary, how do I lower the volume of my leadership presence?”

Though leadership can be hard to demonstrate at times, regularly questioning how you embody your role will serve your leadership well.

Read full article: Is Your Leadership Showing? »

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