Bringing Back The Value Of Meetings

“People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.” Clifford Nass, Professor – Stanford University

Imagine you and I are having a conversation – let’s say in your living room – and you’re talking about something that is really important to you. So important, in fact, that you spent several hours preparing to have this talk with me; so crucial for me to hear what you have to say that you’ve asked me to take an hour out of my life and join you in the conversation.

Now imagine – really imagine – that I am reading and sending text messages on my phone the entire time you’re talking; or maybe I’m reading emails from work. How would you feel about that? Would it be rude? Would you be offended? Would you say something? Regardless if you did, I’m sure our relationship wouldn’t be better off for it.

Yet this same behavior has become almost commonplace in today’s business meeting. The larger the group, the more likely it is to happen. The longer the meeting, the more likely it is to happen. Take 20 people and sit them down in a room for 2 hours and each person will, at some point, either check email on their phone or simply open their laptop and start working.

Under the guise of workaholic taskmasters, what the people who do this are really saying is “This really doesn’t matter to me. If it did, I would be paying attention and thinking about how I can add value to the discussion.”

When we dismiss the value of being present, fail to focus on the conversation, stop engaging people in meetings, and pass on the opportunity for discussion, debate, collaboration and consensus building, everyone loses.

I once worked with a CEO who took the reigns at a failing company soon after the CEO was fired. After a few weeks on the job, he started to unashamedly telling people they could leave (meaning “leave”) if they were caught working on their phones or laptops. It took very little time for most of his executive team to get the hint and start using the same practice with their own meetings. Six months later the CEO made it official and sent a memo requiring A) all meetings be laptop free and B) any phone use must be related to the meeting discussion (such as looking up information or emailing relevant questions to non-attendees).

As an outsider who worked closely with the teams during both tenures and saw the changes from a neutral position, I believe five benefits came of this:

  1. People no longer accepted and came to meetings that they didn’t need to attend.
  2. People worked more productively at their desks knowing it was the only time to get work done.
  3. People who did attend meetings felt more respect and better about their relationships with coworkers.
  4. Meetings were more productive; people were engaged, added value to the discussion, and *GASP* decisions were made.
  5. Post-meeting confusion and questions about the meeting’s discussions/takeaways were noticeably reduced.

The truth is we’re not mentally designed to do two non-related, complex tasks at once…at least not well. Clifford Nass, a psychology professor at Stanford University, says today’s nonstop multitasking actually wastes more time than it saves—and he says there’s evidence it may be killing our concentration and creativity too. From the interview, Nass states:

“We have scales that allow us to divide up people into people who multitask all the time and people who rarely do, and the differences are remarkable. People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.”

You can see and listen to his interview on NPR here.

So if you’re looking to take the next step and join the “Focused Revolution”, here are some suggestions for writing up your own team/corporate rules:

  • Rule #1: No laptop, tablet or cell phone usage unless it is related to the meeting (such as viewing a PPT or emailing a meeting-related question to a non-attendee).
  • Rule #2 Emergency situation notifications are to be sent via email, with URGENT in the subject line, and those emails can only be answered after excusing oneself from the meeting.
  • Rule #3 While subject lines can be reviewed, no emails are to be opened and no emails are to be sent unless they are flagged as emergencies or relevant to the meeting.
  • Rule #4 Phones are set to vibrate for both calls and text messages. Voice mail cannot be checked, calls cannot be made, and text messages cannot be checked or answered.
  • Rule #5 Notify attendees if an important call is expected. If it comes in, leave the room without distracting others to take the call.

Whether you employ these rules as a team or as an entire company, once they are in place and being followed, meetings will improve. They will return to being a collaborative, informative and strategic tool for developing ideas, setting teams on paths, and delivering decisions for driving towards business success.

Lead Like Apple: Prioritize Individual Accountability

To have a fully accountable team, you must break “getting in line” behavior with individual ownership of success. – Brendan Witcher

I’m not sure when or why this happened, but at some point, holding people fully accountable for their work became very non-politically correct. The idea of “getting on the bus” and building a culture of consensus/conformity has become the norm. I’ve been asked to write on this before, but really needed somewhere to start.

Today, while waiting in my office for a meeting to start, I picked up an old Fortune magazine and proceeded to flip through the pages. In it, I came across an article that described how Steve Jobs and Apple applied the concept of a “directly responsible individual,” referred to as the DRI, within the organization. What does that mean?

With every project, there is one specific person, the DRI, who is totally responsible for its success or failure.

Since my meeting was a 2014 budget review for open entry-level positions and internships, my thoughts segued from the article to the pile of resumes on my desk belonging to recent college grads.

It’s no secret that there is an excessive amount of emphasis team building in today’s business schools. My own experience in an MBA program was no different; most of my classes focused on team projects, where everyone received the same grade regardless of effort. I felt at that time, and still believe, that this was the opposite lesson needed for working in a real business environment, where individual efforts tend to define the decisions and outcomes of tasks, jobs or projects. Even in large companies, with 500+ employees, it’s rare that a “team” in some way gets fully rewarded or held accountable for success or failure respectively. In smaller companies, it’s almost never the case.

So, while academia seems to believe everything should be done via teamwork and collaboration (which often leads to compromise in projects), and that the tough decisions should be made via team compromises, I agree with Apple’s approach. Here are the rules I created years ago and use to manage my staff with at every company that’s employed me:

  • Make individuals – not teams – accountable
  • When people succeed, give them full credit and reward them…publicly
  • When people fail, determine what caused the failure and decide on the appropriate action(s): refrain, explain, re-train, or do not retain

If you are trying to implement a significant change, or even build a culture of innovation as part of a strategy, substituting individual ownership with consensus building teams can be disastrous. A culture of consensus (or conformity in a smaller organization) leads to legions of sycophants, merely trying to please the largest paycheck in the room. You also risk suppressing distinct and new opportunities, while crushing any chance of a significant”needle-moving” idea gaining traction.

Remember, if you try to make a unique idea acceptable to everyone, you end up with an average idea. I had a boss years ago who used to often say “Consider this outcome to be the determining factor between you having a job tomorrow or you (and your family) living under a bridge, begging for change.” Harsh, but her point was spot on. If you consider every decision you make to be that critical, the single determining element between success and failure in your career, you’re going to approach your work with a sharper eye, a more focused mind, and an uncompromising determination to make sure that you – not anyone else – deliver successful results.

So, what are the takeaways?

  1. With every significant project, use the DRI concept; name someone who lays down at night worrying that he/she is going to be a failure if this thing doesn’t become a success.
  2. Make it clear to the everyone, at every level, how the job/project is going to be run and, most importantly, who is the DRI. This needs to be said at the top and heard, first hand, by everyone who matters.
  3. Also, make sure it’s clear to everyone that the DRI has full authority and ownership over their job and delivering results, because he/she will be “the throat to choke.”

All that said, there are times when team consensus work is a better choice; in fact, there are situations where it is absolutely necessary. For example, teams must be used when you need to improve a process. Team members should represent the various skills needed to handle certain aspects of a process. Process improvement tools like Japanese Total Quality and Six Sigma brought the team concept to the American workplace; but, unfortunately, many folks still attempt to apply the team notion through every part of their business.

So recognize when to use DRI’s vs. teams, apply DRI use religiously to key areas of the business, follow through on accountability, and who knows…maybe you’ll be running the most valuable company in the world someday too.

Dedicated to Steve…your leadership and inspirational thinking is missed.

LeadToday

Helping the Next Generation of Leaders Develop Themselves

How We Lead

Conversations on Leadership with Ken Blanchard

ashleyenicholson

maven of creative trades :: be the change you wish to see in the world. -ghandi

Leadership. Life. Legacy.

Thoughts on becoming your best, for your greatest possible impact

Brian Vickery - Social Media Sport Analogies

Social Media & Sports...who knew?

Blanchard LeaderChat

A Forum to Discuss Leadership and Management Issues

Chicago Brander

Commentary on the brands shaping the greatest city in the world.

AdminRenegade

My Motto = #KeepLearningKeepGrowing

valentine defrancis

using every crayon in the box

Leading with Trust

Trust is the essential ingredient for leadership success.

AB Reflections

living and leading in light of eternity

Linked 2 Leadership | The Leadership Collaboratory

Linked 2 Leadership Blog is designed to serve professionals interested in Leadership Development, Organizational Health, and Personal & Professional Growth. We provide a safe and fun place to Learn, Grow and Develop Other Leaders.™

shereallysaidit

Book Reviews and Author Interviews

Irene Becker | Just Coach It

Career and Life Success Strategies

Motivated for Success

Equipping aspiring leaders with success principles to help them reach their full potential.

POB: Positive Organizational Behavior

My purpose is to change your mind about the value of partnering with others to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive

MHP Life Coaching

Successfully, deliberately and enthusiastically embrace life's opportunities!

Go to New Site. www.LeadWithGiants.com

"If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants" - Isaac Newton

A time to write

For me, writing has always been a passion and the words that fill these pages are just some of the things that run around my head on a daily basis.

ExcelMax Soluções

O ExcelMax Soluções apresenta dicas: criação de softwares , macros, funções, gráficos ... e muito mais !

Expert Solutions from your Trusted Advisor

Colin Turner, CEO Advisor and Mentor

Steve H. Mills

on Life, the Universe and...

Tax and Accounting Tips

Your Online Tax and Accounting Advisor.

TheWaterside

Dunedin - Community - Music - Photography

freespiritwoman

"Lily" My Runaway Camper

The Inside Out with Dr. Mary Canty Merrill

Accelerating your full potential!

Conversations with God Sifu Yoda - Master of Ki Force

Secret Recipe Using Five-Elemental Analysis

KnowledgeBishop

Data and Deep Thoughts

Openingnightatlast's Blog

Motivation, Inspiration, Sponsorships, Marketing

newprairiestore

All about vintage purses for the purse enthusiast!

marsonmaynor

Revolutionizing the Way People THINK!

Smita's Blog

Founder and Chief Test Consultant at QAZone. Part of the 3rd billion.

The Social HR Connection

by Ashley Lauren Perez

Blog of Stuart Allen FCMI

Founder & MD of The Sales Performance Company Ltd www.TheSalesPerformance.co.uk

Customer Service Power . . . Turn it On!

Melissa Kovacevic on Service, Coaching, Contact Centers

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

Creative Writing Tips and Authorial Support from Fantasy Writer Victoria Grefer

LeadStrategic

Challenging Leadership Thinking ... To Enable Strategic Improvement

On Purpose Magazine

Inspiring, Educational, Enlightening and Entertaining Content of Value

Political Musings-At the Sunset of My Life

Just another WordPress.com site

Good Management Is Not, LLC

Keynotes, Workshops, Job Skills Coaching, Home of the Six Second Résumé™

The Art of HR: Tim Vanderpyl

My thoughts on leadership, human resources and theology

Little things that Matter - Lalita Raman

Transitions, People, Leadership and Life

AnneThomas.net

"ALWAYS IN THE BLACK"

My Gray Stripes

Becoming whole through family life. Desserts help.