Take the Work out of Networking

I ‘m due to attend yet another networking event tomorrow evening (hosted by Women on the Move).

Yes, it ‘s that time of year again, when fun barbecues (where it ‘s often easier to mix) turn to enclosed spaces in upmarket conference suites in hotels, where you are expected to speak to other entrepreneurs, sell your business or promote your idea.

It ‘s terrifying, I ‘ll admit, the first time round. But here are some surefire ways to get those butterflies flying in formation (lovely imagery, unashamedly stolen from a friend)! Continue reading “Take the Work out of Networking”

Five Things Never to do at a Networking Meeting

Who says tradition is out? OK, I have my digital camera. I love email. I’m an avid blog reader. I know what the credit crunch is. I’m even following the American election trail, via Twitter (only on alternate weeks though). But, some things just work. So, when it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What am I whittering on about? Networking! Yes, you can network via Facebook or you can tweet your way through the day on Twitter (and these are fantastic business tools), but traditional networking, i.e. talking face-to-face, cannot be replaced.

Following the set-up of our business we were encouraged to join business networks and gave up after a very short period of time when the only type of people we met were like us, all new and shiny but impoverished. Certainly not the type to be needing our services. Then, attracted by the 10 Tips for Sales Success free seminars, we felt we might be judging too harshly and attended a few more. Things were different. We’d simply had a couple of bad experiences. The time was well-spent. We received canny business advice from those who’d been doing it long enough to know how to succeed but not long enough to look jaded. We met our logo designer. We realised the NI business world is a very small one.

It takes practice and initially it can feel incredibly daunting, if now downright terrifying. These people know what you’re trying to do, they see you coming with your proudly flourished business card and flyer. Continue reading “Five Things Never to do at a Networking Meeting”

15 Blogs on Networking

Here are some blog posts we’ve published on how to get the best out of the many networking opportunities available in the business world.

Attending a Network Meeting

Take the Work out of Networking

5 Ways Introverts Can Excel at Networking

How to Suck at Networking

Five Things Never to do at a Networking Meeting

Running Your Own Professional Network

How to Run a Successful Business Network

The Apathyville Horror

Networking Online

11 Ways to Lose Friends and Alienate People on Facebook

5 Ways to Set Out Your Manifesto on LinkedIn

Questions I Get Asked About Getting Business Through Twitter

How to Avoid a Dull Twitter Profile

Disruptive/Radical Networking

The Rise of the unConference

5 Reasons Why Networking at BizCamp Works

Women ‘s Business Networks in Northern Ireland

Other Networking Topics

You ‘ve Got Networking On The Brain!

Is Secrecy Best For Business?

We’d love to hear your best tips on how to make good use of your time during professional networking. Add a suggestion in a comment.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

Narcissistic Leadership

Narcissistic leadership is a new term for an old idea. The traditional view of leadership is of charismatic, even heroic individuals who save the day. This is called The Great Man Theory of Leadership. In our more democratic times, we’ve largely abandoned this theory for more managerial or coaching models. We reject this old view as authoritarian, grandiose, narcissistic.

But a form of the old Great Man theory remains. How else do you begin to explain the behaviour and success of a Henry Ford or a Steve Jobs? So business psychologists have made a distinction between productive or healthy narcissists on one side, and leaders who are destructive narcissists on the other.

Michael Maccoby is an academic and coach who has particularly focused on this idea as it applies to the business realm. I’ve written about it for some time, and find it a fascinating, contemporary take on the old idea of heroic leadership. So here’s a collection of links to quality resources about narcissistic leadership. And, since the topic is narcissism, I’ll start with my own!

My Articles on Narcissistic Leadership

Narcissism is Good for Business – Here I suggest some ways in which you could develop your ‘inner narcissist’ in positive ways, and take a test to rate your current score!

Book Review of ‘The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership’ – This is my short review of Maccoby’s main book on the topic.

Political Issues at Work – Political Intelligence (PI) doesn’t require you to think like Machiavelli but it does mean you have to think strategically, something at which Maccoby argues narcissists can excel.

Book Review of ‘All About Me: Loving a Narcissist’ – This is my review of another, more practical book on the phenomenon of narcissism and how to deal with those who have it.

I Have the Power – This is the summary of a talk I gave at a business event in which I argue that narcissism is one of the ways entrepreneurs can use to build their charisma and their brand.

Key Research Papers on Narcissistic Leadership

These are both by Michael Maccoby. The first is the article in which he first put forward his theory. The second serves as nice summary of it, in his own words.

Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons (The Harvard Business Review, January-February, 2000)

We Still Need Visionary Leaders (The Washington Post, August, 2009 )

Useful Reviews, Summaries and Applications

Narcissistic Leaders: Who Succeeds and Who Fails by Donald L. Nathanson, MD (Psychiatric Times)

4 reasons narcissists can be highly effective leaders by Shana Lebowitz (Business Insider UK)

Business leaders and narcissism by Alexander Burgemeester (The Narcissistic Life)

How to Work for a Narcissistic Boss by Rebecca Knight (Harvard Business Review)

Do you work for a narcissist? Here’s how to keep your sanity by Anna Hensel (Inc. Magazine)

Lots of the coaching work we do overlaps with developing a healthy narcissism or sense of self-esteem. We’ve worked with entrepreneurs, managers and leaders of other types on this topic…as well as those who have to work with them! Contact us to find out more.

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

Assertive Leadership

Assertive leadership is often identified as the one skill leaders need to work on. Not only is it an important trait in itself, enabling leaders to communicate effectively and maintain boundaries. Assertiveness also serves as a magnifier of many other leadership strengths. For example, assertive leaders are more likely to embrace innovation, foster collaboration and act with integrity.

Assertive leadership is often misunderstood as requiring pushy or aggressive behaviour. Here are a few surprising facts about what assertive leadership ideally requires.

Assertive Leadership is Curvilinear

A few studies have researched the relationship between assertiveness and leadership in a scientific way. These are:

What they found is that there is both a negative and a positive link between assertiveness and leadership, depending on the quantity of the assertiveness. Too much or too little assertiveness is detrimental to leadership. But the right amount of assertiveness, while largely unnoticed in itself, serves as a platform for other leadership traits. Assertiveness has a curvilinear, or inverted-U-shaped relationship with leadership effectiveness, rather than a linear one in which they are always directly proportional.

One of the authors put it like this:

When leaders get assertiveness wrong, it’s glaring and obvious, but when they get it right, it seems to disappear. We say it’s like salt in a sauce: when there’s too much or too little, it’s hard to notice anything else, but when it’s just right, you notice the other flavors. No one compliments a sauce for being perfectly salted, and it’s just as unusual for a leader’s perfect touch with assertiveness to attract much notice.

By the way, it’s the same with charisma in leadership – too much charisma can make leaders look less effective, just like too little!

Assertiveness Leadership is Calm

It turn out that people want to follow calm, assertive leaders. Both parts of the equation are important. From a biological viewpoint, assertiveness is related high levels of testosterone, while the calmness is related to low levels of cortisol. These might seem like a contradictory emotions. One way of bringing them together is by adopting the right physical posture, sometimes called a power pose. Research has shown that:

Posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.

To find out what these poses are, scientists have studied the body language of alphas, or leaders, both in the animal and human realms. Watch this TED Talk by Amy Cuddy to find out more. Or speak to us about training and coaching on body language. You might also want to read one of our 14 blog posts on assertive communication. And discover how Bully Karma can help you unleash assertiveness on the workplace bully!

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Writers and researchers on emotional intelligence and leadership sometimes use the phrase primal leadership to describe their view on the place of emotion in a leader’s role. This seems like a weird word to use. Primal has (at least) two meaning that help us understand why they use it. Something is primal if it is:

  • original, early, first in time
  • primary, basic, of first importance

They believe that emotions are primal to leadership in both senses. Humanity’s primordial leaders where chieftains or shamans who compelled by emotional leadership. And modern business leaders have the task of both driving collective emotions in a positive direction and clearing away toxic emotions. But how?

Resonant Leadership vs Dissonant Leadership

Resonant leaders drive emotions positively, by pulling others through their vision and example. Dissonant leaders undermine the emotional foundations that let people shine. Daniel Goleman has detected six leadership styles, or different methods of showing leadership in different contexts and to different people. It is possible to move between them, and a good leader will do that, even using the dissonant styles when necessary.

The four resonant leadership styles are:

  1. visionary – moves people towards shared dreams
  2. coaching – connects what people want with company goals
  3. affiliative – creates harmony by connecting people
  4. democratic – encourages people’s input and participation

Dissonant leadership styles are:

  1. pace-setting – meets challenging and exciting goals
  2. commanding – gives clear directions in an emergency

Attunement vs Alignment

Some leaders speak of their task in terms of aligning their people with their strategy or goal. This leaves a mechanical impression of the role of leaders: people are objects to be arranged in straight lines, like so many cogs. But support requires the emotional as well as the rational parts of the brain. The concept of attuning more fully describes a leader’s role, with its suggestion of the harmony of the instruments in an orchestra. Attunement requires a direct connection with people’s emotional centres. It achieves this through involving people deeply in the process and allowing them to make decisions about their place in it.

Threshold Abilities vs Distinguishing Abilities

Many leaders find themselves in a position of leadership simply because they tick several of the correct boxes. The have the basic skills that everyone has to have to do the job. This usually amounts to standard mix of IQ, technical skills and personality traits. They are average rather than outstanding in terms of their performance. Leadership experts suggest it is better to disregard the standard criteria if you want star results. Instead, start with high performers, compare them to average performers, and find out what makes leaders in the field. These are the real leadership abilities, or, as Goleman calls them, the eight ‘distinguishing competencies’.

Process vs Program

Once you realise the need for emotionally intelligent leadership at all levels of an organisation, the questions become a matter of how exactly to roll it out. Traditionally, organisations have answered this question by means of one-time training and educational programs. These are necessary but not sufficient. What is required is an entire process that not only fills minds with information, but permeates every level of the organisation.

Such a process not only educated individuals, but also works with teams and the company culture too. Through coaching, it will apply lessons learned and provide feedback on progress. It will take the form of an emotional as well as intellectual journey. Without all these aspects in place, the leadership produces will simple take the form of theory and certificates.

We believe that you can learn emotional intelligence like any other set of skills. The same goes for leadership. We’ve taught and coached EI for over a decade, at universities and for businesses. Contact us to find out what we can do for your organisation.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

18 Ways of Motivating and Managing Remote Teams

Why bother managing remote teams at all? Remote teamwork brings its own motivation. Performing your tasks from your home, a caf√© or the beach what ‘s not to like? Any supervisory role isn ‘t so much to give motivation as to ensure that it isn ‘t removed!

But remote working can sometimes feel isolating and pressurised, despite the business case for remote teams. Here are some direct ways to help you in the task of managing remote teams and keeping them motivated.

  1. Take the lead schedule chats proactively rather than wait for them to happen or only happen when something goes wrong
  2. Using multiple methods not only use email and phone calls to communicate, but also Slack, Skype, video, whatever works
  3. Hold regular meetings these meetings should include time with individuals as well as the team as a whole
  4. Keep information flowing update team members about their progress and that of the project, but also big picture news about the company and industry
  5. Offer detailed feedback the more immediate and specific the feedback, the more the motivation become intrinsic, like a game
  6. Use gamification techniques gamification is an amazing, innovative way to keep remote teams motivated and challenged
  7. Share your wins there ‘s little that ‘s more motivating to a team as word that things are going well
  8. Don ‘t forget to manage managing remote teams need all the usual motivators, such as promotion, reviews and training opportunities
  9. Schedule coaching sessions coaching isn’t for inductions only but also key for professional development and getting to know your team
  10. Create a community use social networks like Jive and Yammer to create an online ‘watercooler ‘ effect
  11. Give public praise appreciation and congratulation is sweeter for individuals when the whole team reads it, perhaps on Twitter
  12. Share real rewards those in traditional offices enjoy many perks and presents that you need to creativity replicate for remote teams
  13. Pay on time remote workers not only feel inconvenienced and disrespected but stressed and powerless when their pay doesn ‘t arrive on time
  14. Share the screen technology allows for screen sharing during tasks, not simply about tasks
  15. Spend quality time face and embrace the fact that it will take you more time to get to know your remote teams than it would regular teams
  16. Remain reasonably accessible fix it so that your team members can contact you during working hours at any point, and outside those hours when appropriate
  17. Find the zones schedule meetings times with an eye to differences in time zones so everyone feels it is fair
  18. Know your cultures be aware of cultural differences and sensitivities since your team is potentially global

Read Lucy Elkin’s excellent article on How to Help Remote Team Members Stay Connected and Productive if you want to learn more. Contact us if you’d like to chat about how communicating better online can keep you with managing remote teams and keeping morale high. Even if those those teams are in a galaxy far, far away…

How to Help Remote Team Members Stay Connected and Productive

Remote working is great right? But do you know how to help remote team members stay connected? Building a remote team helps companies to cut office costs and find talented staff, letting employers recruit from a much wider talent pool. Staff love it, too. According to some surveys, remote working is regarded as one of the most valuable perks a company can offer. For many of us, working remotely saves time and money, bringing freedom from commuting and office distractions. As a result, more and more employers are offering staff the option of working from home. A number of innovative companies, such as Buffer and 10up, have even gone fully remote, giving up their offices altogether and building remote teams with staff working from any location they choose around the world.

While there are plenty of positives to working remotely, if you want to help your remote team thrive, there are some key issues to take into account. One important consideration is how to help your remote team cope with the isolation that can creep in if they are working ‘home alone ‘. After a while, some remote workers can start to feel socially isolated and professionally out of the loop, missing regular input from friends and colleagues. If not addressed, that feeling of isolation can have an impact on staff well-being and productivity. It can be a particular problem if only one or two people in your team are working from home, while most of the team are meeting up each day in person. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to help remote staff feel part of the team.

Build Remote Into Your Recruitment Process

A lot of difficulties can be avoided by making sure you consider whether someone will be a good fit for remote working at the hiring stage. Traits to look for include someone who is self-motivated, independent, enjoys taking responsibility for getting work done, and a good communicator. Be clear during the interview process about how your team works together, and how remote team members fit into that picture.

Get Your Team Communications Right

Good communication is vital when you aren ‘t regularly meeting in person. There are two parts to this – tools, and how you use them. There is now a huge choice of online tools to help your team stay connected, many offering free or low-cost options. Most fully-remote teams quickly ditch email as their main form of communication, preferring online social and task-management tools such as Slack, Asana, and Yammer. These text-based tools offer an informal, easy way to keep team-mates talking and sharing ideas, much like they would in the office. Another option is Sococo, which uses avatars to create the feeling of a virtual office.

Most teams also like to mix in some ‘virtual ‘ face-to-face time, using tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom or Appear.in for quick and easy video calls. When there are tricky issues to discuss, a phone or video call is usually a better way to resolve things than a stream of text messages. If you ‘re working across time zones, simple tools such as World Time Buddy can help with scheduling meetings, and knowing who is online when.

Once you ‘ve got the tools sorted, you also need to consider how your team will use them. For example, some teams like to start their day with a check-in (often called a stand-up), where everyone – whether they are working remotely or not – dials in to share a few quick thoughts about what they ‘re working on that day. That can help remote workers avoid the feeling of working away in isolation, unaware of what the rest of the team is up to.

You might also want to agree how and when your team communicates. For example, if you ‘re in different time zones, do you expect remote team members to work overlapping hours and respond immediately to messages, or are you happy to work asynchronously, with team members online and working at different times?

When a new remote-worker joins your team, it ‘s worth taking the time to explain your communication tools and processes, especially if they are new to remote working. And from time to time, reassess how your communication tools and processes are working (and get feedback from the team). As teams grow and change, something that that used to work well may need tweaking. Getting communication right can go a very long way to helping remote team members stay in the loop.

Build Habits That Bring Remote Colleagues Into the Team

If you ‘ve only got one or two remote team members, try to build a culture that ‘s mindful of those who are working outside of the office. Make sure they are included in relevant meetings (even if it is a little bit of extra hassle to set up video calls.) Little things can help remote staff feel included. If you use online tools like Slack, something as simple as a quick Hi, how was your weekend to a remote team member can make them feel connected and welcome. If you celebrate birthdays in your office, don ‘t forget remote team members.

You can also try to find ways to connect in the real world. For example, if your team is going to a conference, you could use that as a chance to schedule some time to meet socially with remote colleagues. Some fully remote companies invest some of the money saved on office space in hosting large-scale company get-togethers, to give team members the chance to bond and work together in real life.

Help Remote Staff to Build Their Networks

If your remote team members are based a long way from your office, you might want to help them to connect to other networks that can give them a more local work community. For example, are there networking events they can go to? Or maybe there are online groups for their sector or industry on Facebook or Slack where they can connect with other people working in the same role?

Consider Paying For Coworking Space

Working remotely doesn ‘t have to mean working at home. We are in the middle of a boom in coworking spaces – that is, shared office spaces where you can rent a desk from anything for a few hours to five days a week. Initially popular with startups, many larger companies are now renting coworking space for their remote team members. There are lots of options in most cities, catering to everyone from huge corporate teams to solo freelancers and creative types. Just to give one example, UK company NearDesk offers flexible pay-as-you-go coworking in many towns.


Things are slightly trickier in rural areas, where there may not be a coworking space nearby. You could encourage your staff to try a Work Jelly (yes, that ‘s really what it ‘s called). Work Jelly is an informal, free coworking day, often held monthly. There are jelly gatherings all over the UK – you can find the nearest on the UK Jelly website. Another option could be joining myworkhive ‘s ‘virtual ‘ coworking community, where a group of us ‘meet ‘ each day to work and network, sharing tips, ideas (and the occasional cat gif).

Train Your Managers on Remote Issues

Managing a remote team member brings a few special considerations. A supportive line manager can really help remote staff to feel that their particular issues are being considered. For example, anyone who manages a remote team or remote employee needs to know about your organisation ‘s remote working policy, which should cover things such as which home-office equipment your organisation will pay for, health and safety issues and so on.

Trust and goal-setting are also key. Managers need to set really clear work objectives, as remote staff are often judged not on the hours they are in the office, but the work they are delivering. To perform well, they need clear deliverables and timeframes, and to know that they are trusted to get on with the job.

Encourage team managers to make sure that remote team members aren ‘t forgotten when interesting projects are allocated, or when training is being planned. If a remote colleague can ‘t make it to the office for training, there are loads of online courses covering most topics.

Encourage Remote Staff to Step Up

There ‘s a lot you can do as an employer to ensure your remote staff don ‘t become isolated. But it ‘s also important to encourage your remote employees to take action to help themselves. For example, encourage them to speak up if they feel they are becoming isolated, let them know it ‘s an issue you take seriously and want to help with. Make it clear that they are full members of your team, and you welcome their input and suggestions. Just because they aren ‘t in the office, doesn ‘t mean they can ‘t lead on a project, take part in training, and have a great career within your organisation.

Hopefully these tips will help you build a happy and productive remote team. If you ‘d like to talk more about all things remote, you can connect with myworkhive on Twitter or find them on Facebook.

The Business Case for Remote Teams

The business case for remote working is often made in terms of benefits to workers. But what about benefits for the employers, companies and organisations that use remote teams? What’s in it for them, in basic, bottom-line, profit-and loss terms?

Saving Money

There are savings that a business will make immediately by using remote workers and teams. Other savings will take a little more time, but are just as tangible.

  • Remote teams require less spending on office space and overheads, such as rental fees and utility bills, and payroll costs where on-site support services are used
  • Remote teams accrue less transportation expenses, since there is a reduced need to travel
  • Remote teams waste less money on absence and sick pay, according to studies
  • Remote teams enjoy higher retention rates, so less money is spent on interviews and advertising for staff

Making Money

Saving money is negative; making money is positive. What’s the business case that working with remote teams can increase your profit?

  • Remote working both attracts and keeps the best people, since it widens your talent pool to a global scope.
  • Many studies have proved that remote teams show greater productivity than office-based teams. Some reasons include: less exhausting commuting; less micromanaging; more communication and collaboration; and more focus and freshness.
  • Despite initial indications, there is evidence that remote teams have improved accessibilily to each other and their leaders compared with their office-bound rivals.
  • Remote teamwork improves management processes due to enhanced flexibility in resource allocation and work scheduling.
  • Remote working improves the product development time, which is accelerated by the use of Agile methods.
  • Perhaps most obviously, remote teams have the highest staff morale. Why? Because remote working demonstrates trust, allows for flexible working, turns staff socialising into a pleasure rather than a chore, permits commute savings (fuel, insurance, extra car, wear and tear), unleashes massive time savings, and boosts retirement acceleration.

Making the Case

I’ve made some substantial claims about the financial case for remote teams in this blog. I’ve also referred to studies. What are they?

  • Global Workplace Analytics specialises in producing reliable, fact-based analyses on the business case for telecommuting, remote and flexible work. Read their research on the Advantages of Agile Work Strategies For Companies derived from a wide range of studies from US and international firms.
  • The largest largest-scale remote work study was conducted by a Chinese company and published by Stanford Business School. The findings were overwhelmingly positive, showing that working from home improves performance and reduces costs by double digit percentages.
  • The physical, psychological, financial and temporal toll that commuting to work takes on us was recorded in a 2013 American Community Survey. Non-remote teams suffered from greater stress, lower cardio-respiratory fitness, higher rates of obesity, and elevated blood pressure. Astonishingly, the average American wastes 32.5 days per year commuting to work!

Making the Break

We work on remote projects and gigs, particularly with international clients. If you’d like to work with us, contact us for a chat. As well as training and coaching work, we also provide remote writing and online services.

How to Confidently Run Meetings Without the Creeping Ennui

Ennui? It’s a French word that means listlessness, langour. Think Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker languishing in The Great Gatsby. We’ve been having something of a Long Island-fest lately and exploring every version of The Great Gatsby we can find. Superfans might pick up a few references in the headings!

This blog post is written from the point of view of meeting organisers and chairs who arrange and attend physical meetings where attendees must attend in person.

It’s So Hot, And Everything is Confused

I usually try to highlight what I think is the most important point in my blog posts. This is it: Open the dang window, or door! Almost every meeting I’ve attended has taken place in an airless room. As an HSP, I’ve almost fainted a few times. Take care of your HSPs.

  • There are some nasty things that happen with human aromas when you don’t open the window. I’m just going to leave that hanging in the air.
  • People’s brains stop functioning optimally. And when they stop functioning, people think, speak and decide slower. Slower is not a good thing when it comes to meetings.

There are Only the Pursued, the Pursuing, the Busy and the Tired

First, think carefully whether the meeting could instead take the form of an email, a conference call or a Skype. Then if a meeting is absolutely necessary, implement the following.

  1. Get rid of the circular emails.
  2. Stop requiring everyone and his cat to attend.
  3. Inform only required attendees of the agenda.
  4. State the start and stop time. Finish early.
  5. Learn some Assertiveness techniques to shut down the pontificators.
  6. Reduce minutes (if any) to bullet point decision summaries, together with dated, assigned tasks. Send it to the invitees only. Assume they will forward it on to anyone else who needs it.

Once in a While I Go Off on a Spree

You know the type. They talk and talk and talk. They’re called extroverts. What they’re doing is thinking out loud. It’s just what they do. It helps them come to a conclusion.

  1. First of all, examine the behaviour of your team. Figure out who’re the extroverts (those whose energy expands in a crowd, who tend to talk more) and who’re the introverts (those whose energy depletes in a crowd, who tend to talk less).
  2. Extroverts need a little corralling. Learn how to use Assertiveness to curtail them when others need an opportunity to speak. But they provide great energy, drive and impetus, so don’t corral too much.

With An Effort, She Glanced Down at the Table

So what do you do about passive, quiet or shy types, who hardly contribute? I fit into and have chaired meetings with the “quiet” category, so here’s what I know about these types from a career of over 20 years.

  1. Give them time to prepare. This means no last-minute meetings. Send the agenda. And the attendee list.
  2. Offer them an opportunity to present a short talk or demo at the meeting. Quiet people (introverts) do best when they have time to prepare.
  3. Ask them a direct question, one that is obvious based on their job title, skills and experience. Address them by name, so there is no confusion.
  4. Give them a few moments to collect their thoughts. Quiet people think internally. They will take a few seconds longer to answer.
  5. Thank them for their contribution.

Human Sympathy Has Its Limits

Regardless of personality, you’ll encounter the ramblers, the aggressive types and the whingers.

  1. People who talk too much, often without saying anything of value just like Daisy Buchanan need to be stopped. Again, be assertive more rudeness is not acceptable. Divert: Ask a direct question to another, named person.
  2. If the louder, talkative ones are also the naysayers, ask for specific examples and solutions. Insist on solutions.
  3. Thank aggressive types for their contribution, but ask others for their reaction. If you have the room on your side, this can work well to quell a riot. If not, cut it off sharply but respectfully. Remind everyone of the agenda. Do not allow them to take over the time.

So We Beat On, Boats Against the Current

It’s always been done this way. We never have food at a lunchtime meeting, people can eat when they’re back at their desk. We always meet in the soul-sucking conference room with the 1970s drapes.

  1. Order in snacks. Everyone will come! It helps break the ice particularly when attendees are not all acquainted.
  2. Ask someone else to chair. Enable people to either discover new talents, or empathy for your usual role.
  3. Hold a standing meeting, an outside meeting or one in a different place.
  4. Finish early. You’ll be the talk of the town!

I’d love to know which of these tactics you use to confidently run meetings. Which do you like? Which will you try? If you need help running meetings or helping change a company culture, get in touch. We’d love to work with you.

Image credit: cjroarty

Meetings: Stand and Deliver

Today, I’m working through our Radical Time Management workshop with a group of business owners who have signed up to QUB’s CPD programme. One aspect of today will be to discuss how to decide whether a meeting is really necessary, how to get out of meetings or delegate someone to go in your place. However, should it arise that a meeting is entirely necessary, then here are the rules.

I debated whether to call this blog post, Stand, Breathe and Deliver, or perhaps The Oxygenated Highwayman. You figure it out!

What a Meeting is Not

A meeting is not:

  • A talking shop, for discussing and debating.
  • An opportunity to catch up with the social gossip within your organisation.
  • A chance to bitch about the staff/management en masse.

If your meetings include any of these activities, eliminate them and reclaim your time.

Avoid Having a Meeting At All

Few people enjoy meetings. Become the darling of your management team by suggesting sane alternatives:

  • Pick up the phone and ask a question.
  • Send an email with Voting Buttons or a Survey to elicit opinions or a series of swift decisions.
  • If you need only keep people informed or share documents:
    • Learn how to use Google Docs
    • If you have more money to spend, ask IT to set up a simple intranet site
    • If you fancy yourself a competent writer, start an internal blog.

If a meeting is still considered necessary, hold a Stand-Up Meeting – see below.

There are only three rules. Stand, Breathe and Deliver.

Hold a Stand-Up Meeting

Stand-up meetings are characterised by the following:

  • Invite the team involved on a project, not every manager in the building
  • Attendees stand, rather than sit
  • Meetings are generally brief (5-15 minutes), due to the eventual discomfort of standing so long in one place
  • There are no life-draining, convoluted series of welcomes, points arising, matters pertaining thereunto, thank-yous, discussions, deliberations or any other such nonsense

I reserve my right to indulge in a little sarcasm, having once worked for an organisation where full-day meetings (with tea-breaks and specially ordered-in lunch) were too regular to dismiss as anomalies; they were planned this way.

  • All members are encouraged to speak (briefly), sometimes using a visual prompt (such as a conch, as in Lord of the Flies, but a ridiculously-shaped stress-ball would do the same job)
  • Updates state progress, impediments to progress and prompt immediate solutions, a format that works extremely well in software development companies, where it has been adopted enthusiastically probably because it fits snugly with the Agile project management style

Have a Meeting in a Forest

Get your staff or managers out of the office for an hour, and into nature. I highly recommend meeting beside a gushing waterfall. You can almost get drunk on the high oxygen in such places. Oxygen, exercise, and space are all essential for energy, creativity, problem-solving, motivation, brainstorming, and those of us who are right-brain dominant (for which our schools, colleges, workplaces and world have no place to play).

If this is impossible (due to narrow-mindedness, what else?), a local cafe might provide at least a walk in the fresh air, which always invigorates thinking.

Insist on Delivery Before the Four Horsemen of Armageddon Arrive

Interpret this how you will. Insist on delivery of the tasks assigned to individuals before either the universe implodes, the staff retention rate reaches unacceptable levels, the FSA sends their men in black coats, profits sink, or Friday is upon you. In other words, schedule your tasks.

Assign tasks to named individuals. Ensure everyone is sent a summary of the main points by email. I recommend a massively pared-down version of minutes, if at all.

Further, ask for a (not necessarily written) report on how the task went at the beginning of the next meeting. Slackers and procrastinators will soon get used to being held accountable to their peers. When you encounter persistent, malignant non-compliance, train or fire. It’s a simple deterrent.

That’s about all I have to say. Trust me. I’ve been there. Think of what my new BFF Richard Koch would say.

Koch would say 80% of meetings are a waste of time. And, 80% of time your spent at meetings is wasted. He’d tell you to prioritise and choose the 20% of meetings that are an effective use of your time, and attend those. And, be aware that while you’re there, you’ll only find 20% of THAT time is actually effectively spent.

In other words, go back to where I said, Avoid Having a Meeting at All.

If you need help in drastically altering how meetings happen at your organisation, get in touch.

Leah Totten Won

I’m no Claude, but here are a few suggestions why I think Leah triumphed over Luisa.

Leah Totton was cast as the quiet, even cold, one during The Apprentice 2013. It’s true that we’re not known for our effective assertiveness skills in NI. But, cold!?

First, let me explain why Leah may have been artlessly pegged as the quiet, cold one.

Allen‘s Granny Used to say That Everybody Has to Be *Something*

In order for the media industry to invent headlines and concoct a story, everyone has to have a character, a physical flaw, a quirk (Alex’s quirky eyebrows, Jordan’s impressive quiff, Tim’s physical energy, Myles notable “abs”).

We don’t know these people, and so we latch on to something obvious about them in order to love, hate and gossip. It’s what makes normal entrepreneurs begin to screech at the screen… “No!”, “Agrgh!” and “Oh, wise the flip up!”. Ok, that’s only at my house…

In Quietness and Confidence Shall be your Strength

This is one of my all-time favourite ancient texts, written by an eighth century BC prophet. In defence of quietness:

  • Quietness does not mean silence. Leah Totten was not silent. She was articulate. And, choosing her words carefully, spoke when necessary, avoiding the temptation to splatter the atmosphere with clich√©s, business speak and wearying truisms.
  • Volume does not invoke wisdom. That much is clear in our workplaces, cafes, homes and neighbourhoods. And, those who used volume on the show to get their point across? Did it work? On the contrary, a loud voice used consistently is boorish, intimidating and stressful. Content often gets sidelined.
  • When a quiet person speaks, people listen. Leah was listened to because she made sense, she consistently referred the team back to the point of the task (usually, selling) at key stages.
  • Lest we forget, introversion is not a disease; it is a tendency or preference.

For Cold, Read Calm

Business shows on the telebox past and present have included candidates who were:

  • Loud and contentless
  • Confident to the point of pantomime
  • Argumentative like it was an Olympic sport

Leah’s peaceful demeanor, physical stillness, immaculate personal presentation contributed to Lord’s Sugar’s confidence in her.

Tranquil, Self-Assured and Stylish

Though apparently maligned on the show due to her medical career (why invite her onto the show??), my guess is that the following skills are crucial in a highly-charged environment of healthcare:

  • Whose office would you rather be in when bad news is delivered? One of tranquility, or one of noise?
  • Physical stillness is one of the assertiveness techniques we teach on seminars. Those who flail around are sometimes taken as nervous, threatening or bonkers (when combined with idiotic language and contentless monologues). Keeping physically calm exudes confidence and self-assuredness. It reassures the listener. (Incidentally, Karren Brady also employs this technique.)
  • Again, in business, we select clothes, style hair and adopt a personal presentation that enhances our message, rather than detracts from it. Have you read the dress what you want to become mantra? This underscored Leah’s determination to win. She already looked like a winner.

In my book (as Nick would enunciate), despite many candidates’ best attempts, it wasn’t bombast or slickness that won the day. It was a clear-thinking communicator, with little business experience, who listened to requirements of the task and interpreted them consistently to achieve excellent results.

A Woman on a Rampage

In the final, she was “a woman on a rampage” (Alex). Hardly quiet or cold!

In true Leah Totten style, and celebrated by those on the introversion spectrum everywhere, after the final she said, “I ‘m not really a big partier.”

Well done Dr Leah. 🙂