(We invite you to SUBSCRIBE to this blog as well!)
November 02nd, 2010
Is a lack of focus preventing you from getting the most out of your business meetings?
If you find yourself running from one meeting to the next and suspect you’re not being as effective as you could be, you’re not alone. A client recently contacted me asking for advice on successfully managing multiple meetings:
“I am often in back-to-back meetings with heavy topics. With no time to mentally release from one topic/meeting and switch to give my full attention to the next topic/meeting, listening becomes difficult. I know the next meeting is as important as the previous one. Are there any tips to clear ones brain to truly focus? Is there a polite way I can transition into the new meeting/topic without seeming disinterested?”
Whether itʼs swooping into business meetings with that final decision everyoneʼs waiting for, checking off tasks on their to-do lists, or navigating conflicts in between, leaders and executives are multitasking all day long. But instead of keeping teams on track, this type of behaviour can significantly derail team effectiveness and individual productivity.
It’s not how much running around you do that’s important. It’s how focused you are while doing it.
Productivity expert Jim Loehr sums up the importance of being fully focused during business tasks like meetings:
“If youʼre present but disengaged, youʼre doing the exact opposite of your intention. Itʼs not how many hours you put in with a client or on a project. Itʼs the quantity and quality of your energy—your focus and force—that determines whether that time is valuable. We call that ‘full engagement’… the acquired ability to intentionally invest your full and best energy right here and now.”
Successful business meetings require focused energy. The key to staying engaged, present, and interested is to take a moment at the beginning of each meeting to connect with your team. This process is called a check-in, and it’s an effective way to help each person in the meeting refocus and recommit their energy to the meeting at hand. (Read my post “The Secret to Aligning Teams for Fast Results” for more information on this applied emotional intelligence technique.)
So next time you feel rushed and overwhelmed, take a breath. Set aside time at the beginning of each meeting to check in with your team. Practice makes progress.
What methods have you used to refocus prior to a successful business meeting? I’d love to hear about them.
September 23rd, 2010
Wikipedia states that Silos are used in agriculture to store grain or fermented feed known as silage.
Are you fermenting your team’s business knowledge in your own wee silo?
As my neighbour’s children run around their backyard chanting this favourite tune; “I am the King of the Castle, you’re the dirty rascal”, I am reminded of one leaders’ “aha” moment about “silos” in a recent leadership team meeting.
In business, silos can be created by an individual, a team or an operating division/department. Silos, within business, are characterized by holding on, controlling or turf protecting which become synonymous with power struggles, lack of cooperation and loss of productivity.
In this recent leadership team meeting, Rory* commented that he often had difficulties being productive because he judged his fellow leadership team-members as working in silos. He felt that each member focused on their own tactical projects, but didn’t take the time to support their fellow team members on common initiatives.
For the following monthly meeting with this leadership team, I introduced our ‘feedback matrix’ competency. The feedback matrix teaches members about and offers the opportunity to practice how to give one another corrective and directive feedback.
I asked each member of the team to make two statements to each of their co-workers. The statements were;
- “Working with you, one of the difficulties that I have is…”, and
- “Working with you, one of the appreciations I have is…”.
The greater the number of team members, the greater amount of feedback each person receives. It is very useful for each member to note any repetitive feedback they receive from their co-workers.
In his group of ten colleagues, Rory learned, from many, that his co-workers rarely knew what he was working on. They commented that their personal interpretation was that Rory was not sharing information about his project because he assumed they were too busy to hear from him. They stated that they often learned about a projects’ tasks far too late to offer Rory any support or resources.
With his jaw on the boardroom table, Rory realized the company did not have operating silo’s but rather that he had created his own silo.
Once Rory became aware of his own behaviours that lead to creating his own departmental silo, he was able to take the necessary steps to overcome those behaviours. He began by connecting with co-workers more often, sharing current tasks and reporting on project progress.
In leadership meetings, Rory started to experience many leadership team benefits; improved team relationships, higher productivity, better use of resources and personally feeling more effective and engaged.
The feedback matrix helped Rory increase his own awareness and responsibility of creating his own silo. He is no longer fermenting important team knowledge.
What silos are you stuck in?
*Name has been changed.
September 09th, 2010
Have you lost your way? Are you stuck in the “Why Are We Here” stage of project development?
When working with teams, I often run into leaders and executives struggling to complete a task or project. Instead of realizing that they need to re-vitalize their own personal engagement and commitment, they are engulfed by a cloud of ‘stucked-ness’. The true death of project development.
Progressing through the stages of project development ultimately lies in our ability to apply a little emotional intelligence. Having a personal awareness of ‘what’s going on’ and recognizing how to manage behaviours to get unstuck are key to navigating through the tough stuff that will get us to the next stage.
I have found that there are three common scenarios of ‘stuckedness’ within teams around project development:
1. Lost Sight of the Big Picture
What happened to the idea of my blog being the perfect platform to connect with and build business relationships?
As my recent blog on the stages of project development describes, priorities recently tore me away from my project of writing and posting regular blog posts. In dealing with the tacticals of each post such as audio, video, SEO, categories and tags, I realized that getting caught up in the details of the project had clouded my original reasons for blogging.
Therefore, when I reached the ‘Why Are We Here” stage, I found myself back-peddlin’ after losing sight of my original project excitements, which were my values and the big picture vision.
2. Shiny Object Syndrome
How come the project seemed like a good idea last week, but this week you want to move onto something else, even though the other project isn’t complete?
I have often witnessed those stuck in the ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ of the “Why Are we Here” stage. They typically lose interest in the project very quickly. They live off of the adrenal high a new project offers. The many
to-do’s required to get a project off the ground has them feeling cornered.
They are ‘stuck’ in the tension of aborting versus continuing.
3. Overwhelming Paralysis.
What if your role in the project is a task which is not aligned with your primary strengths?
I worked with a VP of Human Resources recently who was struggling to complete the budget for her division. Her strength was people not finance! Her lack of confidence and competence paralyzed her progress.
With self-awareness comes an opportunity for self-management. In each of these cases, the “Why are We Here Stage” offers an opportunity to move forward.
Now that I know I’ve lost sight of the big picture, I will re-connect with the vision of my blogs.
Those suffering from shiny object syndrome will have a sense of accomplishment once the project is broken down into manageable goals.
For people stuck in overwhelming paralysis, consider the advantage of building project support. Asking someone to be your accountability partner or finding someone to discuss the tasks with will alleviate your project anxiety and allow you to take charge of the project by getting help along the way.
The project stages offer us a framework to access where we are in our project. By combining emotional intelligence, self-awareness and self management skills, you already have the ability to apply these techniques and new behaviours to ensure all projects are successful.
How do you move on, when stuck in the “Why am I Here” stage?
August 27th, 2009
One of my absolute favourite books is The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. In it, they cite a study in which a group of women committed to do a breast self-exam for 30 days.
One group of women said where and when they were going to do the exam, and 100% of those women actually did it. Among those who didn’t say where and when, only 53% completed it.
We can apply this same concept to daily planning & priority-setting. By defining “where and when,” you greatly improve your probability of success. You’ll be much more aware of what those priorities are, and it will be easier to manage your time, eliminate non-urgent activities, and create the momentum you need.
If you and your team are trying to gain more control of your time, here are three steps to stay on track throughout the day.
- Plan (7 minutes): Each morning, decide your top 2 “must do’s” today and write them down
- Realign (60 seconds each hour): Set an alarm to ring every hour and ask yourself, “Did I spend my last 60 minutes on my priority?” If “yes,” congratulate yourself and keep on it. If “no,” refocus.
- Reflect (3 minutes at the end of the day): Evaluate your performance. What did you do well? What happened to distract you? And how can you improve tomorrow?
Remember, if you avoid setting priorities, your time will eroded away. The key is focus, and writing down your priorities can make a tremendous difference.