Eight Powerful Strategies to Fix Your Meetings

Meetings are at the heart of effective organizations. Each meeting is an opportunity to clarify issues, set direction, sharpen focus, create alignment, and move ambitions forward. We have to change the way we think about meetings, the way we design and lead them, and, most importantly, how we manage what happens between meetings.

Paul Axtell offers eight powerful strategies for fixing our meeting problems, and within each strategy, he provides concrete advice you can put into action immediately such as limiting participants, being vigilant about what gets on the agenda, designing the conversation for each agenda item, and managing the experience for everyone in the room so people leave feeling heard and appreciated.

Here are the eight strategies:

  1. Choose the perspective: This Matters.
  2. Master effective conversations.
  3. Create supportive relationships.
  4. Decide what matters and who cares.
  5. Design each conversation.
  6. Lead meetings for three outcomes.
  7. Participate in meetings to add impact.
  8. Build remarkable groups.

If you’re struggling with making your meetings productive and powerful, then join us on April 28th for our Soundview Live webinar with Paul Axtell: Eight Powerful Strategies to Fix Your Meetings. Bring your team together for the webinar and post your questions for Paul during the session.

Book Review: The Best Place to Work

TheBestPlaceToWork

by Ron Friedman

The world described in The Best Place to Work, by psychologist and consultant Ron Friedman, is the polar opposite of the world of Frederick Taylor, in which efficiency and productivity was based on economizing the movement of the worker; in today’s world, efficiency and productivity depend on maximizing the thinking of the worker. In the time of Taylor, employees and workers were nothing more than living machines; today, the key to a successful business is meeting the human needs of your people.

And this is why psychology has become a key component to creating the most efficient and productive workplace, Friedman writes. Building on the latest research in psychology and neuroscience, covering areas such as motivation, creativity, innovation and management, Friedman lays out the sometimes surprising insights and solutions for motivating employees to achieve their best, enhancing creativity and collaboration, and attracting and retaining the best performers.

Friedman’s “menu of proven ingredients” is extensive and detailed — and although some discussions might be more or less relevant based on the specific organization, it is probable that every organization will find at least some takeaways from each chapter. Beyond the specific workplace and work-experience solutions contained in its chapters, The Best Place to Work provides three overarching lessons:

Psychological needs are at the heart of employee engagement. Employees need to experience autonomy, a sense of competence and “relatedness” — a connection with other employees — on a daily basis.

Organizations are more successful when they address the limits of the mind and body. Humans are not machines. There are a number of limitations, for example, the number of hours we can work at our highest productive level or the decline of problem-solving skills when we’re under stress. The best organizations recognize these limitations and, through innovative measures, give employees an opportunity to overcome them.

Integrating work and family life improves the quality of both. The idea that work and personal time are separate is a myth, according to Friedman. Instead of artificially separating the two, the best organizations find ways to “blend the two worlds.” “The future of great workplaces,” writes Friedman, “lies in helping employees fuse their personal and professional lives in ways that position them to deliver their best work.” The Best Place to Work should become one of the definitive books on creating the motivating and empowering workplace and work experience that are at the heart of any business success. Building on solid and extensive research, Friedman’s overarching themes and specific solutions and insights establish the context for all future efforts to motivate and engage employees and develop inspiring and persuasive leadership skills.

What Goes Wrong In Groupthink?

Two heads are better than one, according to the old saying. So why are groups with lots of “heads” known for making bad decisions? Why does “groupthink” immediately connote ineffectiveness and mistakes?

These questions are answered in a fascinating new book called Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter, written by Cass R. Sunstein, a former White House official, and Reid Hastie, an academic specialized in the psychology of decision making. Building on their combined experiences and research, Sunstein and Hastie dissect what goes wrong in group decision-making, then offer clear-cut solutions to overcome these problems.

Group decision-making involves discussions among members of a group, each with their own skills, experience, ideas and information. Unfortunately, as the authors explain, there are two types of influences on group members — informational signals and social pressures — which skew the deliberations. Informational signals cause people to keep information to themselves when it contradicts information from others, especially leaders. Social pressures cause people to keep information to themselves to avoid punishment, for example, the disapproval of leaders who are contradicted.

These influences lead to four problems, the authors write: Instead of correcting the errors of their members, groups actually amplify those errors (e.g., the leader’s mistaken conclusion is validated by the group); cascade effects take over when the group follows whomever spoke first or loudest; groups become more polarized, that is, more extreme in their sentiments, as the internal discussions reinforce their predisposed thoughts; and groups focus on shared information (what most people know) instead of unshared information — the information known only by a few individuals.

Having laid out the core problems, the authors offer solutions. They begin with a list of methods aimed at counteracting the four core problems, such as

Leaders have to keep quiet and convince group members that they sincerely want to hear all ideas.

Group success (not individual success) should be rewarded. Group members must understand that if the group is right, everyone benefits; this will encourage them to ensure that they find the right answer rather than pushing their own ideas.

Group members should be assigned specific roles (for example, one person is the medical expert, another the legal expert), thus ensuring that everyone contributes.

Either individuals or assigned teams (known as red teams) should be tasked with acting as devil’s advocates.

Groups also fail, the authors write, because they don’t distinguish between the “sloppy” early rounds of deliberations, in which all ideas must be allowed on the table, and the final rounds of deliberations, in which groups must be tight and analytical as they seek the precise solution. Successful groups will deliberately separate the two processes.

In another approach, the authors demonstrate that the wisdom of crowds (making decisions based on the average or majority of large crowds of people) will often lead to the right answer if a majority of crowd members know their material. Decision-makers often prefer to rely on one single expert, but “chasing the expert” significantly reduces the probability of getting the decision right.

Wiser is a quick, engaging and thoughtful read that compellingly argues that, with a few simple steps and open-minded leadership, group deliberations can, indeed, lead to wiser decisions.

How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives

A CEO’S PRACTICE OF CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM

“The coolest part,” writes The Container Store founder Kip Tindell in his book Uncontainable, “is when you’re doing a performance review and give an employee a much bigger raise than she was expecting. She starts crying, you start crying, and the magic spreads across the company, and out into the world.” This short passage about compensation reflects the heart of Tindell’s philosophy of “conscious capitalism” in which the best way to make money is to do the right thing by employees, customers and the community.

Tindell’s authenticity and generosity are shown through his use of words that are rarely, if ever, found in any business book. Words such as “yummy,” which is used as the core description of the company’s culture and environment. “I know, chief executives don’t often use words like ‘yummy’ when talking about their companies,” Tindell writes. “But it’s a word we use all the time around here. When folks ask, “What do you mean by ‘yummy’?” I say, well, it’s the opposite of yucky.” He goes on to explain that “yummy” is “the deeply pleasurable sensation employees and customers get the moment they walk through the doors into our store.”

How do you translate a concept such as “yumminess” into a business model and real-world business practices? The answer, according to Tindell, is found in The Container Store’s Foundation Principles. What stands out in these principles is the unwavering and unapologetic embrace of being kind, generous and even sentimental, of believing that there is good in everyone and that by building on that good, you create a money-making venture. Uncontainable is a respectful (Tindell believes in not saying anything if you can’t say anything kind) but firm rejection of Jack Welch and Milton Friedman.

The Seven Principles are:

1 Great Person = 3 Good People. The Container Store does everything it can to hire the best people, including compensating them at significantly higher rates than the average in retail. With his company consistently chosen as a Best Place to Work in America and boasting a turnover rate of 10 percent (the retail industry average is 100 percent), Tindell proves that his company is filled with truly great people.

Fill the Other Guy’s Basket to the Brim. Making Money Then Becomes an Easy Proposition. This principle is reflected, for example, in the company’s win-win relationships with suppliers, who are treated as partners. In fact, Tindell writes, good relationships with suppliers are win-win-win relationships because the customer also wins.

Man in the Desert Selling. Don’t just give the man in the desert a glass of water. Tend to all of his needs. Don’t sell a box. Sell solutions to the customer’s living needs.

Communication IS Leadership. The Container Store practices open-book management (with the exception of individual salaries). Open communication, Tindell explains, “is a crucial part of our commitment in valuing one another and making sure we all feel appreciated, included, safe, secure and empowered.”

The Best Selection, Service and Price. Most business will not attempt to achieve all three. “We work to hit the Triple Crown every day,” writes Tindell.

Intuition Does Not Come to an Unprepared Mind. You Need to Train Before It Happens. The average length of training in the retail industry is eight hours. In their first year, employees of The Container Store receive 300 hours of training — and the training continues throughout their career.

Air of Excitement! When greeted by enthusiastic employees genuinely interested in helping customers resolve their organizing needs, those customers become just as enthusiastic, Tindell explains.

Conscious capitalism is not always an easy sell, despite the do-good sentiment expressed in every form of corporate communication that emerges from a company’s PR machine. If there is a core lesson from Uncontainable, it is that truly conscious capitalism exists only if the CEO leads with his or her heart.

Maybe most CEOs will never be comfortable using words such as “yummy” or sharing the tears of pleasure that come with a raise. Not all CEOs can be Kip Tindell — but after reading this book, you’ll almost wish they could.

Three New Summaries to Lead Better

Leaders help themselves and their teams to do the right things. However, sometimes leaders need to re-think their vision or processes to improve their organizations. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go as a team or an organization to be successful. Learn how to be a better leader by developing a culture of excellence within your organization, asking the right questions, and becoming a strategic thinker to “win” with these three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

Becoming_Your_Best

by Steven Shallenberger

Becoming Your Best by Steven Shallenberger. In Becoming Your Best, Steven Shallenberger, states that as a leader you can succeed in business and live a happy life at the same time. Shallenberger reveals the 12 principles for developing a culture of excellence within your organization. These principles will help you reach your highest potential and drive the kind of innovation that turns good companies into industry leaders, all while living a well-balanced personal life.

 

 

Good_Leaders_Ask_Great_Questions

by John C. Maxwell

Good Leaders Ask Great Questions by John C. Maxwell. To learn and grow into a successful leader, you need to yourself and your teams question, but the key is asking the right questions. John C. Maxwell presents the process of becoming a successful leader by examining how questions can be used to advantage, in Good Leaders Ask Great Questions. Maxwell shares leadership questions he has gathered from others and from his own experience that will inspire both seasoned leaders and new leaders to ask great questions to improve their leadership skills and careers.

 

Game_Changer

by David McAdams

Game-Changer by David McAdams. You can turn defeats into wins, if you have the vision to “change the game”. In Game-Changer, David McAdams uses game theory to out-strategize your rivals. McAdams discloses six basic ways to change games: commitment, regulation, cartelization, retaliation, trust and relationships. By learning to be a deeper strategic thinker, you’ll be able to “change the game” to plot business tactics and gain insights for your advantage.