Do You, or Your Company, Screw Up Meetings?

no_meetings_funny_office_saying_sticker-r8f98b046a5c14c4eb859a1553d1b3360_v9waf_8byvr_512A friend recently shared a funny video about conference calls and what they would look like if they were in person.  It’s made the social media rounds, but was still good for a laugh one more time.  It got me thinking about meetings… specificaly conference calls, since I work from home.  I pulled up my calendar and just looking at 2015, it appears I spend anywhere between 10- 50% of my week sitting in some type of meeting.

Like many jobs, the meeting has turned into the commonly accepted way of disemminating information as well as a way to bring people together.  The issue is that it has become the most irrelevant mode of communication for many reasons.  Here are just a few:

  • Employees don’t have time to get their other work done.  I don’t know about you, but when I am stilling in a meeting or on a call, there is no way I can do anything else.  I sit there the whole time thinking about all the other work I need to be doing, especially if I’m one of the people in the meeting who doesn’t really need to be there.  This leads me to…
  • The wrong people are invited.  How many meetings are you asked to attend and when you walk out (or hang up) you’re thinking “Why was I just in that for an hour?”  All the time!  Meeting organizers need to think long and hard about who is invited.  As a rule of thumb, if you don’t plan on the person making a verbal contribution to a decision, don’t invite them to the call.  Find another routine way to send information for those who need to know, but don’t need to make the decision.
  • The meeting takes too long.  I was listening to a show about the TED talk recently and they said that TED landed on the 18 minute presentation because it’s about how long an adult can remain focused without drifting to thoughts of something else.  Seems about right when I think of my own attention span at a meeting.  Try this….make your next meeting 18 minutes.  Your colleagues will thank you and be much happier to attend any future meetings you organize.
  • Speaking of time….it doesn’t end when it’s over.  One of my biggest pet peeves in work life is that meetings are scheduled for an hour.  Often, even if the agenda has been gone through, people still hang in there and add more.  We’re all adults here.  If you tell me we’re going to talk about these four things and we finish, end the meeting.  Employees have 20 other things on their plate they can go back and work on.  Don’t drag out what isn’t necessary.  If this means that one meeting is 18 minutes and the next is 31, great.  At least you won’t be keeping everyone the full hour.  I used to have a boss that would say he was “gifting” the time back to us.  I love that and always walked out with a smile on my face.
  • Distractors ruin the moment.  This is a BIG no-no in my book.  If you’re leading the meeting and a person (or two) derail the meeting with nonsense, stop them.  It’s disrespectful to everyone to let that happen.  We’re not all here for fun and chit-chat, it’s work.
  • Late people interrupt the flow.  This is a related cousin of the last one.  If you’re arriving within 2 minutes of the start time, ok.  Anything after that, just don’t come.  You disturb the flow of the conversation and distract everyone.  ESPECIALLY on conference calls…”DING!” Trish has now entered the call.

When I worked at PwC, I had a good policy that if I attended a meeting and I was clearly not needed, I’d discretely get up and leave.  After making it known to colleagues not to invite me if I wasn’t needed, I had fewer meetings to attend.  The ones I attended, I was able to weigh in and add my ideas.  The rest….well, somehow the company still ran without me in them.  It all worked out.

What are your tactics for managing through the meeting madness?  Share them in the comments.

How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Your Work

*From the dusty archives…

A little over a week ago, I was starting to get sick.  With springtime comes allergies so, like most people, I attributed my early symptoms to that.  By day two though, I knew I really had something brewing.  My main signal was sitting at my desk at work and suddenly feeling like I could fall asleep.  I felt like George from Seinfeld when he decided he needed a nap at work and created a spot under his desk where he could sleep.  I contemplated asking someone to come pick me up and drive me home, but instead, I drank a Coke and felt energized enough to drive myself.

Looking back, I know that day at work was not my most productive.  I was trying my best to stay completely focused but the illness and drowsiness impacted my ability to stay focused and accomplish all I needed to do.  Now, we all know that this happens to everyone.  We get sick.  What I am thinking about today is how many people who have long-term sleep issues come to work drowsy every day?  What impact does that have on their productivity?  Are they in positions that put others at risk? 

In a recent article highlighting the National Sleep Foundation’s 2012 Sleep In America poll, “about one-fourth of train operators (26%) and pilots (23%) admit that sleepiness has affected their job performance at least once a week, compared to about one in six non-transportation workers (17%).

Perhaps more disturbingly, a significant number say that sleepiness has caused safety problems on the job. One in five pilots (20%) admit that they have made a serious error and one in six train operators (18%) and truck drivers (14%) say that they have had a “near miss” due to sleepiness.  Sleepiness has also played a role in car accidents commuting to and from work. Pilots and train operators are significantly more likely than non-transportation workers (6% each, compared to 1%) to say that they have been involved in a car accident due to sleepiness while commuting.”

Statistics like these are somewhat jarring but honestly, not completely surprising.  While many of us do not have transportation related jobs, drowsiness can still have a significant negative impact on work productivity and our results.

As a leader, have you noticed that drowsiness has had an impact on your performance or the performance of your team?  What signs have you seen that drowsy workers in a corporate setting are impacting productivity?  Share in the comments.

6 Years of HRringleader

Today marks the 6 year anniversary of HRringleader.  It’s been an amazing time, full of new ideas, opportunities and friends.  Truth be told, I started the blog as a way to learn about blogging so I could design a training about it for work.  I never thought it would turn into something that would change my life.  As I wrote more posts and shared my ideas, it became my personal journal that just happened to be public.

I don’t share everything I write, but I share most posts.  I don’t always have the time to dedicate to blogging every day as I once did, but even so, I hope that what I create is valuable to you and that you’ll continue to read and share.  I also enjoy when you share your ideas with me because that helps us all learn and grow

What I’ve learned from blogging is that nothing stays the same and that we all can use support as things develop and change.  I am grateful to each of you for helping me in that endeavor.  I once shared a poem by Robert Frost in a post and I’d like to do that again today as a reminder of the many changes to come in the next 6 years…

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Nothing Gold Can Stay, it is a tribute to innocence as well as to changes that we all go through.  So often as leaders and as human beings we are forced to lose our innocence little by little, situation by situation.  I’m reminded of a time of personal innocence when I first heard about this poem.  I was in junior high school and reading the book The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.  It is a story of a group of young teenage boys who are coming of age.  Through many trials and tribulations, several key characters die during the story.  One character, Johnny, tells the lead character, Ponyboy, to “stay gold”.

Whether recalling the prose of a brilliant poet or the inspired quote from an author who speaks to a younger generation, the message is clear.  As you are faced with change, do all you can to hang on to your innocence about things.  The purity.  The raw emotion.  After all, nothing gold can stay.

I thank you and hope you’ll continue this journey with me.

Cheers!

HR Happy Hour #201: Putting the Fun Into Analytics

A few weeks ago, Steve and I had the opportunity to record a HR Happy Hour episode with Mike Psenka, SVP of Workforce Solutions at Equifax and Edward Pertwee, Strategic Workforce Consultant at BT.  We had just conducted a panel discussion on how to leverage data and analytics for HR and organizational success.

Mike and Ed both shared some excellent examples, (both in the panel and in the HR Happy Hour podcast), of how, where, and to what effect data and analytics are making an impact in workforce planning, compliance, and to improve business results. There are some amazingly powerful applications for using data in a wide variety of contexts – where to locate company facilities, the effect of demographic shifts on performance, and how long commute times impact engagement and satisfaction.

Additionally, Steve defended Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks, I told Steve that the number ‘201’ should not be said as ‘two hundred and one’, and we learned that a husband should never question the strength and intensity of his wife’s labor contractions.

You can listen to the show on the show page here, and using the widget player below, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through).

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

As always, you can listen to the current and all the past shows from the archive on the show page here, on our HR Happy Hour website, and by subscribing to the show in podcast form on iTunes, or for Android devices using Stitcher Radio (or your favorite podcast app). Just search the iTunes store or your podcast app for ‘HR Happy Hour’ to add the show to your subscriptions.

This was a really fun show with some fantastic guests and I hope you enjoy listening!

How to Calculate The Number of People It Takes to Change Your Organization

squarerootBack in 2010 I wrote a post about how to Tap Into Informal Leaders to Influence.  The basic premise of the post was that I learned that in order to turn or change an organization, you only need to find the square root of the total employees and focus on spreading the word through that number of people.  For example:

Organization size-  5,000 employees

Square root of 5,000-  70.71 employees

So, in order to make change stick in this example, you would need to find the 70 employees who are the informal leaders/ influencers and get them on board. Messaging should still come from more formal channels, but by getting the influencers to spread the word with you, you can make a more significant impact on the organizational change.

I have been thinking about this as I have conversation after conversation about organizational culture, influence and employee engagement.  I’ve talked to leaders over the years who sincerely believe that company culture comes from the top down, and maybe that is a possibility.  I tend to embrace the idea that with each new employee you add to the organization, the company culture shifts a bit.  They each help form the ever-evolving culture.  I’m not sure that either opinion is 100% correct and that’s alright.

What I am sure of is that if this theory is true, a company can be changed by a relatively small number of people.  If you’re in a position to want to make your workplace better, more inclusive, more productive and more welcoming to all employees, it really doesn’t take much to turn the whole ship around.  The same holds true for the reverse and this is why a small group can also make a workplace unbearable.

When I first heard this theory, I began reaching out to the informal leaders in my organization whenever a more formal message was coming out.  I would find those influencers who may not have a fancy title or years of service, those who had the ear of the other employees though.  I would make sure they knew what was coming and that they felt like part of the process.  It really seemed to make a difference in getting ideas from management accepted.

What do you think?  Have you experienced this before?  Let me know in the comments.

What Your Desk Lamp Says About You

arne-jacobsen-table-lamp-louis-poulsen-1I’ve been thinking about desk accessories.  When it comes to things like picture frames, pencil holders, and plants, employees and managers alike gravitate to different desk decor.  This brings me to the desk lamp.  When I think back to every job I’ve ever had, I never worked for a company that provided a lamp for my desk.  Whether in a cubicle earlier in my career, or an office as my foray into management arrived, I had to endure the same harsh glare of the fluorescent bulbs that everyone else did.  Until, I didn’t.

One day, I read somewhere that employees were more productive and less stressed when they worked using softer lighting.  I went out and bought my first desk lamp.  I don’t think I put much thought into it at the time, it was just some inexpensive metal stem with a thin paper shade, but the warm glow the bulb produced made a huge difference in my mood while at my desk.  It was all about the function.  As the years flew by and the offices changed, I bought other lamps.  Still, I never thought much about how the lamp base looked, whether it was constructed of wood or metal and the shade didn’t seem to matter either as long as it remained nondescript.

Then I read The Mr. Porter Paperback and an article called The Gear: Desk Lamps. Now I work from home, so my desk lamp is one that is just any old lamp you’d find in a normal, suburban house.  It likely came from Pier 1 or some similar store.  But, according to this article, the thought you put into lamp selection is well worth time and precision.  The article shares great detail of lamps such as the AJ, designed by the legend Mr. Arne Jacobsen, to the Kelvin, “Mr. Antonio Citterio’s high-tech, energy-efficient and impossibly elegant take on the post-Anglepoise typology.” As you can see, there is great care that goes into the design as well as the description.

All this lamp talk brings me to the point of today’s post. We often make purchases of products or solutions based on almost no planning or thought.  As long as the functions needed are met, we make the purchase.  As leaders, we’re still not doing all we can to plan and select the best products and solutions for our organizations. By looking beyond the mere function, we can determine which people put the effort into their product and service.  Those are the people we want to work with.

With each interaction you have with your analyst, your vendor, or your employees, know that great care went into some of the details of the product or solution they sell that you may never fully appreciate. When it comes to desk lamps, I was always just looking for minimal function to get the job done.  As I’ve learned to appreciate, there is far more that goes into product selection than mere function.  There is the design behind those functions.  There are the ideas of how function leads way to a more desirable form. There is excitement and pride in going into a solution that is well made and well used.

So, as you embark on your day, think about this.  Do you have a desk lamp?  Did you think much about it when you purchased it?  If not, approach your interactions today with new eyes…with a sense of appreciation and wonder as you really look at all the tools you use throughout the day.  Whether they are technology driven or not, consider the design and thought behind them.

4 Things to Do Today to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

We can all use a little ongoing development.  There are certain skills that few people can master and never think about improving.  One of those skills is the art of negotiation.  I admit, there are people who seem to ooze confidence when it comes to wheeling-and-dealing to achieve the result they want.  However, for the majority, being able to negotiate a quality resolution is sporadic at best.

When thinking about negotiating, you could be facing a multi-million dollar deal on the table, a choice between vendors on a specific service or type of software, buying a home, or something as simple as managing your workload.  Negotiation, like any skill, is something you can improve over time as you continue to practice.  And, it’s not about winning or getting everything you want and ensuring the other person does not.  When done well, it’s about skillfully and creatively arriving at a solution that both parties can walk away from with dignity and a level of satisfaction.

According to an article in Psychology Today, by a factor of 2.5, more women than men feel a “great deal of apprehension” about negotiating, reports economist Linda Babcock, of Carnegie Mellon. Women go to great lengths to avoid the bargaining process—paying almost $1,400 more to avoid negotiating the price of a car. (That may explain why 63 percent of those who buy cars made by Saturn, a company that promises a no-haggle price, are women.) But “failing to negotiate her salary just once will cost a woman $500,000 over the course of her career,” she says.  Statistics like those are reason enough to prove that by being a strong, confident negotiator, you can receive more value over time in your interactions.

There are 4 ways to improve your negotiation skills:

  1. Know What You Want vs What You Need– One mistake we make is to believe that what we want is what we are negotiating for.  This should not be the case.  In order to be most successful, you need to focus time on determining exactly what you need.  For example, I recently participated in a negotiation exercise where another person and I had to negotiate for an orange.  We could not share with each other why we wanted the orange.  In my case, I needed the orange zest for something.  The other person needed the orange juice.  But, without proper negotiation, we fell into the ease that most people would of just dividing the orange in half.  That solution did not really give us what we needed.  We both wanted the whole orange.  We each needed only a part.  Dividing it in half was not the most successful outcome.  Had we been allowed to communicate our needs, we could have arrived at the solution that I would take the rind and she would take the inside of the orange.  Then, each person would have had exactly what we needed.
  2. Arm Yourself With Information- Taking time to research that company you want to work for, the interest rates and terms of a mortgage option or the goals of the department head that you are fighting with over resources will be time well spent.  The more you can learn about the needs of the other side, the better off you will be at creatively arriving at the best solution.
  3. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Honest-   A good example of honesty paying off comes when negotiating workload.  Many employees today get their work from multiple sources; a supervisor, other colleagues, company leaders, clients, vendors, volunteers…the list goes on and on.  After sifting through what needs to be done, being able to approach certain people and squarely addressing and negotiating different deadlines and deliverables will be key to better managing your work.  Be honest about the various pulls on your time and ask them what aspects of the request are flexible.  Start negotiating there.
  4. Build Relationships- In the end, being able to negotiate a situation with someone will ideally build a stronger relationship with that person.  By showing respect and understanding for the other person’s needs, that person will likely want to keep the relationship going.

Those are a few ways I have been able to have more successful negotiations.  What am I missing?  What techniques do you use?  Be sure to share them in the comments.

HR Happy Hour #204: Customer Success and Advocacy

HR Happy Hour 204- Customer Success and Advocacy

Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese

Guest: Howard Tarnoff

Listen to the show HERE

This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and I were joined by Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President for Ceridian HCM, and the person responsible for launching and overseeing the Ceridian’s award winning Customer Success Program “XOXO”.

On the show, Howard shared some of the pretty unique approaches to Customer Success and Advocacy that Ceridian has put in place – creating ways for customers to connect and share information and best practices, highlighting success stories for both organizations and individuals, and engaging customer advocates at numerous points along the HR buying journey.

Everything has changed about how organizations and individuals conduct product and market research, how they find and engage with trusted advisors and colleagues, and how they expect the relationship between solution provider and customer to evolve. Innovative approaches like Ceridian’s “XOXO” customer success program represent how modern, empowered, and mutually beneficial provider/customer relationships have adapted to meet these changes.

We also lamented (yes, again), about the terrible winter weather, Steve pitched his idea for a ‘Snow Day’ on May 22, we previewed some upcoming events on our calendars, and dropped the first hint about an exciting HR Happy Hour announcement that is coming soon.

You can listen to the show here, or using the widget player below, (Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through, or go to the show direct link)

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlaneon BlogTalkRadio

As always, you can listen to the current and all the past shows from the archive on the show page here, on our HR Happy Hour website, and by subscribing to the show in podcast form on iTunes, or for Android devices using Stitcher Radio (or your favorite podcast app). Just search the iTunes store or your podcast app for ‘HR Happy Hour’ to add the show to your subscriptions.

This was a great show, and many thanks to Howard and everyone at Ceridian for being a part of the fun.