Thursday, April 16, 2015

8 Tips to Leading a Great Strategic Planning Session

Guest post from Patrick Thean:

In business, a leader’s ability to strategically plan for the company’s future is of the highest importance. Your company will not be successful if you don’t have the strategies and execution plans in place to reach your objectives.

Great plans stem from great planning sessions. However, planning sessions are traditionally viewed as boring and unproductive. In fact, according to a recent survey, 71 percent of professionals in the U.S. felt that meetings were fruitless. This is a direct result of poorly executed meetings.

The key to leading a great planning session is to keep them effective, engaging and able to produce results. In my book, “Rhythm: How To Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth,” I provide practical tools and tips on how to effectively lead your team toward strategic goals and objectives. Here, I lay out eight key tips that can turn a boring planning session into one that is engaging and productive.

1.     Have a goal already in mind.
Set clear objectives for each planning session. Make sure that your executives are fully aware of the end goals and come prepared with different ways of reaching them.

2.     Create an agenda.
Put as much thought as possible into an agenda that outlines the meeting and send it to your executives a week before the meeting so they can be prepared to discuss the topics at hand and make well-informed decisions. 
3.     Come prepared.
Spend some time before the meeting thinking about the past year or past quarter. Know what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be improved to achieve goals in the future. And of course, make sure your team comes prepared as well.
4.     Set the right tone.
It is very important to have the right tone during these meetings. Having each team member share something positive, a successful business outcome perhaps, is a great way to start a meeting on a high note. It can also be useful in getting people acclimated to participating in the discussions. 

5.     Be effective
Don’t worry so much about getting through everything on the agenda; rather, focus on the right discussions that will deliver concrete results. Be sure to slow down the meeting during the more important and sensitive topics. 

6.     Have an idea repository.
When a topic comes up that is not on the agenda, put it on a list for later. This way, the meeting can always come back to the person who brought up that specific topic. This tactic helps your executives to know that their thoughts and concerns are important and will be heard throughout the meeting.

7.     Make light of every issue.
Every company has an ‘elephant in the room’ that it doesn’t want to discuss. Making light of these topics is great for clearing the air and coming up with a plan and a solution. Don’t be afraid to address these topics. 

8.     End the meeting at a reasonable time.
Tired people don’t always make the best decisions. If the session is running too long, end the meeting – especially if there are big decisions that need to be made. Thinking about these choices overnight never hurts. Be sure to have a backup plan for the next day to cover the information that didn’t fit into the first session. 

Planning sessions are essential to the success of an organization. As a leader, it is up to you to cultivate a discussion that can successfully prepare your teams while producing positive ideas and more importantly, results. 

About Patrick Thean: 
Patrick Thean is the CEO and co-founder of Rhythm Systems, a cloud-based strategy execution software platform that facilitates airtight execution and measurability for mid-market CEOs. A serial entrepreneur, bestselling author and frequent speaker, Patrick is best known for helping companies accelerate their growth by focusing on great execution.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 Things That Employees Can do to Annoy Their Managers.

I recently published a list of 30 things that managers can do that are sure to annoy their employees.

It only seems fair that I should give equal time to management, so read my latest post over at About Management and Leadership for a list of 10 things that employees can do to annoy their managers.

Why 30 and 10? It was way easier to come up with annoying manager behaviors. Hmmm..., wonder why?

Take a look at both lists and come back and comment.

Monday, April 13, 2015

30 Ways to Annoy Your Employees

Read my latest post over at About Management and Leadership for a list of 30 things that managers can do that are sure to annoy their employees, lower morale, and increase turnover.

Feel free to add to the list back here in the comments section. Go ahead, get it off your chest!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Meetings: Three Ways to Respond to Ineffective Behavior

Guest post from Paul Axtell:

Any time you lead or participate in a meeting, you are going to be confronted with situations and behaviors that don’t work. Good people do things that don’t work for others, and often times, they don’t even know it.

Take a moment and answer these two questions:

1. What are two things you do in a meeting that probably don’t work for others?  (Interrupting, using technology, having side conversations, hijacking the conversation, resisting what someone says, etc.)

2. Thinking about the people who work with you, what feedback would you give to each person if they asked you for guidance on how to improve in meetings?

Recognizing these behaviors and addressing them is necessary to maintain the viability of the meeting and the group. In my 35 years working as a personal effectiveness consultant and corporate trainer, these are the most common questions and complaints I’ve heard about meetings:  

§  How do I handle the person who keeps interrupting others?

§  What about the person who goes on and on and on or brings up the same point over and over?

§  What can we do about the person who makes negative comments?

§  How can we get people to do what they say they are going to do?

As a leader, it is your responsibility to provide feedback to your people.  And you need to be a role model for giving feedback.  You need to set high standards in how you interact with people when they are being a bit difficult. Respond in a way that the person you are interacting with will appreciate and so will those who are watching the interaction. Respond in a way that matches your standards. Avoid doing anything that, upon later reflection, you might wish you hadn’t done.

In dealing with behavior that doesn’t work, you have three options in increasing order of confrontation:

Option 1. Let it go and make it work without taking it on.
You simply wait for the behavior to stop, then restart as though it didn’t happen. This often is the best move because it is the most comfortable for everyone and least confronting. The downside, of course, is that the behavior goes unchallenged and perhaps unnoticed, and sometimes the quality of the group conversation suffers as a result. 

Option 2. Stop the behavior in the moment and ask for what you want.
This is a bit confronting, but it does lessen the impact of the behavior. It also allows you to take a stand for best conversational practices. The trick is to do this in a way that doesn’t make someone wrong or upset the group conversation. Your intention to be supportive and your tone of voice are important.

Option 3. Speak with the person away from the group setting.
Let the individual know that the behavior is distracting, disempowering, and costly to you and the group. This is the most confronting of the three options, but it is the mostly likely option for producing a long-term change in the behavior.

Remember, when providing feedback:

• If your intention is to be supportive, you will be.

• Most people appreciate being told, if they feel you are sincere.

• What’s comfortable in the short term isn’t what’s best in the long term.

I’m not advocating saying whatever comes to mind or giving feedback to anyone at any time. I am advocating that you be observant and thoughtful about what feedback you might give to people to whom you are committed. In particular, you want to do something about patterns because they not only disrupt the group, but the pattern lessens the group’s respect for the person.  

If you trust yourself, trust the other person, and trust the conversation, it will turn out. 

Paul Axtell has more than 35 years of experience as a personal effectiveness consultant and corporate trainer. He has spent the last 15 years designing and leading programs that enhance individual and group performance within large organizations. He is also the author of the new book, Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversation.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

8 Management Myth Busters!

Do managers make more money? Do they get to order people around? Do the best performers make the best managers? Do managers have more freedom?
Read the 8 common myths about management and the reality behind the myths over at Management and Leadership.

Monday, April 6, 2015

3 Questions you MUST Answer Before Becoming a Manager

The decision to become a manager is an important one and should not be taken lightly. It’s important to do some self-reflection, and examine your values and true motivations.  

See my latest post at Management and Leadership for the  3 Questions you MUST Answer before Becoming a Manager.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The 10 Commandments of Hiring Great Talent

Guest post from Michael Travis:

Many managers — maybe most of them — struggle with recruiting.

The reasons aren’t surprising. Recruiting is a complicated skill, and very few companies or business schools teach it. Young managers are thrown into the deep end of the pool and expected to swim, and more seasoned managers have nowhere to turn when grappling with difficult problems, or when they want to tune up their skills.

Given this unhappy state of affairs, it’s worth revisiting the basic tenets of good recruiting practice. Let’s call them recruiting’s Ten Commandments:

1. Make Recruiting a Priority
Doing a great job with recruiting takes a lot of time. Most executives profess recruiting is a top priority, but very few practice what they preach. That’s because it’s so easy to put off recruiting tasks when faced with short-term problems that appear to be more urgent. Don’t let that happen. Delay is the root cause of many of the most common recruiting failures.

2. Know What You Want
Many recruiting projects founder because the hiring manager hasn’t clearly defined the job or the profile of ideal candidates. It goes without saying that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re not going to find it. You're not ready to start searching until you can distill the job and candidate description down to one page.
3. Treat People Well
Treating people well attracts great talent. Conversely, treating people poorly repels the best candidates first, leaving only those who are so desperate that they’re willing to tolerate poor treatment.

4. Make the Interview a Conversation
If you approach the interview as an interrogation, the only thing you will learn is name, rank and serial number. Candidates are much more forthcoming if you help them relax and engage in a conversation.

5. Get Help
We’ve already established that recruiting takes a lot of time, and managers already have too much on their plates. That’s why getting help from a competent HR professional or recruiter is so important. They provide trusted counsel, and relieve the hiring manager from many of the more mundane aspects of recruiting so he is free to focus on what’s most important — making hiring decisions

6. Remember to Sell
Too many executives approach recruiting solely as a buyer. They fail to recognize that recruiting is a complicated transaction in which both sides are simultaneously selling themselves and evaluating each other. The best candidates will walk away if they don’t hear a compelling case for why they would want the job.

7. Ask for Advice
Perfection in recruiting is unattainable. No matter how good you are, you can always get better. The best hiring managers know they don’t have all the answers, and reach out to trusted colleagues and mentors regularly to talk through knotty problems.

8. Take References Seriously
References are more important than the interview because they provide third-party testimony that balances the candidate’s self-interested story. The old guideline of three references is grossly inadequate — eight to twelve is a more reasonable number. Keep talking to references until you stop hearing new things. Only then are you done.

9. Help New Hires Get Started. A new hire’s start date is the end of the beginning. Next comes the hard work — making him a productive member of the team. Too many hires fail because they don’t learn the new business and new culture fast enough. Don’t let that happen — develop a plan to help new hires come up to speed quickly.

10.Take Charge of Your Education
Don’t expect help. Companies and business schools don’t teach recruiting, even though it’s a fundamental business skill. That means managers who want to excel at recruiting must take charge of their own education.

Following these commandments will improve any manager’s recruiting batting average. It’s worth remembering, however, that recruiting is just one piece of the talent puzzle. After great people are hired, they must be convinced to stay. That means identifying top performers, helping them develop their skills, and showing them a compelling career path.

Michael Travis, principal of recruiting firm Travis & Company, is on a mission to help companies completely avoid the negative consequences of a bad hire by finding the right candidate the first time, every time. He is sharing his tried-and-true techniques to hiring smart in his new book, Mastering the Art of Recruiting: How to Hire the Right Candidate for the Job. Considered an expert in topics relating to executive search, Travis is frequently featured in the media and his insights have been in outlets like The New York Times, Boston Business Journal and Executive Recruiter News. For more information visit

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Keeping the Devil’s Advocate in Check: Conflict Resolution for Small Groups

Business leaders have long been taught the benefits of cultivating diverse teams made up of individuals with unique backgrounds and perspectives. It has been well documented that diversity breeds creativity and innovation, and diverse teams are usually more productive and more efficient than homogenous teams. However, diverse teams can often experience conflict. In many cases, conflict can be very healthy for a group. In some cases, however, conflict can impede productivity and decision-making.  In order to ensure that diverging opinions do not become a roadblock for success, leaders should take a creative approach to conflict resolution.
Read the rest of Beth Armknecht Miller's guest post over at Management and Leadership to find out how.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

8 Meeting Commandments that we all Need to Follow

This post recently appeared on SmartBlog on Leadership:

We all like to complain about meetings. Meetings are a waste of time, boring, inefficient, run too long, nothing gets accomplished, etc., etc., etc. Complaining is easy, but never makes things better.

The solution to bad meetings? How about a day of meeting training? How about if we improve our meeting process? Maybe it’s the leader’s fault, and they need to learn how to run better meetings. Their agendas are too long, or they don’t know how to facilitate a discussion. Maybe it’s the uncomfortable chairs or the cramped, smelly dark room, or the bagels are stale.
While any or all of those reasons can result in a bad meetings perhaps the one thing we have the most control over fixing is our own meeting behavior.

Maybe, just maybe, if we all did an honest self-assessment of our meeting behaviors and upped our own game the time we spend in meetings might get better.
Here’s 8 things that anyone can do or stop doing to make meetings a little more tolerable, and maybe even more productive!

1. Show up on time. Showing up on time is probably the easiest thing to take responsibility for and fix, yet it has remained on the list of annoying meeting behaviors since the dawn of time, when cavemen would go hungry because their tribe mates arrived late for the wooly mammoth hunt.  I sometimes wonder if people think they look more important when they arrive late? It’s as if their time is more important than anyone else’s, or they are busier than everyone else. In fact, what it really does is delay the start of the meeting, waste the time of others in getting them caught up, makes them look stupid when they try to contribute and they missed an important information at the beginning of the meeting, and shows a lack of respect for the meeting leader and everyone else. If you are arriving late for meetings more often than not, then do yourself and everyone else a favor and make a resolution to leave 10 minutes earlier for every meeting until your curb the bad habit.
2. Keep your status updates brief, to the point, and upbeat. Status updates are a regular agenda item for most meetings. Don’t be “that guy” who consistently takes way more time than everyone else and drones and whines on and on about every little detail of their work. Prior to the meeting, jot down a few items to share that would be of interest to everyone in attendance. Keep it to 2-3 minutes tops. Offer to go first, that way, you set the example and pace for everyone else. Put some enthusiasm in your updates, even a little humor, and it will raise the energy level and lighten the mood.
3. Pay attention to your body language. Next time you go to a meeting, try observing the body language of everyone around the room. Are they paying attention, making eye contact, leaning forward, and taking notes? Or are they slumped in their chair, rolling their eyes, checking their emails, or daydreaming? Great meetings are all about the collective energy level of every single person in the room. Your appearance can add energy or can suck the life out of the room. Others will feed off you, either in a positive or negative way.

4. Stop with the side comments. When someone else is talking or presenting, seeing someone make a side comment to their neighbor can be incredibly distracting and annoying. You wonder what they are saying and usually assume the worst. If you have something important to say, then wait for the appropriate time and say it to everyone. The same goes for texting – it’s childish and rude.
5. No hand grenades. A meeting hand grenade is when someone has to leave the meeting early, or the meeting is just about to end, and they toss an incredibly complex issue on the table or say something controversial or rude without leaving time for anyone to respond. If you’re going to bring someone like that up, consult with the meeting leader ahead of time and ask to include it on the agenda with ample time to address it.

6. Add value. If you are invited to a meeting, then you are not only there to soak up everyone else’s contributions – you are expected to add value. Set a goal to make at least one constructive contribution to every meeting. Suggest a solution to a problem, offer to take an action item, support one of your co-worker’s ideas, or ask an intelligent question.
7. Come prepared and follow-up on your commitments. This one is my personal pet peeve. When we all leave a meeting with action items, there is an expectation that everyone comes to the next meeting with completed homework assignments. When the same person either consistently “forgets” their assignment, makes lame excuses, or tries to b.s. their way through, I want to reach across the table and slap them. Don’t make your responsible co-workers want to slap you – keep your commitments.

8. Bring food. When all else fails, bring yummy snacks to your meetings. Your co-workers will thank-you and maybe even cut you some slack for occasionally violating any of the above commandments. Don’t be that little piggy who devours everyone’s else’s goodies but never contributes anything.
If everyone followed all of these commandments, our time spent in meetings way less painful and we might even get some real work done. Then we’d have to find something else to complain about, like performance reviews.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Women Need to Embrace Office Politics to Get Ahead

"Office politics can make or break your career. This is especially important for women to understand. Women avoid politics due to their belief that it’s dirty and underhanded, and it’s a waste of their valuable time. Unfortunately, our avoidance of the workplace dynamics makes us vulnerable to being blindsided and passed over for promotions. We need to embrace office politics to get ahead."
Read the rest of Bonnie Marcus's guest post over at Management and Leadership to learn the importance of politics, power and culture in getting ahead.