It’s Not Over till It’s Over: Five Strategies to Improve Your Meetings!

The end of your meeting may be the most important part of all.

Written By: Erika Oliver, PMP

We tend to put great thought into meetings before they happen but less so while they’re winding up. If you want to reap true benefits from your meetings, though, don’t adjourn too quickly. Do these five things at the end of every meeting to give the team the energy to move forward and set the tone for what happens next.

  1. Ask participants to share one thing they’ll do before the next meeting. The most high energy meeting is doomed if people leave without knowing precisely what’s expected of them. Eliminate the “what now?” problem by assuring that each person chooses a task to move the project forward.
  2. Ask each person what tools are needed for next steps. This question helps people think more deeply about what they plan to do before the next meeting. If they’re stalled by missing information or needed support, they’ll stop before they even begin. It’s also important to share how and when the tools and information will be available. Tools aren’t any good if they don’t get in the hands of workers.
  3. Revisit the vision with a question. Show the completed building, the project timeline, the face of the client who will be served. Team members are more likely to follow through on tasks and stay the course if they clearly understand the “why” of a project and, most important, their specific role. Not only is a picture worth a thousand words but it also motivates people and connects them to the larger goal.
  4. Have people share what they consider the most meaningful part of the meeting. This strategy accomplishes four important things: (1) It gives the facilitator feedback about what resonated with the group. (2) It summarizes meeting content for greater information retention. (3) It ends the meeting on a positive note. (4) When people communicate a valuable learning experience, they become more bonded to the group.
  5. Invoke a team cheer or ceremony. Fun is often a missing component in meetings and projects. Providing opportunities to let off steam, celebrate small successes, and just play will go further in motivating people than you might think. Put your hands together and shout, “Go Team!” or share a round of applause for each other. Don’t worry if someone holds back and acts as if it’s “silly” to celebrate. Once they feel the group’s energy, they’ll be first in line for the next team cheer. If nobody’s enjoying the process, what’s the point?

Whatever Happened to that Plan?

As the summer sun gleams through your office window, it’s difficult to think back to the cold winter that passed. But, that is where we are going today. Back to December when you vowed that 2013 was the year you’d plan ahead, stick to a calendar and figure out what’s so smart about SMART goals. Back to January when you pulled an overnighter to put the finishing touches on your production calendar and optimize your new monthly tracking charts. Back to that harried day when you drove through the snow for a grueling hour hoping you wouldn’t be late for the management meeting where you were rolling out the best annual business plan you’d ever written.

So…yeah…whatever happened to that plan? If you’ve stuck to that production calendar and dutifully completed your tracking charts for the first 8 months of this year, bravo! You are as rare as the great white buffalo, a master of business to behold and applaud. Yes, we love you, we envy you, but you can stop reading now….

Okay, now that the rest of us are alone, let’s talk about why we keep finding ourselves in this empty ritual of slaving over an annual plan only to abandon it before first quarter results are in. It was, after all, a great plan. You downloaded a cool template, you asked for input from your team, you aligned your business unit’s goals with the organization’s and you delivered it passionately back on that cold, snowy morning. So, what went wrong? Chances are there is more than one answer, but here are a few of the most common causes of business plan failure:

1. The Earth isn’t flat and neither is the market.
We often write plans in our happy place. Much like New Year’s resolutions, we commit to goals that are attainable in the most perfect, static conditions. Be it your commitment to launch a new product or finally hit that next million-dollar milestone, you need to consider whether outside influences or market challenges could derail that goal. Doing the research doesn’t cloak you from failure, but it softens the fall. Picking up the pieces is infinitely easier when you have considered alternate courses of action and mitigation techniques in your plan. A few extra bullet points can be the difference between an irrelevant document and a darn good starting point to correct the course mid-year.

2. It’s always easier said than done.
Great leaders, heck even good ones, have big visions. You believe whole-heartedly that if you shoot for the moon, you’ll land among the stars. Unfortunately, you may be leaving your team wondering what planet you live on. When you write your goals and layout the strategies and tactics to achieve them, don’t forget to analyze your resources. Do you have a team dedicated to carrying out that plan, or like the rest of us, is your team going to make incremental progress between carrying out the day-to-day business? If an honest analysis proves you need to hire someone, put it in the plan. If it isn’t deemed worthy of an extra salary, it can be revised, downgraded or parked for future consideration.

3. If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.
Commitment: feared by many and lacking in boardrooms across America. Even the best-laid plans will crumble quickly without it. It isn’t enough to write the plan or make a jazzy PowerPoint explaining the plan, you have to get real buy-in. Sure, a table full of executives nodded their heads after you concluded your presentations, but I’ll bet a couple of them were thinking about their fantasy football matchup within 30 seconds of your last word. Real buy-in probably won’t happen the first day you present the plan. It will happen when you come to meetings weekly and monthly showing them the progress you are making on your goals and telling them what you need from them to get it done. Set goals, make progress, and then demonstrate results. Yes, I know…it is always easier said than done.

So, as you enjoy the end of summer and prepare for the fourth quarter, dust off your forgotten plan and figure out how you can really do it better next year. Maybe practice on that quarterly plan, speaking of which, that’s due soon…get cracking!

Lunch Date or Free Consultation?

A recent CNN/Money article caught my eye this morning as it posed the question “Should you charge for lunch dates?” In addition to making me crave P. F. Chang’s (as it is the site of many of my lunch dates), it also made me think about the increasing level of complexity to business luncheon etiquette. From choosing appropriate environments and crowd-pleasing menus to the awkward tug of war about who picks up the check, there are already plenty of opportunities to wow or alienate a business contact over lunch. So how would you react if you requested a lunch with someone and in turn received a bill – and not just for your spinach salad, but for his or her time?!

Ji Hyun Lee provides a number of examples of people who do just that. Maybe Warren Buffet charging for a power-lunch and donating the proceeds to charity sounds reasonable and perhaps independent consultants providing you their services should add that lunch hour to their periodic billing. But if you drop an old colleague a line and ask them if you can pick their brain about a new project would you be comfortable with paying for more than coffee? Or, if you are the old colleague, would you seek compensation for 45 minutes of solicited advice?

Like most questions of etiquette, every situation may warrant a different answer. It is certainly thought provoking and adds to the complexity of this ever socially driven world. The next time you are planning a lunch date you might want to ask your appointment about more than food preferences.

We’re Not Your Traditional Consulting Company

The other day I met the most amazing man. He is a doctor by training, but an outstanding business man by talent. He has built himself a multi-million dollar organization from the ground up. Always fascinated by self-starters and ingenuity I asked him how he did it. He said he had a vision in the 70’s of what he wanted to accomplish. He was told several times that it was impossible to realize his dream, because no one was doing it, and quite frankly, it couldn’t be done. Today he is a millionaire many times over, and he encourages others to believe in their dreams.

As a Senior Partner at inFUSION Group, I was curious what he thought about consultants. He sighed and said he has little faith in consultants, because they based their advice on what they read in books. Most consultants do not have the lifelong experience of accomplishing their dreams, making mistakes and achieving success on their own.

inFUSION Group was built on that very premise. All Senior Partners are very accomplished executives in their own fields. CEOs and Senior Vice-Presidents of major industries, we work like a “think tank” to assist companies in achieving their vision. We use our years of collective on the job training to cut through the bureaucracy, improve customer service and most of all improve the bottom line.

With our experience in Sales, Talent Management, Focused Marketing, Team Building and Strategic Planning, we use our expertise along with our clients’, to accomplish your dreams.

Written By: Catherine A. Roberts
Senior Partner