5 Tips for Running a Better Business Meeting

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We’re all busy.  The last thing we need is to attend another meeting. The minions gather around the board table and talk, ponder, and pontificate.  Time seems to stand still.  We’ve all been in meetings when we felt an overwhelming desire to be watching paint dry than to hear one more syllable uttered in the dungeon the business world refers to as “The Conference Room”.  In fact, so ineffective are most meetings that we’ve taken to naming our conference rooms with fun names so as to distract those weary attendees into thinking fun is on the other side of the door to Pebble Beach or Gilligan’s Island. So is there any way to spruce up our meetings?  Is there such a thing as an effective meeting?  Yes there is.
The next time you call a meeting follow these simple 5 steps:
  1. Prepare.  Know your material.  Know the salient points you’re trying to communicate.  Anticipate questions and formulate responses.  People hate showing up and feeling like their times been wasted because the leader doesn’t seem to have a clear agenda.
  2. Get revved up.  Have some energy for goodness sake.  Attending a meeting where the leader is monotone, or worse distracted or bored is a fate worse that death.  Show some energy, and respect, to those who have showed up at your request.
  3. Take frequent pauses and solicit responses.  No one likes to be lectured to, especially for 90 minutes – the average length of a business meeting in the U.S. according to the University of Tulsa.  Asking questions like “does that make sense?”, or “what do you think of that?” will keep people engaged and thinking.
  4. Take notes.  At the end of the meeting circle back to those who raised comments, concerns, opportunities, etc.  This lets the attendees know that when they are invited to one of your meetings they are engaged and expected to interact.
  5. Acknowledge great ideas.  The definition of “conference” is; a meeting of people to confer.  If you didn’t want anyones opinion you wouldn’t have asked them to join the meeting.  Even the best ideas, the best laid plans, the best strategies can be improved if you’re willing to listen.

Following these steps will keep your co-workers active and position you as a leader by demonstrating first and foremost your respect for everyone’s time, highlighted by your ability to efficiently navigate the team from topic to end-state.

 

Is a Leader a Solo Act?

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Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article on Bill McDermott, the CEO of SAP. The article profiled McDermott’s rise within SAP and the fact that this German company will now be at the hands of an American CEO for the first time in its history.

McDermott has placed his beliefs front and center, stating that SAP must move quickly and innovate. “There is no speed limit on innovation” McDermott told a crowd at a recent event. But herein lies a fundamental problem that challenges  the “believability” of that statement. Can innovation happen through the efforts of one person alone or does innovation require a team?

Today’s most admired companies are those that innovate. Companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and ExxonMobil are all at the forefront of their respective industries due to constant innovation. Additionally, their ability to innovate is often credited to their employees and the teams they have assembled to drive some of the best innovations and inventions of our times. Yet McDermott seems to have chosen a “go it alone” strategy having terminated most of SAP’s previous leaders of innovation.

SAP’s advisory board seems to be in full support of Mr. McDermott and has done nothing less than support him in his me, myself, and I strategy. But will it work? Here are 3 areas where McDermott’s strategy may go awry:

1. Collaboration breeds innovation – even the late, great, Steve Jobs saw the benefits of team collaboration when launching the first iPod as referenced in the book Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney. Teams were assembled to take a raw idea and bring it to life. Contrary to popular belief, Apple’s success wasn’t Steve Jobs alone.
2. Checks and balance. Not having a #1 or #2 on your team can lead to beliefs of invincibility and disillusionment. Every leader needs a strong next-in-line. Believing that only you have all the answers or ideas is very risky. Beyond the benefit to the business, having the right #2 will stretch and challenge the leader to explore options he or she might have otherwise dismissed.
3. Competitive Intelligence. Much like the reasons for #2 above, it’s highly unlikely for one person to be “in-the-know” on all things at all times. I rely on my team as a unit to keep us all up to speed on current and trending market conditions. Having multiple inputs from different folks minimizes bias and assumptions.

So will SAP’s strategy work? Time will tell.