Make Your Meetings More Productive

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“We bring together the best ideas – turning the meetings of our top managers into intellectual orgies.”
~ Jack Welch ~

No one says it more eloquently than nationally syndicated columnist Dave Barry:

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved and never will achieve its full potential that word would be ‘meetings’.”

It’s tough to argue with him. If you’re like most managers, you’ll spend 8 to 10 hours each week in meetings. In fact, according to a University of Arizona study, there are more than 11 million formal meetings each day, totaling a staggering three billion a year.

Yet in study after study, workers cite meetings as one of the most unproductive and frustrating parts of their jobs. Wasting almost $40-billion each year, it’s no wonder that Industry Week Magazine called meetings “The Great White Collar Crime.” But you don’t have to be a victim.

Listed below are seven simple steps you can take to make meetings more productive and, heaven forbid, even fun. I encourage you to share these tips with others on your team. Working together, you can be the business equivalent of a “neighborhood watch program,” stamping out this insidious crime, one meeting at a time.

  1. Determine if a meeting is really necessary. Will a few phone calls or face-to-face discussions accomplish the same thing? One client of mine uses her company’s mission and values as a measuring stick. If she can’t relate the purpose of the proposed meeting to company goals, she will cancel it.
  2. Have an agenda. A no-brainer you say? Yes, but amazingly enough, more than 60 percent of meetings do not have prepared agendas. This simple step can cut unproductive meeting time by up to 80 percent. Your agenda should be specific, not vague. For example, “Garfinkle Project” isn’t as effective as “Determine funding and priorities for Garfinkle Project.” And be sure to distribute your agenda ahead of time with the appropriate background information.
  3. Invite only those who will contribute to your success. What’s more important? Hurting someone’s feelings or achieving the success of your project? The fewer people involved, the more productive the meeting. Likewise, don’t feel obligated to go to meetings just because you were invited. Ask yourself, “Could I spend this time on something more important?” If the answer is “yes,” suggest someone from your team to represent you.
  4. Communicate your objectives and desired outcomes. Everyone in the room should know, in advance, the purpose of the meeting, why they were invited, and what they are expected to contribute.
  5. Start on time. “Don’t make exceptions,” recommends Harold Taylor, a Time Consulting firm. “If someone arrives late, explain to him or her that you are now on item two or whatever. Don’t apologize for starting on time and resist the temptation to summarize the progress to date for every late arrival. If they ask, tell them you’ll update them after the meeting.”
  6. Stay focused. Determine time limits for each topic and stick to them. If something comes up that’s not on the agenda, reschedule it for discussion at another time. Taylor suggests placing priority items that will generate the least discussion at the beginning of the agenda, while saving contentious items to the end.
  7. Summarize and assign responsibility. Before adjourning, summarize the action items, who is responsible for each, and in what timeframe. Schedule the next meeting, but only if one is really necessary.

How Can I Get the Most
Out of Corporate Executive Coaching?

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“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

~Peter F. Drucker~

Client Jakob Asks: I’m in upper management in an international corporation and I want to move higher in my company.  My peers have hired executive coaches. Sometimes I see great results, but sometime I don’t see that it made a dramatic difference for them.  What can I do to make sure my executive coaching boosts me up the corporate ladder?

Coach Joel Answers:  Executive coaching is a significant investment, not only in money, but in time and commitment. You want it to be meaningful to you.

What you get out of it depends on how much effort you put into it.

Be an Active Participant

A tepid response to coaching will produce weak improvement.  To get the most from your coaching you need to approach it with goals in mind.  Discuss them with your coach and then focus on them.

1. Build New Skills. The skills and traits that have gotten you to this point are not sufficient to take you to the very top of the corporate ladder.  Your coach will help you build skills sets and habits for the level of management you will be doing.

2. Be Present.  When you meet with your coach, close off all distractions.  Don’t answer the phone or email or search the web. Focus.  Give your entire attention to presenting issues and seeking solutions.

3. Be Teachable.  Humility sometimes seems at odds with confidence that comes with a top corporate job. But true confidence allows you to be humble and teachable. Jakob, when you resist criticism or new ideas, you stop your progress.  Be willing to accept ideas without rebutting or rationalizing. Consider their merit.  Be eager for growth. Then you set the stage for great progress.

4. Be Committed to Success.  In the beginning, you gave me the top 3 goals you wanted to gain from this engagement.  Make it meaningful and achievable goals.  Then be willing to do what it takes to accomplish it.  Your coach will guide you and give you suggestions and insights that will help you reach your goals faster than you could on your own.

5. Take Action. Learning without doing is like sitting at dinner without eating.  It accomplishes little.  The natural next step to learning is putting what you’ve learned into action.  There is a tendency to think you don’t know enough.

Often people enter this learning mode without moving forward.  Resist it.  Once you know, take action.  Yes, you’ll need to refine and correct.  But your learning increases as you act on what you know.

6. Overcome Fears.  Change involves risk.  It’s moving out of the safe zone into the unknown.  Your coach understands that, and you should too.  Be willing to take that risk.  Dare to be great. Stumbles are a part of life.  Don’t stand still because you are unwilling to make a mistake.

7. Break Habits. Powerful, significant executive coaching takes place when clients are willing and ready to break habits that are holding them back.  Your coach will help you recognize what traits are limiting you.

But only you can make the decision that your success is more important than those old habits. If you want your coaching to have the desired results, you must be willing to leave the restraining behaviors behind.

Jakob, you are smart to start achieving now.  Building new skills takes time. But when you commit to achieving your goal and are willing to put in the focus, time and effort, you’ll see that your corporate executive coaching will take you where you want to go.

When you connect a skilled executive coach with a willing, motivated manager you will see the dramatic results you desire.

If you’re interested in making the most of your corporate coaching experience talk to Joel.  He will help you focus, step out in new ways, and build habits of success. Connect now.

Talkback: How successful has your executive coaching experience been?  What was the thing that had the most impact on your upward advancement?

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How Can I get the Skills I Learn from Executive Coaching to Stick? How can I get that training to actually become part of me?

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“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it”

~ Dwight D. Eisenhower ~

Q:  Jamie asks:  I read lots of material on how to improve in organization, skill level, and leadership.  I work at it for a few days.  Then I find myself going back to my old way of doing things.  How can I actually change myself permanently?

A:  Coach Joel Answers: You ask a great question, Jamie. This is the secret to success in all walks of life:  Knowing how to take information and apply it in your life.

One technique is to take your Executive Coaching and train like an athlete. Athletes take their training seriously.  As you think of yourself as an “Executive Athlete,” you may be motivated to stick to your plan.

1. Think about it daily. Athletes make training a priority.  They think about it and plan time to practice their skill every day.  Calendar your training.  What can you do today to exercise your skills and train you to build the habits you want?

2. Make a commitment to train. You already know what you need to do.  This is a great step forward.  You have the desire to change.  That, too, is a valuable piece of the pie.  Now you need to make the decision to train every day.   Like an athlete, you will start small.

Too often, athletes… and executives… find a great skill and think they can master it immediately.  They train so vigorously for a few days that they are exhausted by the effort and stop training.

Instead, start at a deliberate, achievable pace.  Master one trait and then go on to the next.

3. Hire the best executive coach and follow his training plan.  Athletes don’t try to go it alone.  Most often great athletes work under skilled coaches.  You will find you progress more successfully when you have a coach at your side to help with your training.

An executive coach will keep you on track and make sure you take logical, necessary, and most meaningful steps.  They will cheer your progress.

4. Measure your success and improvement. Every great athlete has goals to reach.  They measure their progress toward those goals in milliseconds.  Measure and celebrate every increment of change you see in yourself.

Set benchmarks and standards.  Evaluate your improvement daily, weekly, and monthly. Soon you will see your habits of leadership developing.

5. Challenge yourself to do better.  Only you know if your pace is too easy or strenuous. Challenge yourself to become the best executive you can. Use coaching and training to help you reach this goal.  Don’t settle for okay.  Reach for the best you can be.

6. Take a set-back, learn from it, and move forward.  Know there will be setbacks.  Athletes get sick or injured and have to regroup and start training again.  There will be days you slip.  Don’t let one failure stop your training.  Get back up, give yourself a break for the moment, and get started again.

7. Reward yourself.  You may not earn an Olympic metal, but you can still reward yourself for your success in executive training.  You’ve followed your coach. You’ve seen success.  Celebrate!

When you take the challenge to change your habits, you’ve started on a new venture.  With executive coach training, you join the ranks of professional athletes. You establish goals, training methods, and measure your successes.  The end results are habits of leadership that will benefit you and your organization.

To jumpstart your executive coaching and become the executive athlete you want to be, contact Joel.

Talkback: What methods have you used to change knowledge into habits? Let me know.

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What’s the Difference Between a Life Coach, A Personal Coach and an Executive Coach?

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“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.”

~Bob Nardelli, former CEO, Home Depot.~

Elizabeth asks: How can I tell if I need a life coach, a personal coach, or an executive coach?  Is there a difference?

Joel answers:   The kind of coach you need depends on the area in your life you want to focus on.  As I explain the differences between life, personal and executive coaches, you’ll see what I mean.

  • Executive coaching focuses on helping the person achieve more at work.  It may deal with peer relationships or communication. It might help the worker advance in his or her career or understand how to add value to the company.

Executive coaching helps turn managers into leaders, increases job satisfaction and reduces job stress.  This coaching focuses on the relationship between the client and his or her work situation.

For example, Nathan felt like he was ready to take on more responsibility at work, but felt “stuck.”  He had always avoided what he called “office politics” and just did his job. He didn’t know how to position himself to get promoted.

When Nathan hired an executive coach, the coach helped Nathan to verbalize his goals. Together they set up a strategy so Nathan could broaden his visibility and increase his influence.

He looked for places he could add value to the company and was soon in line for a promotion.

Executive coaching is about personal discovery, goal setting, planning, and achieving. This benefits both the individual and the organization.

  • Life coaching views the person as a whole.  It includes work and may cover stress and overworking, but it also covers family and personal goals.

The goals set for a person working with a life coach may be internal- feeling better, better relationships or dealing with bad habits.

Karen was shouldering all the responsibility of caring for her elderly parents.  While there were other siblings close by, they chose to let Karen handle it all since she worked from home and could be “flexible.”

Karen chose a life coach to help her balance her work and family responsibilities and also deal with the emotional burden of resentment toward her siblings.

The life coach helped Karen see options and choices. Through her support, Karen was able to call a meeting with the siblings, establish responsibilities, and share her burden.

  • Personal coaching is much the same as life coaching.  While the goals of an executive coach are specific, measurable, and focused on improvement and success in the work environment, personal coaching is based on empathy.

It is more reflective, allowing for introspection and for the person to grow in self-understanding.  Personal coaches can be used as a sounding board and a cheering section.

However, some personal coaches also work with clients on their business, financial, or spiritual concerns.

As you examine your primary goal you’ll be able to determine the kind of coach you need.  If you are looking for measurable action to conquer work challenges, choose an executive coach.  If you have personal, family, or life concerns with internal or less measurable goals, you may find a personal or life coach will support your needs better.

To learn more about executive coaching and see if this is a good fit for your concern, email Joel and he’ll be happy to talk to you about it.

Talkback: How have different coaches helped you resolve your concerns?  Which kind of coaching has been most effective for you?

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Get Your Career in Gear: Why Business Coaching for Women Works

Get Your Career in Gear: Why Business Coaching for Women Works

“It is within everyone’s grasp to be a CEO.”

~ Martha Stewart ~

Lindsey is frustrated. She’s been with her company for several years now and she feels stuck. She’s not assigned to work on her department’s high visibility projects. Her boss ignores her in staff meetings. She is beginning to lose her edge. She’s considering looking for another position, but the job market is a scary place right now. Is there a way she can turn the job she has into the job she wants?

Lindsey shares her dilemma with some women in other companies and learns that they have used business coaches to help them move ahead at work. She gets some recommendations and starts working with an executive coach of her own. After a couple of coaching sessions, she begins to operate with a brand new business plan.

Become the CEO of You, Inc.
Play the role
Ask for feedback

1. Become the CEO of You, Inc. Before Lindsey can become a CEO, she needs to treat herself like one. This means setting short and long term goals and conducting periodic self-evaluations to see how she’s doing. Her first month’s goal is to get assigned to her department’s next high profile project. She begins by drafting a memo to her boss outlining her past accomplishments and skills she knows are relevant to the project.

Acting like a CEO also means creating her own personal brand, an executive presence that shows off her unique skills and her contributions to the company’s success. Lindsey wants to be seen as someone who is both assertive and creative. She starts coming to staff meetings with notes on at least one important contribution she can make to the discussion.

2. Play the role. Writing in Business Leader, Thomas Walken says: “Women managers in traditional male organizations learn the good ol’ boy rules, but rely on their own strengths to become leaders. Taking risks, curbing maternal over-responsibility, and developing flexibility and confidence prevent derailment on the way to top CEO positions.”

In other words, executive presence doesn’t just happen. It must be designed, rehearsed, and constantly cultivated. Lindsey’s coach, who specializes in helping women move ahead in the workplace, recommends that she write down her negative feelings and beliefs about her current job situation. She can then find ways to flip those feelings into positive statements. For example, “My boss ignores me in staff meetings” could become “My performance gives my boss reasons to trust me and recognize my contributions.” Internalizing these positive statements helps Lindsey feel more confident in meetings and interactions with top managers.

3. Ask for feedback. One of the best ways to find out how you’re doing is to ask. Women in business sometimes have a difficult time speaking up for themselves for fear of appearing too aggressive. Thus the perception others have of them doesn’t fit with their true value. Lindsey’s coach suggests that she track her progress by getting feedback from a number of sources. She asks friends and family how they perceive her. After staff meetings, she asks a trusted colleague to evaluate her performance. And she keeps a file of positive comments she receives from clients and co-workers.

Three months after she started working with her coach, Lindsey’s whole world has started to change. She sees herself and her job differently, and now her boss and others in positions of authority perceive her differently as well.

Business coaching for women works. Email Joel today to discuss the possibilities or call him at 510-339-3201.

Talkback: Are you feeling overlooked or ignored at work? Having trouble speaking up for yourself? Have you tried some techniques that helped you get noticed? Share your story here.

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