Joe and Wanda on Management

Joe Kerr and Wanda B. Goode, two characters from Nick McCormick’s book, “Lead Well and Prosper,” dispense their management wisdom

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Category: Meetings

The Appreciations Practice

24 May, 2010 (21:03) | Leadership, Management, Meetings, Productivity, Team Building | By: Administrator

In her book, The Power of Pause, Nance Guilmartin recommends a different way to start off meetings. In one or two sentences, have each meeting attendee answers the question, “What’s one thing you appreciate about yourself, someone in the room, or someone outside the room?” According to Guilmartin this simple exercise of appreciation can transform an organization. In the real-life example provided, once this practice was instituted, team members began showing up on time for meetings and tempers didn’t flare regardless of the topic. They moved through their agendas faster and discovered better ways to do their work. They flat out got more work done.

How about giving it a try Joe and Wanda?

Joe Kerr: I’d appreciate it if I could take a pass on this one.

Wanda B. Goode: Sounds like a novel approach to getting people to know and respect each another. When people appreciate one another they are more willing to work together and do what it takes to overcome differences. I think it’s worth a try.

Would anyone else like to give it a shot? If you do, drop us a note and let us know how it works out.

Here are some related posts

The Value of Appreciation
Empowering Individuals with Double A (aka AA)

We Love Our Meetings

19 May, 2009 (22:38) | Leadership, Management, Meetings | By: Administrator

Some people really enjoy the heck out of meetings. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend that works for a non profit organization. He was surprised that the monthly board meetings were so well attended. He said that the members really seemed to enjoy them. The only problem was that nothing really got done during or between the meetings.

I explained that I had similar experiences in the corporate world. Sure people complain about meetings, but they must like them because they always have time to squeeze in more. If they have 7 in a day they can go to 8. Unfortunately, they don’t have time to do any work. In fact, they think going to the meeting is work. You better believe those board members are convinced that they are providing immeasurable value at a considerable sacrifice, all for a good cause!

Joe and Wanda, what can we do to convince people that this is folly? How do we get them to nix the meetings and get something done, rather than just complain (aka brag) that they “have” to attend so many?

Joe Kerr: Off of the top of my head, I’m not sure, but I think we have the makings of a meeting here. I’ll get my admin to set it up. Do you like Danish?

Wanda B. Goode: The managers/leaders need to make the changes in their part of the organization. If they set the example by doing the work in between the meetings team members will do the same. There will be far fewer meetings scheduled and the ones that are necessary will be shorter.

Although more difficult, managers can also influence their peers and managers to do the same. It takes more time, but it can be done.

Here’s is a related post
The Case of Too Many Meetings
and a podcast
Why 09 Should See Less Meetings

Only Have Time for Meetings

28 October, 2008 (23:38) | Leadership, Management, Meetings, Productivity, Time Management | By: Administrator

Managers are experts at attending meetings. There always seems to be time to attend them, but never time to complete the action items assigned during prior meetings. Wouldn’t it be better to skip out on the meeting, complete the assignment and have the deliverable in the organizer’s inbox before the meeting ends?

Joe Kerr: I’d rather skip out on the meeting and play golf! Seriously though, I get most of my work done during meetings. As long as I have my Blackberry, meeting time is productive time. No one can bother me, and I have a real knack for picking up keywords from the participants and throwing in my two cents (more like a buck fifty!) every so often just to keep the meeting flowing.

Wanda B. Goode: In so many environments, the stigma associated with missing a meeting is worse than for missing a deliverable. I use the word stigma because punishment is far too strong a word. There is typically no punishment for either.

It’s fairly common for people to spend their entire days in meetings and get no work done. This is a sign of a dysfunctional organization. I think one common mistake we managers make is to let things slide, because team members are overworked, or maybe we’re just afraid to address them. We set the precedent and the undesirable behavior is repeated until it becomes ingrained in the corporate culture.

It’s tough to change culture, but the first step is to start with ourselves. We need to show up on time for meetings, be present, and complete our action items. We need to reduce the number of meetings we attend so we can get our work done. Then we can work on turning the others around.

People gravitate to what is comfortable. Assisting them with prioritization helps a bit, and should be pursued. To answer you initial question, I have asked team members to skip out on meetings in order to complete tasks. I’ve had to be crystal clear about what needed to be completed in the next hour though. If not I’ve found that the task took a back seat to something else.

We need to do more than just help with prioritization. Team members need to believe that the tasks are worth doing. There must be significant reward and/or punishment (preferably the former) to spur action. It’s the manager’s job to point that out and drive it home.

Interested in making your meetings more productive? Check out this post.

Ice Breakers

11 June, 2008 (23:53) | Management, Meetings, Team Building | By: Administrator

When getting together with a group of people for a meeting or a training class, it’s often good to do a warm-up exercise to allow the attendees to get to know one another, and to clear their minds of distractions prior to focusing on the task at hand.

In his book, The Team Handbook, Peter Scholtes has a number of suggestions for warm-ups, to include an activity called “Superlatives.” It goes like this… Ask attendees to study the characteristics of the group and come up with superlative adjectives that contrast them to the others (e.g. tallest, baldest). Have each person share her/his adjective and allow the group to test for accuracy. Sounds like fun.

Joe and Wanda, what effective ice breakers have you used?

Joe Kerr: I don’t know much about ice breakers, but I’m extremely familiar with one super effective ball breaker. He goes by the name of Joseph Kerr.

Wanda B. Goode: I like to go around the room and have each person indicate what kind of tooth paste they use. I was introduced to this activity a few years back in a training class. It sounds a little goofy, but it works. For some reason, the topic of toothpaste seems to generate quite a bit of conversation and laughter. Give it a shot and see how it goes. Tally up the responses and announce the winner.

Click here for another suggestion for an ice breaker.

Do you have any ice-breakers that you’d like to share?

Drucker on Meetings

15 February, 2008 (00:46) | Management, Meetings, Time Management | By: Administrator

We’ve talked about meetings quite a bit in the past (see the posts below), but these comments from Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive warrant resurrecting the topic.

Peter identifies a common time waster as malorganization, of which meetings are a symptom.

“Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One can not do both at the same time…There will always be more than enough meetings…Every meeting generates a host of little follow-up meetings—some formal, some informal, but both stretching out for hours. Meetings, therefore, need to be purposefully directed. An undirected meeting is not just a nuisance; it is a danger. But above all, meetings have to be the exception rather than the rule. An organization where everybody meets all the time is an organization in which no one gets anything done. Wherever a time log shows the fatty degeneration of meetings—whenever, for instance people in an organization find themselves in meetings a quarter of their time or more—there is time-wasting malorganization.”

Joe Kerr: Once again I must take exception to the words of the genius, Mr. Drucker. I am a multi-tasker–a term, with which the old timer may not be familiar. I work in meetings all the time. I read and reply to mail, review financials, make phone calls. In fact, sometimes I get more done in meetings than outside of them.

Wanda B. Goode: I love Peter’s stuff. He is so honest and direct.

I’d like to point out one solution that Peter recommends. Don’t call a meeting with all your direct reports regardless of the topic and make them sit through a long drawn out affair where all participants feel the need to feign interest by asking questions that prolong the meeting even further. Rather, call the meeting for the 2 or 3 people that are required. Invite the rest to come if they are interested, but let them know that shortly after the meeting, they will receive a summary of the discussion and any decisions made together with a request for their feedback. This is a tremendous time saver and it ensures that no one feels left out.

Here’s a link to a Top Ten List of Time Wasters. Not surprisingly, meetings make the list.

Other Joe and Wanda posts on meetings:
Meeting Productivity
More on Effective Meetings
Meetings are “Cockroaches of American Business.”

More on Effective Meetings

28 December, 2007 (14:10) | Communication, Management, Meetings | By: Administrator

Joe and Wanda are off until the New Year, but here’s some additional information to tide you over until their return. We’ve addressed meeting productivity in the past, but here is some additional valuable information from William B. Werther’s book, Dear Boss. I’ll paraphrase his solutions to the “Tyranny of Meetings” below.

  • Whenever possible, substitute a memo for a meeting.
  • Allow “no comment” as an acceptable response from meeting attendees. Too often people feel they need to comment on everything (usually gratuitously).
  • Make attendance optional. Have meeting minutes posted within 4 hours with action items highlighted.
  • Never have a meeting without posting an agenda.
  • To avoid distraction, don’t pass out documentation during the meeting. Hand it out prior or after.
  • Seriously consider the necessity of regular standing meetings.
  • Start meetings precisely on time.
  • Announce the meeting ending time and honor it.
  • Don’t pretend that the purpose of a meeting is to make a decision if the decision has already been made.
  • Call for a break at the first sign of any discomfort.
  • Finally, realize that meetings take up valuable time. Search for any opportunity to speed them up or reduce their frequency.

Not a bad list. Want more? Check out Ted Nichols’ 9 tips on conducting fabulous meetings and/or review prior posts by Joe and Wanda:
Meeting Productivity
Meetings are Cockroaches of American Business

Management crisis

10 November, 2007 (22:07) | Leadership, Management, Meetings, Open Door Policy, Productivity, Workplace Dynamics | By: Administrator

Scott Adams sums up what he calls the “Dilbert Principle” as follows – “A retarded chimpanzee can drink a case of beer and still perform most management functions: avoiding decisions, attending meetings, babbling, demanding status reports, not reading status reports, handing out random rewards and punishments, scowling at people who believe the open door policy.”


Joe Kerr: Can I get back to you on that. I’m busy working on a fantasy football trade. By the way, show me a monkey that can do that wise guy! Actually, if you do happen to find one, and he has a quarterback that I can use this weekend, have him give me a call.

Wanda B. Goode: Unfortunately, Scott Adams is spot on. Managing people is not easy, but that is no excuse. We all need commit to improving. A recent Gallup study of American workers reflects that only 29% of them are actively engaged, meaning they work with passion, drive innovation, and help move their organizations forward. 15% are actively disengaged, spending their time undermining the good work of others, while the remainder sleep walk through their work day, just putting in time. Check out David Zinger’s post on a similar study done by Towers Perrin on worldwide worker engagement.

We can’t afford numbers like this. At a time when global competition is increasing and pressure on wages is fierce, we need active participation from most of our employees if we are to survive, let alone thrive.

Worker engagement is a direct reflection on management. A return to the fundamentals is required to help stem the tide. I don’t mean to boast, but I’m one of the stars in a book called Lead Well and Prosper which will help. Pick up a copy today and start doing your part.

Meetings are “Cockroaches of American Business.”

6 November, 2007 (23:37) | Management, Meetings, Productivity | By: Administrator

Rod Smith, adjunct professor for the Ken Blanchard College of Business at Grand Canyon University and founder of a leadership development consulting firm called Athena Consulting calls meetings the “cockroaches of American business,” because most of them are ugly, are hard to kill, happen when you put out food, have existed since the beginning of time (corporate), and serve no useful purpose!  He further states that they are the #1 productivity drain in corporate America today with nothing else even a close second.

Nick Gonzalez posted a piece today TechCrunch referencing PayScale’s Meeting Miser tool which calculates a meeting’s cost. Just provide the titles of the participants and the location, and it does the rest.  Joe and Wanda, any thoughts?

Joe Kerr: I’m not a big fan of meetings, but hell, I spend about 6 hours per day in them so I try to make the best of them. After I spew a platitude or two very early on to demonstrate my authority and feign interest, I hit the PDA and take care of business. I’m a great listener, so I pick up the keywords and pipe up occasionally with a priceless nugget for the other attendees. If I’m really dragging and about to fall asleep, I text the wife and have her call me so I can make an early exit. 

Wanda B. Goode: I agree with Rod. I love that analogy. Typically the larger the meeting, the more painful too, and obviously the more costly. Can’t wait to check out the Meeting Miser. View the earlier post in the “meetings” category for tips to make meetings more productive. 

Meeting Productivity

30 September, 2006 (20:09) | Management, Meetings, Productivity, Time Management | By: Administrator

It is easy for managers to become inundated with meetings. What can be done to make meetings more productive.

Joe Kerr: I do not really like meetings, but they are part of the job. I go to about 6 of them per day. I’m not sure how to make them more efficient, but I do know how to use them to my advantage. I’ll let you in on my 4 simple rules of thumb.

  1. If it is only your team members in attendance show up a few minutes late. You are the boss. It’s expected. It shows everyone how busy you are.
  2. Pipe up early on in the meeting. It too shows you are in charge. You’ll be surprised. You really do not need to know what is going on. Just use something like “collaboration” in a sentence. You can’t go wrong using the word “collaboration” in any meeting.
  3. If your boss is in attendance, make sure you repeat one of his/her favorite sayings from one of those leadership books. For instance, There’s no silver bullet. Let’s not focus too much on the tools. Let’s tend to the process first. If this strategy does not get you a raise, nothing will. Your boss will just eat it up.
  4. Close strong. It’s always good to throw in a peppy ending. I try to work in “blocking and tackling” at least once in every meeting. Then I mix in any other cliche I can think of. It can be a good way to close. For example, “Guys, this is where the rubber meets the road. It’s basic blocking and tackling. Let’s look through the windshield and not the rear view mirror. Buy low sell high. Let’s get ‘er done!”.

Wanda B. Goode: Most meetings are very unproductive for a few reasons. First, they are run poorly. Second, the attendees do not come prepared. Third, there are usually too many attendees, making the meetings useless to some and extending their length. Here are a few rules of thumb that I use for most of my meetings.

  1. If you can accomplish something without a meeting don’t have a meeting.
  2. Invite only those that need to attend. Additional parties can be included in the distribution of minutes or can be contacted as needed afterward.
  3. Send out an agenda.
  4. Prepare for the meeting beforehand and insist that others do the same.
  5. Arrive on time.
  6. Start on time. If you start on time all the time, people will begin to get the message that they must be on time as well. Oh, and dropping off some of you personal possessions on the conference table doesn’t count! You need to be in the chair.
  7. Keep to topic. Tactfully cut off the ramblers. Ensure you accomplish what you set out to accomplish.
  8. Take minutes with action items that have teeth.

I find that when I execute these rules, things actually get accomplished, people tend to show up and show up on time, and interestingly enough, there do not have to be as many meetings.