Month: October, 2008
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.
There was an article in this past Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer about Jack Bogle. In it was listed Jack’s Rules for a Good Life. They are:
Rule No. 1
Get out of bed in the morning. If you don’t do that, not much is going to happen. Once you get out of bed, try to have a good day. Try to be a better parent. Try to be a better spouse. Try to be a better colleague. Try to help those around you. Try to teach people. Try to learn. Try to do something completely off the wall. Be conscious of the world around you, and try to make it a tiny bit better today. If you do that, when you go to bed you’ll get a good night sleep.
Rule No. 2
Repeat Rule No. 1 the next day.
Joe and Wanda, any thoughts?
Joe Kerr: There are quite a few people that I wish did stay in bed. I’d have a lot less mess to clean up every day.
Wanda B. Goode: Looks like a good one to hang up. Great reminders to help us keep things in perspective. The world would be a much better place if more people lived by these rules.
In his book, Developing the Leader Within You, John Maxwell lists the “Seven Deadly Sins” that excellent managers should avoid.
Trying to be liked rather than respected
Not asking team members for advice and help
Thwarting personal talent by emphasizing rules rather than skills
Not keeping criticism constructive
Not developing a sense of responsibility in team members
Treating everyone the same way
Failing to keep people informed
Joe and Wanda, any thoughts?
Joe Kerr: “Only the Good Die Young!”
Wanda B. Goode: It certainly is a good start. There are plenty more where they came from. I know because I’m guilty of many of them! For additional posts on leadership mistakes, see below. It’s very easy to fall into bad habits. Managing is tough. It’ important that we recognize the common mistakes, do our best to limit them, and apologize when we screw up.
In his book, Developing the Leader Within You, John Maxwell writes that, “a test of a leader is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an Emergency.” He goes on to say, “Under excellent leadership, a problem seldom reaches gigantic proportions because it is recognized and fixed in it’s early stages.”
He goes on to point out the sequence in which leaders recognize a problem…
They sense it before they see it (intuition)
They begin looking for it and ask questions (curiosity)
They gather data (processing)
They share their feelings and findings to a few trusted colleagues (communicating)
They define the problem (writing)
They check their resources (evaluating)
They make a decision (leading)
Joe and Wanda, how do you approach problem identification and solving?
Joe Kerr: I can sniff out a fire better than anyone. I’m attracted to them, like a moth to a thousand watt bulb. Only I don’t fly around and ogle at the darn things. I douse them. The little ones usually only take a little bit of grit and spit. If it’s a four alarmer, the Joe Kerr fire hose gets a work out.
Wanda B. Goode: I really like the opening comment. People tend to be so reactionary. They wait until something breaks until they fix it. They actually get a kick out of solving problems. It’s more exciting than preventing them before they happen. The firefighter typically gets rewarded more than the fire preventer as well.
I try to prevent problems, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes I just don’t see them coming. Other times I convince myself that they’re not that big of a deal and that they’ll just go away. They never do. They only get worse. Whenever I see one sneaking up on me, I try to use prior lessons learned to spur me toward action.
I like the way that Maxwell breaks down the steps. They are all important, but I find the most important thing is to act.