Book Review: Read This Before Our Next Meeting

Read This Before Our Next MeetingBusiness books are trending towards this style, short, to the point with a clear way to execute and implement the ideas. In Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli, we are given seven new rules when it comes to meetings.

The key to any of these ideas being implemented is having buy-in from the top. I know for me, I always ask for the agenda, or in the very least, a list of topics that will be covered in a meeting.

Pittampalli goes into detail and drives home the point over and over again that the purpose of a meeting should only be to support a decision that has already been made.

David Heinemer Hansson, from 37 Signals, says meetings are toxic because they break workdays into a series of work moments. Achieving flow, the state in which we do our best work, can take long periods of focus. Interruptions force us to start over each time.

Hansson’s feeling about breaking up the day is precisely why I don’t check my e-mail 30 times a day and why I have written about it extensively.

This book is great because it comes at a time when we all want to be more productive and effective in our work and this book provides great tools to do so.

Why You Should Read It:

  • We waste a lot of time in pointless, ‘let’s talk about this memo’ meetings and this book will shed some light onto how to improve your meetings.
  • It’s quick and easy to read and gives you great information and resources behind the seven rules.

What You Can Expect to Walk Away With:

  • Our companies and our businesses need help and this book will give you valuable tools to make your meetings better.
  • You will come away with quick and easy implementable ways to improve your team.
  • A desire to make your day 100-percent more effective and productive.

Thoughts From Team Drake

Last Wednesday I had the great challenge and opportunity to work with Drake University to strengthen their team. (I want to thank all the participants for being great sports!) There was a great variation in the departments and job duties attending this session. But one thing is certain: we learned a lot about ourselves and who Team Drake is.

I believe two keys things came from our two hours together:

We are not all that different than the person working clear across campus.

Think about it: a struggle you’re having in your life, someone else in your company may have already encountered that obstacle. It doesn’t have to be work specific. It be anything from divorce, sending a kid to college for the first time, having financial difficulties or being the only person in your department that refuses to read Harry Potter (yes, that is me!).

Of course we are all unique and I’m not diminishing that – but more importantly – we are all very similar. It is important as we work on our teams and in our offices to remember that despite our many differences, there is more that unites us together.

Relationships are important.

It is constantly said in motivational speeches and personal development books, but especially in teams where you are bound to spend 40+ hours per week with the same group of people, that having strong relationships is key. I don’t disagree.

The reason it is so important is that because of the closeness and interdependence on each other, we must have a strong – and if not strong – at least a positive working relationship with everyone on our team. That doesn’t mean they are your best friends. It means having the ability and openness to be able to discuss issues, present ideas, and still be friendly at the coffee machine later in the day.

When we have a certain level of friendliness and friendship with those on our team, we are much more likely to be strong team members and be an over stronger team.

So What?

No matter if it is an actual “team” or just your co-workers, it is vitally important to remember who similar we all are and that by building and maintaining positive relationships, our teams and ultimately our lives are strengthened.

(Flickr photo via Tom Leuntjens)

Living in Full Color

The joy of the first table read. Two weeks ago a friend of mine from the writer’s group had us do a table read of one of the scenes from his new play. I played a priest.
I had never been a part of a “true” table read, and in reality, this wasn’t a true table read either, but it felt like it. We were at a table. We were reading a scene. I was playing my part darn it, and I was killing!

The moment actually made me think about watching the table reads of famous sitcoms and how much fun they had. As a writer myself, it was interesting to watch the writer of this particular play listening to all the words, taking notes as we went through. He was catching every little change he wanted to make.

For us, our lives aren’t a “table read.” We’re always “live action” and there is little time for commercials. There seems to be little time to go back and correct a word here and a verb-tense agreement there. A writer has an easy time cutting a scene or jumping forward and backward in time with the stroke of a pen. In our live action lives, it seems we don’t have that luxury. But you must make time. You must make it part of your life.

You must make time to relax and laugh at the table. Without laughter, without the outtakes, without the stand-up comedian and the tragically late mother-in-law and the son who just can’t quite keep his room clean, live in the now and enjoy every moment.

(flickr photo by abbyladybug)

Friendly Business

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a terrible first business meeting. Continuing with that theme today, let’s focus on you! What is your first business meeting like?

I think we all can agree how important the first five seconds and five minutes are to the sustainability of not only friendships, but business relationships. If I don’t at least sell you on my personality in the first five minutes, chances are you’re not going to be interested. Sometimes we make mistakes and think we like someone and find out two years later we were mistaken. We’re not talking about that.

We’re talking about that initial meeting where relationships are built and business is lost.

Think about your most recent “first” meeting and ask yourself these questions.

a) What was the mood?

b) Did I focus on them and not myself?

c) Did it feel like a conversation?

If your answers to those questions are: positive, absolutely and yes, then you are on the right track.

The key to building a positive business relationship is to make it feel like you’re not in business. Why do you think there are so many meetings over coffee, golf and beer? That’s what you do with friends and when you do business with someone, you might as well be friends too.

(Flickr photo via MyDigitalSLRCamera)

Haven’t We Met?

About a month ago I had a meeting with someone who wanted my business. I always try to fit these meetings in about once a month. Sometimes it’s just one company who has contacted me, other times is multiple seemingly all at once. When that happens, I ask them to send me information and I’ll contact them when I have the time.

Well, I took this meeting because this salesman was working a a new company and I am always in the market to save money.

Here is where the wheels started to come off on this companies chances at getting my business.

First, not only did the salesman come, but his boss did as well. For me and my needs, that was a big no-no.

Second, the immediately opened up a big black booklet and started in one their presentation. They showed me a photo of their two buildings, a floor-plan of the facility, a photo of a team meeting and then work samples. Presentation over, then they asked me a little bit about my needs.

If you’re following my logic here, they’d pretty much already lost my interest. I personally don’t care about your floor-plan or your team meetings. I don’t. If it comes down to that, I’ll ask about it and I may even do a site visit. But do not sell me that.

Business deals are made in the first five minutes I believe. It’s just a friendship… you work on the relationship. You don’t go up to someone you don’t know but may want to be friends with and start in on how awesome your personal workouts are and the greatness of your house. If you did, you’d end up alone at the bar.

It’s about the relationship–period. These two guys didn’t seem to understand that. The meeting over, I put them in a list of people I’d add to our RFP list in the future. I always give second chances.

What happened next will go into the “Are you kidding me?” pile for the rest of my life. About two weeks after that initial meeting, I received an email from the salesperson of that meeting. It was a sales e-mail telling me how their process works once we select them and how their customer service is the best. Okay… great. But then he said he wanted to stop by my office for no more than five minutes just to put a face with a name. Wait… didn’t we just do that? Dude – we’d already met!

Needless to say, I didn’t reply and I took him off my RFP list.

As a businessperson, always be focusing on the relationship with your customers/clients. Remember the small things. And if you are trying to sell something, tell your story last, listen and ask about theirs first. You’ll be glad you did. Oh, and that works for friendships too!

(flickr photo via modofly)

Three Reasons to Have a Meeting

Two days ago I wrote about how meetings are destroying offices across the world. But what are reasons to call a meeting?

1) Brainstorming. First of all, these meetings should never, ever be held within the office walls. Pick a restaurant, a park, a coffee shop, something other than the office. When you have meetings like this inside the office, all the mental blocks, creative rules and office politics get in the way of true outside-the-box thinking.

I tricked you. To me, that is the only truly good reason to have a meeting. There are tons of bad reasons: project update (unless your industry demands it), goal setting and project planning.

I know I’m being very general here because meetings are important in projects and the day-to-day operations of teams. I don’t disagree with that. But we need to limit how often we have big meetings where the value is lost. Don’t get caught up in the minutia of the office. Go do your own “meeting” at your local coffee shop today!

(Flickr photo via amandawoodward)

Let’s Schedule Another Meeting

What was the last meeting you attended? What was the purpose? What were the objectives for the meeting going into it? Don’t remember? How often do we attend meetings that are just meetings because you’re supposed to have meetings?

For some companies it is vitally important to have morning meetings. For instance, I met with a printing company a few weeks ago and they said every morning every person from the sales team to the production guys on the line meet and discuss what is on the printer for the day. Those are important. That’s a good update meeting.

There are things meeting should be held for and things that demand a meeting be canceled. My personal belief is that meetings are slowly destroying personal passion and creativity in the office. So, what type do you attend more of?

Coming on Friday: Three Reasons to Have a Meeting.

(Flickr photo via kplawver)