LEARN A LITTLE:

Let’s Talk About Meetings – Part I of II

I was recently reading a book written by an author, who was totally committed to the notion of getting things done, not wasting time and achieving the maximum profitability of the bottom line. While the author contributed a few good ideas, I do not think he truly understood the importance of relationships—the subject of a future blog. He was actually espousing a management approach that he apparently thought he had discovered—having employees stand during meetings. He seemed to believe that their discomfort would cause them to be more efficient and less likely to waste time.

It wouldn’t surprise me if many thousands of CEOs and other C-suite personnel have given that notion a try and quickly discarded it. Indeed, it is not a new idea.

Leadership, in my view, is primarily about establishing positive relationships, while utilizing the work of teams and individuals to get things accomplished. What follows are some of my thoughts regarding meetings shared from the perspective of a CEO. The context is those meetings that include seven to twenty (+ or -) people who represent the top leadership of the organization, all of whom report to the CEO.

As a matter of practicality, effective and timely communication becomes more difficult as the number of employees and size of the organization increase. In addition, not all of the people likely work in the same building, job titles might vary widely, and the workforce as a whole may be richly diverse. Furthermore, it is very probable that such meetings typically occur weekly or bi-weekly. I am an advocate for weekly senior or executive staff meetings.

Further complicating the affairs of a dynamic organization is the short time that frequently occurs between the finalization of an agenda and the actual meeting.

Here are some recommendations for the CEO or for those of you who might be chairing meetings, such as those identified above.

  • Use the meeting, to the extent that you can, to read the vitality level of each member present. How are they doing? People don’t stay the same. Is someone hurting, another withdrawn, still another distracted? How much fuel do you think is in their tanks? This is a huge concern, especially when needing to assign new or additional tasks or responsibilities. Sufficient leadership energy must be available for successful outcome achievement. This sensitivity should span all meetings and help determine whether or not additional one-to-one time should be spent with a particular person.
  • Second, always seek ways of building relationships within the group during the meeting and to those assignments given outside of the meeting, e.g. appointments to a committee, task focus, etc.
  • Ensure the fact the big picture is adequately shared and any related questions are being answered. The “whys” of things should not be neglected.
  • Don’t miss an opportunity to reinforce the foundational values of the organization. Remember that people leak and people stray.
  • Likewise, pay attention to particular times that present teaching moments, especially those that strengthen the culture of the organization. This can be as simple as sharing a useful quote, clarifying a point on a given topic, or an upfront “I’d like to take a few minutes today to pass along an insight, suggested alternative, etc.”
  • Do what you can to add humor and good nature to the meeting. The goal is to actually have members look forward to coming to the meetings each week.

The above is not to say that the primary intent of such meetings is the process, but relationship issues are vital to carrying out the business of the organization. It’s the reason people are there in the first place.

To be continued…

LAUGH A LITTLE:

REFLECT A LITTLE:

Proverbs 11:3 (TPT)

Integrity will lead you to success and happiness,
but treachery will destroy your dreams.

READ A LITTLE:

Can't Not Do

The Power of Bad
Ray Baumeister and John Tierney (2019, Penguin Press)

The Power of Bad is an incredibly good book, written by Ray Baumeister and John Tierney. You might remember this writing team from the best-selling volume Willpower.

What’s the primary message? “That the negative has greater power over us than the positive.” The brain, perhaps for survival reasons, seems wired to focus on the bad. As a result, the dominance of the bad actually prevails in our moods and decision-making.

Here’s the good news. Once we come to grips with the negativity bias, “our rational brain can overcome the power of the bad when it’s harmful and employ that power when it’s beneficial…. Properly understood, the power of bad can bring out the best in anyone.”

The first few chapters of the book are most interesting in the context of today’s news, which unfortunately most frequently serves as a propellant for fear. Neither the digital nor the TV world of news coverage seeks to be a deterrent to fear. How sad is that? The authors comment, “…there are many more skilled purveyors of fear and vitriol—the merchants of bad, as we call them–who have prospered financially and politically by frightening the public and fomenting hatred.”

What follows are some insights, generally well-researched, that you may find interesting, just as I did.

  • “Of all the forms of addiction, the most costly is the one that gets the least attention: an addiction to safety. We pay so much attention to bad things—reliving them, imagining them, avoiding them—that we let fear run our lives and become irrationally cautious. We’re so focused on averting one obvious danger that we fail to foresee more subtle pitfalls. So we pass up opportunities for happiness and success in our personal lives, and we adopt public policies that leave us paradoxically less safe.”
  • Don’t overpromise. Most of us tend to promise more than we can deliver because of what psychologists call the planning fallacy, which is our tendency to underestimate how much time and effort will be required for a task. When we don’t deliver on time, we hope that our family or friends or colleagues will at least appreciate our good intentions—See how much I was trying to do for you! But they won’t. The negativity effect is in force. They’ll focus not on your good intentions but the bad result.”

There’s even an interesting chapter entitled “Love Lessons” for those of you interested in such matters. From that chapter is this researched observation:

  • “Most people don’t recognize the negativity effect in their relationships. When Baumeister asks his students why they think they would be a good partner, they list positive things: being friendly, understanding, good in bed, loyal, smart, funny. These things do make a difference, but what’s crucial is avoiding the negative. Being able to hold your tongue rather than say something nasty or spiteful will do much more for your relationship than a good word or deed.”

The chapter “The Brain’s Inner Demon” was also fascinating to me because it discusses the alarm systems of the brain’s structure and the related responses and consequences. Two, of many, interesting facts:

  • “When you look at the world, your attention is automatically drawn to threats.”
  • “Even when things are going your way, the brain’s amygdala keeps looking for the cloud behind the silver lining.”

Fortunately, the authors don’t close the book without addressing the actions that can be taken to conquer the bad so that the good can be accomplished in our lives and in our organizations.

What follows is, in my opinion, a rather astute observation with respect to the current state of affairs in American politics.

“Most Americans remain moderate in their political views, and public-opinion surveys show that their views haven’t changed much in recent decades. The big change—a marked polarization of opinion—has occurred not among the citizenry but among what social scientists call the political class, which encompasses most of the crisis industry: the legislators, political activists, campaign contributors, journalists, lobbyists, and scholars who battle over public policy. They’re the ones segregating themselves at opposite ends of the political spectrum and trying to drag the rest of the country along. Their vicious battling has created a widespread sense of “false polarization,” as the political scientist Morris Fiorina calls it. The typical Democrat and Republican voters accurately consider themselves moderate, but they inaccurately believe that voters in the other party have become dangerously extreme, so they feel increasingly antagonistic toward the other side.”

While the book is 250 pages in length, it reads quickly and will hold your interest throughout.

Until next time,

Art Dykstra


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