Posts tagged 'Success'

If you choose not to attend.

September 28, 2022

Meetings should have as few people as possible, but all the right people
Charles W. Scharf, American executive

We all have more meetings to attend than we prefer, especially if some of them don’t represent the best use of our time.

Even though meetings are vital to the execution of projects and initiatives, it’s important to be thoughtful about attending. One simple question works:

Is each meeting on your calendar the best use of your time this week?

If not, then explore whether you decline attending, send a replacement, or attend only the portion of the meeting for which you are a critical content provider.

There are four key elements in creating and maintaining the freedom to decline.

The person calling the meeting always has the final word. In a world with too many meetings, it’s tempting to simply not show up. But this is about being responsive and reliable. Letting people know that we prefer not to attend is about both standing up for ourselves and giving the meeting leader an opportunity to convince us to attend.

Set up permission not to attend ahead of time with your boss or team leaders who call the bulk of meetings which you attend. In the best of circumstances, this is a conversation your boss or project leader initiates. Granting permission not to attend isn’t because they don’t want you to at the meeting. Rather it’s a gift they provide because they realize everyone is managing a unique set of priorities, and the freedom to choose where you spend your time this week is best left up to you.

Only call meetings that are necessary to discuss things that matter. If every meeting to which you were invited advanced your important initiatives and projects, not attending wouldn’t be an option you would choose often.  

Only invite those who are necessary to make progress on each topic. Too often we err on the side of inviting too many people, fearful that someone will feel left out. Let your organization know that you are going to err on inviting only the minimum required, then make it clear they can invite themselves if they see it’s a meeting they don’t want to miss.

If you choose not to attend, you are responsible to:

  • Assure no harm comes from your absence
  • Provide your input and questions through a colleague
  • Find out what happens from a colleague
  • Accept work that the group assigns to you
  • Align with all decisions made in your absence

In other words, you give up all rights to slow the progress on any topic simply because you chose not to attend. You are still responsible for making things work.

Now, with this background, what meetings do you need to decline next week? And for those meetings you call, what can you do to make sure they are a good use of people’s time?


It has to be an awfully good meeting to beat having no meeting at all.
Boyd K. Packer, American evangelist


- Paul Axtell, author of Make Meetings Matter: How to Turn Meetings from Status Updates to Remarkable Conversations

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Hearing people out is a prerequisite for moving forward.

May 30, 2022

I'm curious about other people. That's the essence of my acting.
I'm interested in what it would be like to be you. 
Meryl Streep, American actress

Hello, Paul,

I’ve spent 10 hours in the last month observing leadership team meetings.  One scenario happened in each meeting---someone expressed a view or a concern and someone resisted it or countered it.  And what happened next was always the same, the person making the point expressed it again only with more energy and emotion. And this cycle of expression and resistance repeated until eventually they gave up and became passive in the meeting.

Recently I read an article that asked current and past baseball managers for the advice they would give a rookie manager.  
One comment that resonated with me came from the current Milwaukee Brewers manager, Craig Counsell:
I would just say doing your best to understand everybody’s perspective that you run across on the day. Like, What are they dealing with? What does the media think when they come into your office? What is [the General Manager] thinking when he comes into your office? I think understanding their world and their goals helps you be a little better at it.
It reminded me of a day I spent at the Smithsonian Institution talking with the woman in the ombuds role about conflict resolution. Eventually, she and I settled on what was most missing: listening—specifically to make sure people feel they have been heard. 
Hearing people out is a prerequisite for moving forward. That means no arguing or resisting or problem solving or reassuring, but rather taking it all in so they feel heard. Until you understand how they perceive the situation, you won’t get anywhere. 
This level of listening requires us to remind ourselves that we don’t know anyone else’s reality. It requires a shift from knowing to being interested and curious. It’s difficult to listen when you think you already know how things are or what they need.
It’s easier to listen fully when your intent is to learn about people:

  • What are they facing?
  • What do they care about?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are they worried about?
  • How do they see the world?
  • What are they committed to?

This is something to keep in mind as we interact with family, friends, and colleagues. Even though we think we know what makes them tick, we don’t know what they are thinking in this moment, in this conversation. 

You don’t know what it’s like to be me.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Perhaps it’s time to slow down and see if we can get closer to understanding what is going on for them right now.
Stay curious,

Resistance is futile.    Star Trek


- Paul Axtell, author of Make Meetings Matter: How to Turn Meetings from Status Updates to Remarkable Conversations

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Companion to Moving to Outcomes

March 28, 2022

Let’s start with what would seem like an obvious question—a simplified, but surprisingly accurate, representation of the choice many marketers face today.

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The skills that will set you apart from the crowd

March 21, 2022

This past spring I spoke to a group of university seniors and graduate students. They wanted to know what they need to be successful when they enter the world of work.

My first answer was the ability to listen because it’s at the heart of influence, creating relationships, dealing with complaints, and demonstrating empathy.

My second answer was process skills—the ability to participate in and manage group conversations. Individuals can improve their influence and impact by sharpening their process skills.

We work on specialized conversations—presentation skills, negotiating skills, sales approaches, conflict resolution. We haven’t been students of how to work with others or how to be great with people by paying attention to how we converse with each other. Nor have we worked on the process skills that are key to conducting conversations in group settings.

In workshops on individual and group effectiveness, I ask people to consider that after mastering their core discipline of accounting or engineering, their next area of focus should be conversation: speaking, listening, social skills, and meeting skills—all of which are at the heart of being effective in an organization.

Here are six reasons why honing your conversational process skills is a worthwhile investment of your time:

  1. You’ll set yourself apart. The ability to manage conversations so they are productive, inclusive, and focused on getting work done is an organizational skill that transcends expertise. Being really good at a core discipline (say, marketing, business development, or social media) is important, but being an expert only gets you so far. If you can add the ability to facilitate conversations to your repertoire of skills, you’ll add more value to your organization.
  2. You’ll gain stature. Your colleagues will respect your ability to make their time in meetings productive—even more so if you can manage the conversational processes with very little attention on your own views. You are not doing this to get noticed, but it never hurts to be known for having a critical skill set.
  3. You’ll create productive relationships. The entire process of determining what should be on the agenda and interacting with colleagues about the best way to have a successful meeting gives you insight into what matters to people. Relationships are built on a series of conversations where people can express themselves fully and feel heard. Learning about your colleagues through meaningful conversations will build a network that you can depend on outside of meetings as well.
  4. You’ll enhance your powers of observation and learn to stay out of the conversation. Managing a meeting requires careful attention to the dynamics in a room—for example, whether someone needs to be brought into the conversation or an action item needs to be assigned or the discussion has gone off track. Facilitating a meeting also requires learning to withhold your own ideas and questions and focus on the thoughts of others. Many of us need practice at interrupting less, listening more deeply, and resisting the urge to turn the conversation to our own views or experiences. These are important leadership skills in and out of meetings.
  5. You’ll become valuable beyond your own group. If you become known in the organization as someone who can manage conversations effectively, you’ll likely be asked to help with other meetings. You may not be interested in becoming a professional facilitator, but even leading one or two meetings a month for other parts of the organization will build your network and knowledge of other functions.
  6. You’ll contribute to your boss’s success and respect. Offering to design and lead the next meeting for your manager is a gift in several ways. Many managers simply don’t have the time to determine what needs to be on the agenda and how best to get the broad participation required for alignment. Being able to focus intently allows the manager to pick up on the nuances people express, verbally and nonverbally, and to listen for any organizational perspective or background the group needs.

Universities have heard the call from large organizations to train students to be able to work in teams. Unfortunately, the response has been to put students on teams, hoping that experience would make them effective working in groups. I’m not so sure it does. Teaching process skills would—especially if listening in an attentive fashion were included

Listening is a master skill for personal and professional greatness..
—Robin S. Sharma, Canadian author


- Paul Axtell, author of Make Meetings Matter: How to Turn Meetings from Status Updates to Remarkable Conversations

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The Marketing Model That Will Change The Business World

March 14, 2022

Let’s start with what would seem like an obvious question—a simplified, but surprisingly accurate, representation of the choice many marketers face today.

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