"Excuse yourself to take a call and then don't return."
Of course, this topic always leads me to the best meetings, which are so often no meetings, but can be constructed from the following elements:
Something to Discuss - If we are just imparting information, there is no need for a meeting. If we have something to discuss - a decision to make, options to consider, actions to take - then a meeting might be in order.
A Good Agenda - For me a good agenda imparts information; it briefly lays out not just the topics but the relevant facts being considered as part of the discussion. I once started a meeting with an overview of the client's situation (which wasn't good) and had the plant manager tell me: "oh, it is going to be one of those meetings." In my mind, I failed in preparation for the meeting because I didn't make the circumstances known as part of the advance agenda. I surprised him.
The Right People - The best meeting accomplishes something, and there is no better way to accomplish something than by having the right people in the meeting. Who are the right people? People who can - and will - make decisions.
Meeting Leader - The best meetings will have someone who leads the discussion toward decisions. Someone should be in charge of the meeting. That person oversees the development of the agenda, ensures that good information is on hand, and efficiently and effectively guides participants in the room toward a conclusion. The greatest compliment I ever received from a client was from a new client who, after a two hour meeting (long by my standards) told me that the short meeting was refreshing and helpful. He explained that the previous consultants would "hold" them all day for meetings. A good meeting is not rushed but does have sense of urgency and progression to it. It respects the participants' time.
Follow-up - A good meeting will have follow-ups. They should be reviewed in the meeting and then followed up quickly.
bookofjoe puts things in perspective:
"When I get emails or phone calls or texts from people telling me
about how important something is — and how I must respond RIGHT NOW — my
first reaction is always to snicker.
Gimme a break. 'Can't intubate can't ventilate' — that's urgent.
The rest is piffle and very small beer and can just wait until I'm good and ready to deal with it.
Unless you've stood over a patient's increasingly cyanotic face,
unable to intubate or ventilate, while the O2 sat meter's beeps get
lower and lower and slower and slower, and felt the sweat running down
your butt crack, you have no idea what "right now" really means.
Rule of thumb: In otherwise healthy adults, permanent, irreversible brain damage begins after five minutes of hypoxia.
In children, or adults with compromised pre-existing physical status, less.
Sometimes significantly less.
we haven't spent the time or effort necessary to understand it. we want it to be. that makes us look smarter. we don't want to try to explain it. certain details don't fit neatly into our preconceived notions. we're in a hurry. we're lazy. then you need to hire us to figure it out.
John is in Lexington, Kentucky interviewing. He sent me the above picture from the menu of a local establishment. I told him to buy a shot of the Pappy Van Winkle to say he had tasted it. He replied that he had no intention of spending $60 on a glass of bourbon. Later in life he will learn that we regret what we did not do far more than what we did do. Missed opportunities.
"I say the following not as an old codger painting his youth in roseate
hues that never were, but as serious sociology: We kids could get up on
a summer morning, grab the .22 or .410, put it over our shoulder and
go into the country store for ammunition, and no one looked twice. We
could go by night to the dump to snap-shoot rats, and no one cared. We
could get our fishing poles—I preferred a spinning reel and
bait-casting tackle—and fish anywhere we pleased on Machodoc Creek or
the Potomac. We could drive unwisely but joyously on winding wooded
roads late at night and nobody cared."
Michael Wade is the prose laureate of the blogging world. Here he is, dead on, looking at the effect of travel on business: "Examining a
training proposal to conduct a workshop in a relatively remote location.
Travel time is a concern as well as sufficient rest. [The trainer needs
enough time to be rested for the class.] I've never been on a lengthy
business trip that was without expenses beyond the usual parameters so
those calculations can be rough."
I understand that the answer depends a bit on whether you are a brain surgeon, teacher, student parent or woodworker.
I read that we should get three things done each day; that seems incredibly easy. By contrast, I've seen people with daunting page after page of things to do. Just looking at the list sent me for the door.
Ten things seems doable. I'm not talking about "Email Danny" or "Call Sallie". I mean meaty tasks which, when reviewed at the end of the day, will bring a satisfied smile to any face.
I mean ten substantial advancement tasks: Draft the new brochure, develop the reports on the Napier project, get five real prospects, read two chapters to Sallie, mow the yard, write 500 words in the journal, cook a delicious dinner.
Meetings only count if something is accomplished - there is a challenge. Emails only count if they provide good information to a client or prospective client. Reading for understanding, learning or teaching counts. Thinking counts if it clarifies, enlightens or solves a problem. Anything that builds a relationship counts.
"Growing your own food though and cooking with raw ingredients seems to
be a pastime of minority. Not long after I was pulling tubers from the
dry soil, was I walking the isle of a small supermarket on an errand to
source some baking powder. Not being familiar with the location of said
item, I walked most isles, gazing with interest with the ‘food’ items on
offer. From instant risotto to frozen dinners. Isles of canned items,
packaged meals, powdered sauces and meal enhancers. Half the food here
would be unrecognisable to someone from the pre war era. Most of it
The Great Blue Heron was a wise bird. Aside from the fish who were his meals, he had no enemies in the woods. He mostly kept to himself, offering bits of useful advice only to the animals who asked for guidance. Mostly, he stood in the creek, scooped up fish and pondered the world.
Each morning at dawn and each evening at dusk, he would let out his great caw which echoed through the wood and make a sweep of the creek to survey the goings on.
But today the caw was meant as a distraction. It was meant to make the little girl think of something other than the fox and to make the Gray Fox turn and run off into the woods as he should always do when encountering a human. It was an attempt to restore normalcy to the world. The heron saw what was about to happen. He saw order coming apart, calculated what it might take to restore the situation and acted.
And Gray Fox turned and disappeared into the underbrush. Libby noticed the heron since it flew so close to her. She looked where the fox had been then turned to watch the great bird ease his way up the creek and over the road. She stood for a moment and then turned and walked up the bank and back toward home.
"I see a huge need to simplify our communication – our words and our
actions have to convey very specific (and congruent) messages. Jargons
and hot words break the communication, creates barriers, robs
understanding, adds clutter and leaves people guessing. 'I need to get
this report by 12:00 PM tomorrow so that I can review and send it across
to customer by 4:00 PM' is much better than 'I need it ASAP'. Next time
you call something as 'important', make sure your subsequent actions
also demonstrate the importance."
Has anyone noticed a dramatic increase in the number of things needed "yesterday"?