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I Find Only 4 Minutes Of Any Meeting Are Actually Useful. Here’s How To Know When You’ve Struck Meeting Gold

If done right, meetings are an incredibly valuable way to build relationships, share ideas and drive business forward.

Chris Battles

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Tick tock, tick tock … We’ve all been guilty at some point of watching the slow progress of the clock as we sit through yet another meeting that would have been better handled through a group message or email. While we often fixate on “meetings gone wrong,” there are also those amazing meetings that truly made an impact — where a team had a critical inspiration that unlocked success, closed a crucial deal or had a breakthrough in forging a relationship with a boss, employee or client.

It is these powerful impacts that make meetings such an important part of our professional lives. The question is, how do we break the cycle of bad meetings that leave us dreading the next one and wondering when we’ll get to the real work of our day?

I have found that in nearly every meeting, no matter how long, there are only about four minutes of “meeting gold” — instances when all participants react strongly to an idea, and engagement and information-sharing are at their highest. If you can capitalise on these moments, you can unlock your team and drive dramatic acceleration in delivering on your most critical objectives. The challenge lies in being able to identify and capitalise on these instances to maximise engagement and productivity between and during future meetings.

Related: How To Make Your Board Meetings More Effective

Here are a few tips for recognising — and capitalising on — the golden moments in your next meeting:

Learn to identify nonverbal cues

facial-expressionsIt makes sense that the most direct indicators of people’s attention and engagement come from their verbal responses — “great idea” and “tell me more” vs. “I’m not sure that will work” or “I don’t understand” — but human beings do not communicate exclusively through language. People use a variety of nonverbal cues (both consciously and unconsciously) to express their interest, often conveying more of their opinion nonverbally than they do verbally.

When meeting participants are interested and engaged, their full attention is on the speaker and presentation. Even if they remain silent, they’ve stopped texting, sending emails or robotically taking notes. They are present and alert, in many instances nodding or even physically leaning in toward the speaker to demonstrate their interest.

It is particularly important to watch out for these cues with remote workers, and why it is so important to leverage video conferencing solutions when hosting a meeting with remote team members. While these non-verbal cues will vary person to person, they are powerful signs that you’ve struck meeting gold, and are your first clue that the focus of the discussion holds real value to your employees and to the business.

Share personal insights and experiences

When multiple meeting participants voice their opinions or add insight from their own experiences (especially those who typically remain more reserved during meetings) that’s another sign that you’ve hit upon an important subject. When people feel passionately about a topic of discussion, they are far more inclined to voice their individual thoughts and opinions — and more sources of input provides a greater opportunity to gather valuable insights.

Related: Running Meetings the Steve Jobs Way

While general enthusiasm and participation are often indicators of meeting gold, it is the speaker’s responsibility to determine the underlying cause.

There are two reasons for this: First, to better understand the topic or presentation style which prompted such enthusiasm to apply that knowledge to future meetings, and second, to objectively determine if the topic merits further discussion. For instance, is this subject something that contributes value to the business and employees genuinely care about, or is participation being motivated by outside factors such as the attendance of a company executive? The first instance reveals true meeting gold, while the second can be tossed aside as “fool’s gold.”

Mine the gold

Once you’ve struck a vein, you need to ensure you can capitalise on it. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

Two key tips to ensuring you get the most out of these key moments:

Pull in the audience. When you see the signs of meeting gold, it is the perfect time to pull in your audience, particularly those who are often silent. Look for those who are leaning in and engaged, and ensure you solicit their perspectives and opinions.

Be willing to abandon the agenda. As meeting hosts, we often have a list of topics we “need” to get through. Because inspiration can be fleeting, we need to be willing to set the agenda aside and spend the time to take advantage of key moments. Push something to next week, shorten a later item, but don’t diminish the impact of these moments by being slavishly tied to your agenda.

Understand actions and immediate next steps

The last tip to maximise the value of your meeting gold is to ensure you capture it in a way that will have impact well beyond the meeting itself. Inspiration can be fleeting. Make certain that you capture the critical notes, the critical slides and the critical next steps for the team to be able to take that moment and make it one that endures.

By capturing these moments, you can address one of the key sources of meeting frustration — that they seem to end without purpose, action or direction. In these instances, employees are simply going through the motions, holding the meeting because the workplace requires it, rather than because it holds genuine value.

Related: Email Is Great But Face-To-Face Meetings Are 34 Times More Successful

I’ve found that in moments of meeting gold, participants are able to quickly and explicitly define their immediate next steps following a discussion. These actions can be listed by the speaker or any number of meeting attendees, but in every case, there is a clear understanding and consensus on the outcome and what actions each individual must take to achieve that goal. The key is to have the discipline to be specific in these moments, get individuals to identify specific actions that are needed, identify and task specific owners, and be clear on the timeframe for their actions.

Meetings can be long, inefficient and often #couldhavebeenanemail — but they aren’t going anywhere. If done right, they are an incredibly valuable way to build relationships, share ideas and drive business forward. By equipping employees with the knowledge to better identify the minutes of gold in their meetings, we can help ensure the most effective outcomes for those meetings, and in turn apply those insights to help shape more efficient, engaging and even more enjoyable interactions in the future.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Chris Battles serves as SVP and general manager, communications and collaboration for LogMeIn. Battles joined the team from GetGo, a subsidiary of Citrix that merged with LogMeIn in early 2017. He is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Managing Staff

How To Build Better Employee Engagement

Here are my 10 tips for managers wishing to build real engagement.

Dr John Demartini

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Everything begins with values; with the top three highest priorities in an individual’s life. These are the source of that person’s primary purpose and the underlying determinants of their perceptions, decisions and behaviours.

In the context of managers wanting to help their teams to develop mindsets geared towards connection, conversation and experimentation, within a healthy environment, the process must begin with value determination.

Advice for managers

Here are my 10 tips for managers wishing to build real engagement:

  1. Write down the job duties that your people actually have: Their current, accurate, and most up-to-date daily action steps.
  2. Spend some time determining what their values are. You can use the free online tool on my website – www.drdemartini.com
  3. Once you have determined your highest values (the three things that are most important to you in your life, where you demonstrate your greatest discipline, reliability, focus and productivity), you’ll need to find the links between employees’ job duties (Step 1) and their highest values. This is a very specific and detailed step, unpacked below.
  4. The question to ask is, “How specifically will performing this particular job duty help me to fulfill my current top three values?”

EXAMPLE

Let’s say one of your team members is a payroll administrator. Her job duties might include: checking how many hours employees have worked; calculating and issuing pay; deducting tax and other benefits; processing leave and expenses; calculating overtime; answering staff queries; and giving advice.

Let’s presume one of her top three highest-order values is her children. The way to connect what she does with what she values is to ask questions like these, in order to make links and help her see them in context:

  • Does working with numbers help you teach your children to pay attention to detail?
  • Does making calculations help you help your children with homework?
  • Does knowing the art of fair exchange give you a lesson to teach your children?
  • By doing your work, are you earning the income you need to fund your children’s education?
  • If it’s tedious work but you don’t give up, is that good role modelling for your children?
  • Does knowing about money management, and sharing this with your colleagues, help them to help their own children?
  • Does advising others make you better at giving your children counsel?

Related: Why Conflict Resolution Is A Matter Of Matching Values

  1. The magic number to shoot for is 20 links, not seven. Once you get to 20, for some reason, it ‘clicks’ and people can see that what they do every day is (or can be) valuable and meaningful. Be aware that some links are harder to find than others. Some are obvious; some, more tenuous.
  2. Look for fluency. If the employee hesitates or can’t answer the question easily or at all, this is a sign that the job duty is incongruent with their highest values and they are not going to be inspired about that particular duty. (In this case, keep asking them how that specific duty would or could help them to fulfil their highest values, until they can see a connection.)
  3. This is a big job. Value determination and link creation can take a whole day or more, the first time you do it, depending on the size of your team.
  4. To create better connections between your people, use the same process to cross-link others’ three highest values with your three highest values. Go through the entire team, making a list of values across everyone you manage. Look at the common threads. This will help you achieve more equitable leadership, better management and healthier relationships.
  5. For better work conversations, remember that dialogue comes from equal values (or else you simply have alternating monologue). Employees must know each other’s values. You, the manager, must master the skill of communicating your high-priority intentions, expectations and delegations in terms of each employee’s top three values.
  6. Intrinsically, people love solving problems that align with their values, so fulfilling their values will give them the courage to experiment.

Remember: People go to work every day to fulfill themselves, not for the sake of a company. For this reason, managers must enable their people to explicitly connect their own values with their everyday, real-world job duties, so that they become engaged, feel grateful for their collegial support system, and are inspired to go beyond the call of duty and to innovate.

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Managing Staff

6 Ways To Break Bad News To Your Team

We asked six leaders: How did you handle sharing the hardest news of your career?

Entrepreneur

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Being the bearer of bad news is never fun. But there comes a time in everyone’s lives, when they’ve got to step up to the plate. This is especially true in business. When you’re in a leadership position at a company, knowing how to deliver bad news is a crucial skill. To help you out, we asked six leaders for their advice on delivering bad news to teams.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. With a promise

“After the economic meltdown of 2008, we couldn’t afford to keep everyone on staff. Picking who stays and who goes is one of the most difficult decisions you have to make as CEO. I delivered the news with honesty and empathy at an all-hands meeting. We gave some severance, referral to an employment service and a personal reference. We also gave the option to rejoin our team once things were back on track, and some did! It was a homecoming of sorts, a healing moment.” – Ori Eisen, founder and CEO, Trusona 

2. With support

“In 2016, our office manager passed away. She was only 26. We called a mandatory meeting, let everyone know, and brought in grief counselors. The hardest part was controlling my own emotions in front of the company. This was a crucial moment, and the team needed a leader. We organised a memorial service to celebrate her life. It took time for the business to return to a normal cadence, but her impact remains at the company today.” – Rahul Gandhi, co-founder and CEO, MakeSpace

Related: 22 Qualities That Make A Great Leader

3. With transparency

“In New York, construction delays are as common as yellow taxis. But when you’re working to open a new restaurant location and have promoted staff to run it, construction delays don’t impact just revenue but your team’s livelihood as well. Delaying promotions for people who have worked hard to earn them is tough news to deliver. But we invited the team to the construction site to see the space and ask questions, and it helped everyone get on the same page.” – Otto Cedeno, founder, Otto’s Tacos

4. With community

“The worst news my husband and I had to share with our employees, and kids, was that we’d decided to move our business from New York to Los Angeles. We gave employees the option to stay with us and relocate. Some came west, and others did not. We couldn’t guarantee that those who moved with us would love L.A., but we promised to figure it out together.” – Cortney Novogratz, co-founder, The Novogratz

5. With a plan

“One of my first experiences as an entrepreneur was running a restaurant, which I closed as a result of 2008’s downturn. I knew this was going to be life-changing for my team. We did everything we could to ease the disruption, and I leveraged my network to place laid-off employees in new positions – nearly 90 percent had jobs in just a few weeks. As a business owner, failure is hard, but it’s an opportunity to prove yourself as a leader.” – Michael Wystrach, co-founder and CEO, Freshly 

Related: 15 Of South Africa’s Business Leaders’ Best Advice For Your Business

6. With reason

“After I joined Interactions as CEO, my team and I identified significant roadblocks in our product development. We had been on an aggressive growth track, but it was clear we needed to right the ship. I told my board and team that we were shutting down sales to double down on R&D. Hitting pause was an incredibly hard decision, but it was necessary to ensure we were providing the best product and experience for our customers.” – Mike Iacobucci, CEO, Interactions

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Managing Staff

Why Small Businesses Are Unable To Pay Staff Salaries

Let’s look at it from a different angle and see if we’ll arrive at that same conclusion.

Matthew Mordi

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We’ve heard countless times the constant conflict between employers and employees over non-payment of salaries. Small business owners complain employees don’t understand what they have to go through to ensure the payment of staff salaries.

The moment they’re unable to meet up with the payment of staff salaries, workers accuse them of being wasteful when business was booming. So the age old story of members of staff not being understanding comes up again. The cost of running the business which includes maintenance of machinery, rents, paying off loans; all these and much more which sums up overhead cost.

While it’s true that overhead cost is usually the main challenge of small businesses, it’s true only in part. Let’s look at it from a different angle and see if we’ll arrive at that same conclusion.

Usually a lot of small business owners don’t save for the rainy day, neither do they invest income generated by the business for the benefit of the business. Personal savings and investment isn’t the same with that of the business. Small business owners tend to save and invest income generated by the business in their personal names.

Related: Start-Up Law:  I’m A Start-up Founder. Can I Pay Employees With Shares?

Let’s look at this scenario:

Mr A. is the owner of a grocery shop. People are patronising the business. Business is booming, everything seems perfect. At this point there is usually no problem paying salaries and overhead. This is the tricky part, what the employer does with the income the business is generating at this point apart from ploughing the money back into the business will decide whether he’ll be able to pay salaries when business is slow.

One would expect the owner of the store to not only save but also invest some of the income made by the business.

This is usually not the case because it’s at this point of booming business and perceived excess cash that the owner remembers he’ll pay himself more than he usually does (and that is if he pays himself salary), needs to move to a bigger apartment or better still, buy a bigger car.

The moment there is downturn in sales as a result low patronage, the problem of payment of staff salary begins. Mr A. makes it clear to his employees that the business isn’t turning in a profit and he’s using his personal money to pay staff salary. Therefore, he can’t keep on doing it and he’ll have to owe salaries.

This could have been avoided.

Do diligent – don’t dilly dally

What happened to the excess profit of years before? It’s obvious the employer hadn’t been diligent with the funds. Instead of investing the money to ensure it generates further income for the benefit of the business for the rainy day, the employer would instead use the profit for his own personal benefit.

If Mr A. had saved the money and income generated by his grocery store in preparation for the rainy day, the company wouldn’t be caught up in the quagmire it was put in.

A business is a separate entity from the founder, whether it’s a small or a large corporation they should stay so; separate. I’m not talking about the technicalities of whether it’s a company or business name. We have to realise that in order for the business to not only survive but also succeed, it must be separate from the owner.

This is one aspect small businesses must learn from large corporations with sound financial plan. There are times these corporations declare losses, yet they’re able to pay salaries! Money made by the business should be for the business. It’s not the time to buy that new car. If employers work with the mindset of paying themselves salaries (not excessive), it would go a long way to ensure the business is afloat even during uncertain economic times.

Related: How To Structure A Fair Salary That Will Motivate Your Sales Team

In fairness, some employers who own small businesses have been exceptional in this regard. However, the fact is, majority of small business owners don’t function with this mindset. Businesses, just like it obtains in our personal lives, have their ups and downs. The things you do or don’t do during the ups are equally as important as what you do during the downs. Save, save and save. You can’t go wrong with this. Invest, invest and invest. You can’t go wrong with this either.

That profit isn’t for spending; at least not yet. Invest the money like you would do with yours. Invest it in the name of the business. Let your business own shares in other businesses. This is sound business practice.

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