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Increase the Benefits from Meetings You Can’t Get Out Of

Increase the Benefits from Meetings You Can’t Get Out Of


    Are you beyond tired of sitting through endless successions of meetings, with no time between to organize your thoughts and capture follow-on actions?

    Much is made about shorter meetings, having no formal meetings at all, making everyone stand so they stay focused in shorter daily or weekly meetings, and myriad other ways to make people more effective via quirky or gimmicky techniques. Several articles have appeared here on Lifehack recently about improving meeting productivity overall, and Chris Brogan’s Nail Meetings Down Tight and Take Your Laundry Off The Line are two great ones. Mike Vardy’s post on using MeetingBurner to support great virtual meetings is also a great resource.

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    Right now, though, I’m going to give you six ways to make any meeting more effective for you beginning right now. These techniques will work for you even if you have no control over the meeting content, length, or style.

    Read the pre-briefs.

    Seems obvious, doesn’t it? It is obvious, but it often doesn’t get done. If you knew how many leaders – from junior to very senior – of major and not-so-major public and private organizations I’ve seen walk into meetings with absolutely no foreknowledge of the meeting’s content, except maybe the topic, you would be appalled. And it would instantly become obvious why progress moves with glacial slowness. Read the pre-briefs. Have some idea of what you’re likely to hear. Then, you’ll have an idea of where to look for problems and opportunities.

    If the pre-briefs are terrible, privately tell the person who prepared them. They should appreciate it; no one wants to look like an idiot in public. If you don’t have the horsepower to approach them, use your network.

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    Pay attention.

    Don’t use the time to prepare for your next meeting. Don’t have impromptu meetings with your neighbor. If the meeting isn’t worth your attention, it isn’t worth attending. Focus your attention on what is being said and presented. Are they congruent? Is the speaker presenting information you know to be inaccurate, or overly optimistic or pessimistic? Are all stakeholders present, or is something being discussed someone else really needs to know about or contribute to? Engage your mind on the meeting, even if you don’t find the meeting engaging.

    No messaging.

    Yes, I could have put this under  “Pay Attention,” but enough people violate this that it deserves a separate mention.

    If you are reading email or texts, or writing new ones, you cannot be fully engaging your attention on the person speaking or on their presentation. And I often find the real information is hiding on a slide and never mentioned aloud, while the conversation goes on around it.  And, messaging during a meetng is just bad manners.

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    Take notes on printed presentations (as well as notepaper).

    I have a system of flagging and coding critical information I need to remember, and to visually cue my eyes to follow a certain path through the notes. I also have a special coding system to flag actions for me and others, and to indicate at a glance whether I initiated the action or it came from someone else.

    Use an assistant.

    Even if it’s a peer. A good executive assistant’s worth is immeasurable, especially one with the ability to learn what you need to know, and when you need it. If you’re fortunate enough to have one, let them tell you what he or she believes is important for you from the meeting. Integrate the insight into your own notes. If you don’t have an assistant, try reaching an agreement with a peer to provide this support for each other. You’ll both gain greater benefit from the meetings you attend, and you’ll have a greater incentive to pay attention for the entire thing.

    Taking notes on the presentations themselves allows you to jot questions, concerns, or follow-up actions next to the material, automatically creating a connection and preventing you from having to write as much. A paper-saving alternative is to write a memory-jogging note first on your notepad, and then jot the slide number or subject so you can refer back to it. I also typically write the name of a presenter and their main subject at the section of my notes where they begin speaking. If I end up with no notes for them, then it’s only cost me a single line on the note page and I can go back and see who spoke on a given topic if I have a question later.

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    Walk out.

    Really. Get up and walk out. Is it rude? That depends on how you handle it.

    Make it clear you have limited time when you accept the invitation. Show up for as long as it takes to glean what you need, and then quietly leave. If you’re one of several attendees, it should be clear you have other commitments. If the meeting is for you, then you just made it clear your time was being misused.

    Take care, and have productive meetings,

    (Photo credit: Bored in a Meeting via Shutterstock)

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      Last Updated on March 29, 2021

      5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

      5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

      When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

      What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

      The Dream Type Of Manager

      My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

      I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

      My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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      “Okay…”

      That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

      I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

      The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

      The Bully

      My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

      However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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      The Invisible Boss

      This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

      It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

      The Micro Manager

      The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

      Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

      The Over Promoted Boss

      The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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      You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

      The Credit Stealer

      The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

      Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

      3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

      Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

      1. Keep evidence

      Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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      Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

      Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

      2. Hold regular meetings

      Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

      3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

      Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

      However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

      Good luck!

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