Ellen Faye
Productivity Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
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Author: Ellen Faye

This week I’m once again sharing content from an article I was featured in. Thanks to Kathyrn Vasel, of CNN Business for the great article on How to Make Meetings More Effective.

You’re running your meetings wrong. Here’s how to make them more effective.

Meetings often get a bad rap. We have too many, they’re too long and they prevent us from being as productive as we could be.

“People don’t hate meetings, they hate meetings that waste their time,” said Ellen Faye, a productivity and leadership coach.

But sometimes meetings are necessary, and can be useful tools for getting things done, brainstorming new ideas and tackling problems at work.  You just have to do them right.

Keep the invite list exclusive
Only invite people to whom the subject matter of the meeting is relevant. “People don’t often really think about who really needs to be at the meeting,” said Neal Hartman, a senior lecturer in managerial communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “Lots of people get invited and if the topic isn’t relevant to them, they feel like they have nothing to contribute and they are sitting there thinking of all the other things they could be doing.” Limiting the size of the meeting can also spur better conversation, said Paul Axtell, author of “Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations.” “The quality of conversation is dependent on quality of the relationships that walk into the room. Fewer people are more likely to connect.”

Have a clear agenda
Make sure all attendees have a good sense of the subject and goals of the meeting before they walk into the room. When you send the calendar invite with the time and location of the meeting, it helps to also include an agenda with the intended topics of discussion. “It’s particularly useful to put a suggested timeline for each agenda item.” said Hartman.  Give people adequate time to review and digest any complex data or documents before the meeting to avoid putting anyone on the spot and to keep the meeting moving. “If you are expecting your meeting to be effective and productive and you want to be able to make a decision, you need a certain degree of information and data,” said Faye. And if you expect some participants to run part of the meeting, give them advanced notice and a time limit.

Get broad participation
Now that you’ve invited only the necessary players to your meeting, make sure you get input from everyone. “If you have done a good job selecting the participants … it’s useful to hear from everybody to get a nice range of insights and perspectives,” said Hartman. The meeting leader should make sure everyone feels comfortable contributing and rein in any conversation hogs who tend to dominate meetings. There are different ways to encourage everyone to speak up. Some implement a rule that everyone needs to speak once, but no more than three times. Others will simply make sure to call on everyone in the room at some point. “The people who are quiet have good information and if we skip them and don’t hear them we aren’t making the best decision for the team and aren’t getting the best outcome,” said Faye.

Limit your own talk time
While meeting hosts play an important role in the effectiveness of the meeting, they also have to be careful with how much they are talking. One of the biggest problems that leads to unnecessarily long meetings is the leader talking too much and not asking questions or listening, according to Bob Sutton, an organizational psychologist and Stanford professor. “You have leaders who talk to allegedly show off their knowledge, when asking questions helps make everyone feel engaged and recognized,” he said.

Have a call to action
Too often if you ask participants of the same meeting what was accomplished or discussed, you’ll get different answers. To avoid that, the meeting leader should take a few minutes to review what was decided on, any deadlines and the next steps to move forward. “If you don’t leave with specific commitments and timelines, then for the most part you didn’t accomplish anything,” said Axtell.” Most often the missing piece is not nailing down who is doing what and then not following up.”

Limit tech
Technology has made our lives much easier, but it can also be a major distraction in meetings. “If you are texting or emailing during a meeting, you aren’t engaged,” said Faye. “There is no way your brain can be doing that and listening and following the conversation.” Meeting leaders should set expectations and ground rules on what technology will be tolerated and they should practice what they preach. Some companies have even banned technology in meetings or make people turn in their devices at the start of the meeting.

Avoid lip-service meetings
Managers can run the most well-run meetings, but if there is no execution afterward, it can cause friction with employees. “Some leaders seem to believe that if they have meetings and are just listening to people and don’t follow up on the opinions or advice, that will make employees feel better,” said Sutton. That’s not the case. “People get really frustrated,” he said.

If it’s daily, keep it short and try standing
If a daily meeting is deemed necessary, keep it moving and keep it short — no more than 20 minutes. “If it’s a daily meeting where you are reviewing actions … I would do a standup meeting where everyone is eye level and everyone moves on,” said Faye.

Track how much time you spend in meetings 
Some job roles require multiple meetings a day, but Faye recommends aiming to have only two hours of meetings a day with four at the most.
“This gives you enough time to follow up, react and do other work,” she said.

Be a More Productive Leader

Thrilled to be quoted in the same article as Bill Gates!

As the boss of MicrosoftBill Gates would take one week, two times a year, and escape by himself to a secret clapboard cabin somewhere in a cedar forest in the Pacific Northwest.

It was what he called his “Think Week.”

Gates would arrive by helicopter or sea plane, and spend the week reading papers written by Microsoft employees pitching new innovations or potential investments. He read as many papers as possible, sometimes doing so 18 hours a day, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, according to The Wall Street Journal.

”…I would literally take boxes out to a beach place and sit there for a week reading them day and night and scribbling on them to putting it entirely online,” Gates said in 2008 video of of Microsoft’s CEO Summit.

Work done during one Think Week eventually led to Microsoft to launching Internet Explorer in 1995. And in 2005, Gates was reading a paper called “Virtual Earth” that described building a virtual map with information on traffic and live images of final destinations.

Gates’ Think Weeks started in the 1980s; the first ones were quiet visits to his grandmother’s house. As they evolved, no visitors were allowed to the cabin during Gates’ Think Week (other than someone who dropped off two meals a day at the cabin, and on year a Wall Street Journal reporter) and Gates’ cabin was stocked with Diet Orange Crush and Diet Coke.

“When I talk about the early days, it’s hard to explain to people how much fun it was. Even with the absurd hours and arguments, we were having the time of our lives.” – Paul Allen

View image on Twitter

Gates’ “week in the woods” idea is smart, says Laura Stack, president and CEO of consulting firm The Productivity Pro. “I would recommend this approach,” Stack tells CNBC Make It. “People should have a ‘third place’ that isn’t work or home, where they can find focused time to think and create and clarify your strategic thinking,” Stack says. “We must create an environment that gives us the ability to focus our minds without interruption from coworkers, spouses, children, pets and technology, or we’ll never be able to concentrate on higher-order activities.”

 

Leadership coach Ellen Faye agrees: “While exercise, yoga, and meditation are great solutions to managing the stress of every day, there’s nothing like disconnecting for a longer period of time to create the space for important decisions and objective creative thought,” she tells CNBC Make It.

“I think of it as a one week long shower. Because we know that in the shower we have these really great thought processes, but those are flashes and moments, and when you go away for a period of time alone you’re able to get more significant results,” she says.

Stack and Faye both employ the technique in their own careers.

“I check myself into my third space — a local hotel up the road — every quarter to write for 48 hours. I’ve published eight books in 14 years using this approach,” Stack says.

Faye says she spends at least four or five days alone at a yoga retreat every year “for deeper creative thought.”

But your “third place” doesn’t have to be far away or fancy. it could be “Starbucks, the library, or the gazebo in your garden. I recommend at least eight hours, but it’s best to take several days to ‘clear the decks,’” Stack says.

As for Gates, his Think Week eventually expanded from just him reading about ideas and providing feedback, to later Microsoft’s top 50 engineering “thinkers” throughout the company doing so.

In the 2008 summit video, Gates said, “We have institutionalized it as kind of a grassroots process and this is a way that somebody who is even just a year or two into the company and has ideas that may or may not relate to the group they are in can write something up.”

 

What is YOUR Success Formula?

Look at how you filled your parking spaces last week.  There are 10 spots. Our math savvy friends know that each spot is 10% of your disposable time.  We will use this to create your formula.

Some of you may have created two parking lots. One that reflects how your life is today and one that reflects how you want your life to be.  The one that reflects the way you want your life to be will drive your success formula.

You are creating a vision for success – a “SUCCESS FORMULA” based on

  • your definition of success
  • your unique focus areas
  • your core values
  • your aspirations.

Keep in mind that each spot is equal to 10% of your disposable time.

Now assign a percentage to each of your parking spaces…

Example:

  • if you have 5 spots for work that’s 50%
  • if you have 3 spots for family that’s 30%
  • if you have 2 spots for self-care that’s 20%

This is my success formula:

Success Formula example

What’s your success formula?

Here are some other examples to spark your creativity:

Success Formulas

Now you have a visual based on YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS.

Use Your Success Formula to Drive your Priorities

  • Create a visual that is motivating and appealing
  • Post your visual where you can see it daily
  • Use your visual to drive how you spend your time, and how you set your priorities; ask yourself:
    • Does saying yes to this support my success formula?
    • If I say yes to this what will I be saying no to?
  • Do the math – if something gets 10% of your formula then it gets 8-10 hours a week. If something gets 40% of your formula that is 32 to 40 hours a week.  Try logging how you spend your time.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Integration: A key component of experiential learning (which is doing while learning, which is what we did in this blog course) is taking the time to integrate the learning.  Here are some questions that can help you to integrate the learning:

  • What did you figure out?
  • What do you see differently?
  • What one change will you make first?

Wishing you SUCCESS on your terms!

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 6th, and final, in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future blog posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please continue to share this blog course with your friends and colleagues.

 

Life is like a parking lot…   

When the lot is full, no matter how much you’d like to, you can’t pull in until another car pulls out.

  • Is your parking lot full?
  • Do you have more cars to park?
  • What car has to leave to put a more important car in?

We all have 24 hours in a day and we all have 7 days in a week.  We can’t control that.  What we can control, however, is what we do with those hours.

If we break this down, we can agree:

  • We need to sleep: there goes 7-8 hours a day
  • We need time for essential self-care: eating, grooming, emptying the dishwashers, etc. – we’ll give that 3-4 hours
  • 24-12 = 12      or      24-10 = 14
  • You have 12-14 disposable hours a day!  That is 84 – 98 disposable hours a week.

How are you going to fill your parking spaces?

  • For my analytical readers – depending on your disposable hour calculation above each space is 8.4-9.8 hours.
  • For my creative readers – figure 8-10 hours a week per space!

parking spots

Consider your “Unique Focus Areas” you created in Week 2. These can guide you to fill your spots with the things that you identified as mattering the most.

This is how my parking lot looks:  4 spaces to work, 1 space to volunteering, 2 spaces to self-care, 1 space to personal/professional development and 2 spaces to my family.

full parking lot

This week’s assignment: Fill your spots.  You may want to do this twice.  Once for how it is now and once for how you want it to be.

parking spotsparking spots

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 5th in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues.

NO is my New YES

I love the word essence. It’s deep and alluring. It goes places that other words don’t go. It’s germane to many of the choices we make.

Last week’s core values exercise tells you about who you are and what you want in your life to be your best-self and live your best-life.  Essentially, these should guide your decisions about how you are spending your time and give you insight into your true priorities.

There is that word again, essentially…

  • Essentially – the crux of the matter
  • Essentials – the fundamentals
  • Essence – the intrinsic nature of something

When we are in our essence, we are making the choices that are congruent with our intrinsic nature. We are not fighting ourselves.  We are not trying to shove a round peg into a square hole, or trying to fill in the corners of a square peg in a round hole.

Are you in essence?

Are you saying “yes” to the right things?

Think about that while you listen to this amazing song by singer songwriter Karen Drucker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhpZKpnrOCQ

This week’s exercise is to make a “NO” LIST.  Name 5 things you will say “no” to that are not in essence with your core values.

  1. ______________________
  2. ______________________
  3. ______________________
  4. ______________________
  5. ______________________

 

What did you learn?

What do you have to let go of to make room for success?

What is important to you about your success?

Are important “yeses” coming into focus?

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 4th in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues.

 

Helpful in the process of getting clear on what’s important is identifying and understanding your core values.

  • A value is your assessment of what is important to you in your life.
  • Your core values are those values that define you as concisely as possible.

Try the following Core Values exercise and see what you learn. Keep in mind that there is no right way or wrong way to do this exercise.

View or Print the Core Values Worksheet here.

Step 1) Circle 16-24 words from the list that best reflect your values.  Feel free to write in any values that are important to you that are not on the list.

Step 2) Narrow your selection by grouping related values together in the boxes provided.

Step 3) Select the one value per box that you feel best identifies a core value. Write that one core value in the corresponding box below.  You may use all 6 boxes, but if you only identify 3 or 4 values that is equally excellent. Example: Courtesy, empathy, friendliness and kindness are somewhat related. By grouping them together it may be easier to determine which of those terms would be your core value.

Do your intentions, focus areas, and characteristics align with your core values?

Do you need to make any adjustments to your intentions, focus areas or characteristics to match your core values?

Do your values support your living the life you want to live?

Take a few minutes and journal about what you’ve learned.

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 3rd in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues.