As I have written many times, “you accomplish what you meet about.” (I learn this and have this reinforced from so many sources, but it is especially described in vivid detail, with a clear action plan, in the excellent book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish).
Meetings are simply well planned conversations. And conversations are at the heart of all business progress.
There are books: Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, Fierce Conversations. But I like Susan Scott’s summary of the why in her more recent book, her “follow-up” to Fierce Conversations, Fierce Leadership:
The conversation is the relationship. …business is fundamentally an extended conversation with colleagues, customers, and the unknown future emerging around us. What gets talked about in a company and how it gets talked about determines what will happen. Or won’t happen.
A leader’s job is to engineer the types of conversations that produce epiphanies.
In the old days, when we worked on farms or on assembly lines, we could work without many conversations, all day, day after day. But in today’s world, for most of us, we work this way:
• alone, I get “my” work done.
• then, together, we get “our” work done.
And it is back and forth, from alone time to together time. It is this rhythm that defines out work, and then within and from this rhythm we accomplish our work.
And at the heart of it all, we need conversations. Conversations with ourselves, and collaborative conversations, and occasional confrontational conversations.
(And, by the way, some of those crucial confrontations are with ourselves, and some of those are with co-workers, and some of those are with our bosses… and some of them might even be with our customers).
Here is an important reminder: What is a conversation? It is this (I heard this years ago, from either a pastor or theology professor, I don’t remember which. So, my apology for not giving full credit; I simply do not remember the source):
• the first person speaks while the second person listens
• then the second person speaks while the first person listens
• this is called turn-taking (you take turns speaking, AND! you take turns listening.
It is that listening component that so many of us have trouble with.
Oh, and one more thing, You have to schedule time, save time, take time for those conversions. Remember, these are crucial conversations, and they are definitely worth your time!
So, here is your challenge for today: Have more, have better, have lots of conversations.
How good are you at the art of conversation? No matter how good you are, it’s probably time to get better.
But most of all, have those conversations!
Let’s assume that you’ve got your passion statement clearly written. It is a good passion statement. It is a clear statement of intent regarding just what your organization stands for and will deliver to its customers.
Now, the challenge is fairly simple. Simple – but not easy.
How do you get your passion, your mission, your clear statement of intent, to become reality, to become the actual practice of everyone in your organization?
#1, you develop, and practice, patience. It takes a while. Maybe, a long while. So, get to work, but don’t expect the miracle overnight. One consultant who is really good at this said that he spent three years (that’s three years of meeting after meeting after conversation after retreat after meeting) with one leadership team before it finally started flowing through every part of the organization.
#2, you tell everyone the intent of the organization — everyone on the entire team! — over, and over, and over again, just what is expected. You drill into them, you surround them, with your intent. In meeting after meeting, in conversation after conversation, you say loudly and clearly “This is what we are about in this organization.” How often? Often! Really often!
“Until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough.” (Verne Harnish, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits).
#3, you measure, and then reward. Any employee serving as a true exemplar of carrying out this intent gets recognized, applauded, rewarded. His or her legend grows.
And any employee who takes too long to get it (remember – it takes quite.a.while!) — then some major adjustments need to be made.
And any employee who fights against it – they simply cannot be allowed to do so.
If you want your organization to carry out your intent, it will require organizational thoroughness. All the way through your organization, people need to be able to say: “This is our intent. We are fully on board! And we will execute.”
It won’t happen by accident!
Here’s the path. You read, you learn, you do, you tweak.
First, you get the information. You get it in your head, you ponder it, you experiment with it – you try it. And then, after you try it, you do stuff — and after you do, you tweak, and make it better. And then you tweak some more, and make it even better.
But, it really can all start with reading.
That is the underlying message in the list of books that the Wall Street Journal compiled in this article by Michael Gerber: The Best Advice Around, From Those Who Took It: We asked entrepreneurs which self-help books helped them get their businesses off the ground or run them more smoothly.
“The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber
“Who: The A Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek
“The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki
“Little Bets” by Peter Sims
“Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” by Verne Harnish
“Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs” by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham
I have read three of these, presented synopses of two of them, and feel like I know one more (The Sinek book – through his TED talk). Here’s an observation or three: if you don’t yet have an “idea,” then read Little Bets. If you know where to start, but haven’t actually started yet, then read The Art of the Start (this is the book for anyone starting– in any definition of “starting”). And when you start, and you need to establish the disciplines of actually running a company (and you do!), be sure to read Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – it will help you establish your rhythm (“rhythm” — a big word in this highly practical and useful book).
You can purchase my synopses of The Art of the Start and Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
How busy are you?
If you are like me, you are so busy doing your job that you practically never have time to think about doing your job better.
We do not save time for planning, for coming up with a new and or improved strategy. To actually go through such a process could be the very best use of our time. But, I suspect, most of us don’t even have a workable process for planning. So, we need to plan, but we don’t take the time to plan, and we don’t have a process to help us plan. We are planning deficient in every way.
We’re so busy: too many fires to put out, too many distractions. And, we have our actual work to do, every day, always demanding our attention. And so, we just plod through, day after day, and make few of the changes that would help us be more productive.
2012 is right around the corner. I think a full day to think about 2012, to plan for 2012, would be a really valuable day – don’t you?
Dan Weston has the workshop we need. Based on the Verne Harnish book and principles/habits, the Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Workshop is just the right mix of a little content, a little prodding, a little coaching, and a lot of time to work through your own plan for 2012. Dan Weston, a Certified Emeritus Gazelles Coach, is a master at leading you in your own planning session. He guides, you work. It really is a day worth your time and investment.
You could do this on your own – by yourself. But you probably won’t. (Did you take a day last year, to plan for 2011?)
Dan will “make” you plan for 2012. In fact, without a day like this, 2012 will just happen to you. And, at the end of the year, you’ll say I should have planned better. Don’t let that happen! This way, you have a shot at being proactive, more “in charge” of your 2012.
So, reserve your spot, carve out your entire day, bring your key team members, and plan to plan for a profitable growth year in 2012.
Click here for all the details.
Here’s what Dan Weston promises for his workshop:
Learn how to accelerate profitable growth using the Rockefeller Habits.
You will learn these principles for growth and build the following areas of your One-Page Strategic Plan for 2012:
> Core Values & Purpose: Enliven your identity and energize your employees
> Ideal Customer & Brand Promise: Develop clarity on your “who” and on your unique, targeted and measurable differentiator
> Growth Targets & One-Year Plan: Set your strategic targets for the next 3-5 years and your measurable, one-year goals and priorities for 2012
> Priorities & Metrics: Make your most critical short-term decisions for your 13-week race by setting quarterly and personal priorities and metrics
> Communication Rhythms: Develop practical and efficient regular meeting rhythms to keep meetings short and effective
> Top Talent: Learn to identify, hire and retain A performers who will accelerate your growth
> Clarity & Accountability: Ensure everyone in your company is clear on accountabilities and has a roadmap for growth
All participants will receive a FREE copy of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits!
Dan Weston, and his Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Workshop, sponsored the September First Friday Book Synopsis. But, I can speak personally, Dan Weston is the real deal, and this day would be an invaluable day for you and your company.
“Until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough.”
Verne Harnish, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
Each semester, I handout copies of the full text of I Have a Dream, the great speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. I take a fresh copy myself, and I have us work through the speech, circling each phrase that he repeats. The list is overwhelming: “now is the time” “100 years later,” “let freedom ring,” “all of God’s children,” “I have a dream,” “one day.” Over and over and over again, he hammers home these key phrases. This is part of the reason why the speech is burned so deeply into our collective memory.
We all need to take a lesson from Dr. King – especially at work.
We are so very busy, in our lives, and in our brains. At work, we always have the incident/task/crisis of the moment demanding our attention. So, if we want to focus on what is important in the big picture/over the long haul, it has to be front of mind, and put back in front of mind, time and time and time and time again.
In other words, one major job of a leader is to repeat what is important over and over and over and over again. “until they mock you.” There is no alternative to this.
Here’s how Mark Aesch, CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) put it, in his book Driving Excellence: Transform your Organization’s Culture – and Achieve Revolutionary Results:
With an issue this significant, putting it in front of any group of people once is not going to get it done.
You need to come back, time and again, to make people focus on the issue’s importance.
Everyone – bus operators, radio controllers, customer service personnel, up to and including the vice presidents – is nudged to tie our strategies to the most basic task they happen to be performing minute to minute.
How are you doing? Are you repeating the key elements of your mission and your strategy over and over again to your people?
Are they mocking you yet? If they are not, you’ve got some more repeating to do.
I don’t know how to identify an “expert” all that easily these days. Is a person an expert because he/she has written a book? Probably not. But, when smart people disagree, how do we decide who knows enough to copy and emulate?
Consider this: is it good, or bad, to have meetings?
In Verne Harnish’s book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Harnish teaches that the rhythm of regular meetings is critical to the success of a company or organization. Jason Fried disagrees.
I like Jason Fried. He is a witty, good writer. I liked his book, Rework, which I read and presented. It is a terrific thought-provoking read. But I think he is leading us astray.
In Jason Fried’s world, heard in his TED talk, Why work doesn’t happen at work (watch the video here), Jason Fried basically says that meetings are the devil. Here’s what Fried had to say (taken directly from the video):
The real problems are the “m & ms” — the managers and the meetings. Managers’ real jobs are to interrupt people… and, managers most of all call meetings, and meetings are just toxic; they’re just terrible poisonous things during the day at work…
So, who is right, Harnish or Fried? Are meetings good – or bad?
I suspect that Harnish is right, and I would say to Jason Fried, “no, meetings are not the devil.” Yes, there is a problem with bad meetings, run by unprepared, clueless leaders. I would agree that bad, poorly run, unfocused meetings may be the devil.
But the solution is not “no meetings,” or even “fewer meetings,” but “good meetings.”
Jason Fried says: “People don’t do work in the office.” He says that we need “long stretches of time” to get meaningful work done – a premise that I do agree with. And he says, that the office provides not a place for work, but a place for “work moments.” Ok, he may be right about that. But then, he blames that problem on too many meetings. And that is where he misleads us.
There is a flood of evidence that meetings of all kinds lead to superior performance. Let me remind us all again: a Super Bowl winning football team has countless, seemingly endless, very regular meetings. They watch film together, they listen to their position coaches together; there are group meetings, there are one-on-one meetings, there are sideline meetings in the middle of a game, there are very short meetings before every play (called “huddles”)… Try winning a Super Bowl with no meetings!
So my advice to the Jason Fried fans out there is, quit listening to Jason Fried. Look instead to people who know how to plan, run, and follow up after meetings. Study how they conduct their meetings, and “go and do likewise.”
No, the devil is not meetings…the problem is bad, non-purposeful, “meetings just to meet” meetings. But a good leader, running a purposeful meeting, providing follow-up after the meetings… this is the lifeblood of a successful organization.
Do you need to improve your skills at running meetings? You can start with reading Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Harnish.
And by the way, I wonder if the TED folks have any meetings to prepare and plan for their conferences? I bet they do!
You can purchase my synopses of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, and Rework, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.