5 Meeting Rules You’ll Actually Want to Adopt

GettyImages-861164910.jpgAre meetings something that you would consider magical at your organization? No? Why not? Aren’t meetings a place to collaborate, share ideas, dream big dreams and then make things happen?

Few business people would describe meetings using terms like actionable, positive, critical and focused . . . yet those are the terms that help define success in moving the organization forward.

Communication methods are imperfect as a whole. While you can create a business plan via a series of emails, it’s inefficient and the plan will often lack creativity. The same goes for one-on-one meetings. Team meetings are the ideal way to build energy and enthusiasm for a new idea and generate actionable outcomes, but without the proper structure, even these meetings can be considered wasted time.

Here are 5 rules that will help keep your meetings on pace, on target, and provide you with the successful outcomes that you need from your time together.

1. Start With An Agenda

No, you shouldn’t begin with ‘What will it take to fill an hour of team meeting time this week?’, because if that’s your first thought then you’re already sunk. Request that team members send agenda items at least 24 hours before the meeting time and consolidate them to form your agenda. Keep in mind the flow of topics, and be sure you’re leaving time for strategic conversations. Leave items that may fall into deep tactical minutiae to the end of your agenda.

2. Plan for Takeaways

Consider the consensus that you’re attempting to build with your meeting, or what your takeaway should be. Perhaps you need someone to volunteer for a new project, or you just need to inform a group about a direction that will impact their work. If you feel that there may be some pushback to your ideas within the room, look for a partner who will be in the meeting who can help support your point. If an item that was on your agenda doesn’t have a clear actionable, add it to a parking lot for a later date.

3. Keep Time Sacred

Time is money, and never is that more true than when you have 3-15 individuals in a room together meeting without a timeline or agenda. Based on your agenda, break down how long each portion of the conversation should take and allot time accordingly. If your meeting should only need 23 minutes, then schedule that much time — perhaps plus a few minutes extra. Be a stickler about keeping conversations in check and moving the agenda along to hit key points in your list.

4. Consider a Drive-By

Just need to chat with a few people about a simple topic? Instead of finding space and time for a full-fledged meeting, consider a 5-minute drive-by or stand up meeting. Grab a few people and huddle around a desk or common area, hash through your questions or concerns and let everyone get back to their day. In the same amount of time that you might take to walk and get a cup of coffee, you’ve made a decision, kept others updated on important points, and reduced the overall inefficiency of the day. The time for small talk can be over lunch; use these drive-bys to distill your ideas into the length of an elevator pitch. This may be uncomfortable for some people as it requires checking your ego at the door, but teams that are able to adopt these policies can become much more agile.

5. Keep it Moving

Always focus on the end result and what you need to keep your projects moving. This could be anything from an approval by a superior, someone agreeing to take on a task, or even consensus that you’re heading in the right direction. Capture takeaways and next steps, and most importantly — the name of the responsible party and when the result should be delivered. This will keep your meetings on task and team focused.

The word ‘meeting’ doesn’t have to be a negative concept. Instead, use these 5 meeting rules to adopt a culture of forward motion, positivity, and respect within the organization that will drive success both now and in the future. This isn’t a one-time change to how you approach meetings, but an organization-wide initiative to take back your time and productivity.

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4 Ways to Stop Your Team from Falling Apart

GettyImages-649346048.jpgThere are times in every supervisor’s work life that you can feel everything going off the rails — projects don’t sync up as they should, laughter feels forced within your team, and the energy levels are low.

While it may feel like everything is falling apart at the seams, and you’re not sure what you can do, don’t give up! There are ways to bring teamwork back to your team, but it will take some work to rebuild trust between team members and realign your focus to the future.

Even the most high-performing teams have moments of doubt that can be introduced by stress or fear. These negative emotions could overtake a team or its leader, but the first step is re-imagining the future and then casting that vision to your team.

Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

While it may be too late if your team has already entered a downward spiral, preventing negativity from happening is always the best alternative to a team that’s coming apart at the seams. Getting to know your team, understanding their motivations and stressors, and working hard when you need to will help you become a trusted member of your team — and not just the leader.

Spending time together bonding in good times will help sustain your relationship during times of difficulty, both with each individual team member and the team as a whole. This trust doesn’t come overnight but is worth the time spent building it in the long run.

Slowing the Negativity

Perhaps your team has just begun showing signs of stress, such as team members being unwilling to contribute in meetings, leaving early, or losing energy early in the day. If you look up in the afternoon and everyone is wandering around looking aimless instead of focused on work or building relationships, it’s past time to get more involved in your team’s dynamics.

Start by talking to someone on your team, either the person who is seemingly the most stressed or one with whom you have the most trust built up. See if you can determine what the root cause of the uncertainty is, and look for potential options for resolution together.

Returning from the Brink

If your team is truly on the brink of collapse, with your best and brightest team members disengaged and actively looking for other opportunities, it’s time to take more drastic measures. Consider asking your human resources department if they’re hearing any rumors about what’s happening, or pull the team together as a whole in an offsite meeting to add to their comfort level.

Request that they be open and honest with you about challenges that they’re encountering — either within the team, outside the team or even outside the organization.

Take Charge of Results

You also must face the possibility that you as the leader are the problem, which can be painful and difficult to accept. However, you must first look to make changes in your own leadership style in order to help salvage your team’s success.

Take responsibility for finding a solution, and don’t be afraid to claim accountability when things aren’t going as you had planned. Too often, leaders find themselves in a situation that feels hopeless and attempt to look externally to find the problem.

If there is truly someone on your team who is causing the excessive negativity, know when it’s time to make the difficult decision and make a change in personnel. Sometimes, all it takes is removing a negative influence or underperformer to bring your team back to center.

Today’s organizations are moving quickly and chasing many different initiatives at once. Managing people is always a balancing act: creating a culture of learning and accountability while allowing people the space they need to take appropriate chances. Fortunately, nearly every team can be brought back from a downward spiral with time, effort, and loads of positive energy from its leader.

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How to Turn Negativity into Inspiration

ThinkstockPhotos-663352750.jpgIt’s easy to look at successful business-people and feel jealous of what they’ve accomplished. They make it look so easy that you wonder why you’re not having the same level of success in your life and career. However, what you may not see is the hundreds of times they’ve had their ideas shot down, been passed over for a promotion, and just generally rejected in their lives. No one is immune to the soul-crushing feeling of harsh criticisms, but how you react to these situations is what makes the difference. From taking a leap into the unknown to dealing with difficult situations, these stories of overcoming negative situations will inspire you to achieve more than you could possibly imagine.

Stirring Generations of Moviegoers

George Lucas tried to sell his Star Wars script with studios for nearly five years before he finally received his first chance. It’s almost unimaginable that without one 20th Century Fox executive who believed in his vision, generations of children and adults alike would have never been introduced to that vast galaxy that lives far, far away. Today, this franchise is worth over $30 billion and continues to expand. His thoughts about always pushing forward through rejection and failure? “You use the information that you’ve gotten, which is experience . . . Failure is another word for experience.”

Apprentice Yourself in Failure

Henry Ford’s story tells how he spent his life working on every conceivable type of device, but it wasn’t until he tried his hand at creating a horseless carriage that he truly began — to fail. He started multiple companies with various partners, each time attempting to find the secret sauce that would allow him to produce his automobile efficiently and cost-effectively. Throughout his journey, he faced setbacks and people who didn’t believe that he could be successful. Finally, he found the ideal financial backer who allowed him to realize his true vision of an inexpensive yet reliable vehicle that could be mass-produced. By never giving up, he not only made Ford a household name but also created innovative production methods that jump-started the American economy.

Demoted, Fired . . . President of the United States

There are few Cinderella stories more inspirational than that of Abraham Lincoln. From his birth in a one-room log cabin to a sketchy education, Abraham Lincoln went on to become one of the most influential leaders in American history. Not only was he demoted during his stint in the Army, not only did he work through several failed businesses, but he also suffered defeat through multiple elections before rising to the country’s highest position. Abraham Lincoln’s inspiring story shows that failure is truly never an option.

The Right Job for Enough Money

Not everyone equates becoming rich and famous with being successful. In fact, Professor Jeffrey Sachs feels that the key to inspiration is finding the right job for enough money. Being inspired, and inspiring others, often comes towards the middle or end of a long career that can include negativity, stress, poor bosses, and apathetic co-workers. While it’s practically impossible to know upfront whether a particular job will become what inspires you, the only way to reach that higher plane is through overcoming negativity. Work-life balance and true happiness come through the inspiration to excel wherever life finds you.

Life is difficult, and few people will hand you an opportunity on a silver platter. Turning negativity into inspiration may be one of the toughest things that you will ever do, but the payoff is everything! Take a moment each day to inspire and uplift others. You never know when your kind words could encourage someone to keep pushing towards their dreams.

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The Dignity of Work

ThinkstockPhotos-832112086.jpgDown But Not Out

Albert Serur was just a young man when he passed out cold in his client’s office. Only four months into his job, a previously undiagnosed heart condition might have sidelined him permanently. But Serur didn’t go down without a fight. Rather than recovering from emergency surgery at home, he hired a driver so he could sleep in the car between sales calls.

“Adversity helps you deal with who you are,” he says. “If you can start preparing for things proactively both personally and professionally, you’re going to be ready, and you’re going to be a better leader.”

“Will-Set” that Trumps a Skill Set

At 28, Serur is the youngest state director at American Income Life and chief executive of its Wilmington subsidiary. Serur Agencies brings weekly employee training sessions that focus less on technical abilities and more on workplace camaraderie, helping people develop a “will-set” with emotional tools to handle challenging situations. These offerings are a timely response to a felt need; in a recent Society of Human Resource Management report, “respectful treatment” was a top priority of the workers, even above pay.

“I’ve seen many people who have more God-given talent than I have, but if they have one difficult relationship issue, they just fold,” says Serur.

Valuing the “Dignity of Work”

Workforce prioritization was how Starbucks recently explained the “fairly flat” performance of its stock. While a recent reduction of corporate-tax rates made the company hundreds of millions of dollars, Starbucks chose to re-invest this money in its workforce rather than funneling profits back to shareholders. Priorities included closing gender pay equity gaps worldwide, offering stock grants of $2,000 for managers and $500 for employees, expanded paid parental leave, and even access to critical illness insurance for parents of employees. Executive chairman Howard Schultz says people are an enduring priority:

“We’re trying to make long-term decisions,” Schultz said. “We’re trying to value the dignity of work. We’re trying to do everything we possibly can to demonstrate to the world … that the better way is not a zero-sum game where you leave your people behind.”

Microsoft has also seen a shift toward creating workplace wins. Several of Microsoft’s former employees have returned to the company after CEO Satya Nadella took over. These “boomerangs” say workplace culture has changed significantly under Nadella’s emphasis on “One Microsoft,” a collaborative environment that hasn’t existed in the past. Nadella has shifted reviews toward solidarity and teamwork, where employees are rewarded not just for their own work but how well they’re able to make use of others’ contributions. Boomerangs say this step away from the “smartest person in the room,” intimidation tactic has brought a more conversational, empowering environment. Microsoft has emphasized patience before perfection, incentives for developing others, and teaching staff to diffuse tension after disagreeable meetings.

Bonds that Last

Some companies use humor to grow unity. The Improv Asylum comedy troupe teaches communications skills at organizations like Google and Intel. This troupe’s mantra is that one person must always accept the premise given and then expand on the idea. “The sink is going to start spraying pink paint, you say?” “Well, yes, AND . . . lucky for us, we’re hosting the abstract art seminar this weekend!”

As it turns out, this is also a great workplace communication technique:

(The phrase) “‘Yes, but’ is prevalent in the corporate culture, and that shuts ideas down,” says Bob Melley, director of corporate training at the Boston theater company. “‘Yes, and’ encourages everyone on the team to offer ideas. It creates a bond and establishes trust.”

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Stay in the Game

Finding the Off Switch

Do you ever lay awake at night feeling restless about work? Do you take projects home each evening or over the weekend? When the day is over, is it difficult for you to quiet your racing thoughts?

You work hard. And you enjoy it. But in this mobile generation, devices meant to create freedom have tethered us to the desk as we toe the line between productivity and workaholism. A study of 3,000 UK workers showed that 69 percent regularly work outside their office hours, and the average worker fails to use six days of paid leave each year. In the midst of an overwork epidemic, are you preserving your own well-being?

Digging Your Own Grave

While our parents said “hard work never killed anyone,” research says otherwise. Men who are unable to mentally relax after work nearly triple their risk of heart disease and psychologist Mark Cropley, studying health and stress at the University of Surrey, says an inability to detach brings disastrous consequences:

“Inadequate psychological recovery, or poor disengagement from work, is associated with a range of health problems including cardiovascular disease, fatigue, negative mood and sleep disturbance,” Cropley said.

What is the difference between an industrious person and a workaholic? Experts say the industrious can push past typical office hours but remain emotionally present for others, enjoying fulfilling relationships and intentionally scheduling time for things they love. Hard workers experience short bursts of stress for a deadline but follow this with a purposeful schedule reduction (like comp days or shortened office hours) to restore depleted energy.

Workaholics struggle to find this off switch. The troubling feelings or facts accompanying their lifestyle stress fails to curb their unrealistic performance ideals. Workaholics are obsessed with work and the adrenaline rush it brings; often they walk fast, talk fast, eat fast, and struggle to delegate for fear others will not do “as good a job.” While appearing externally healthy, their internal overdrive brings physical distress: panic attacks, claustrophobia, depression, decreased immune function, sleep disturbances, or an inability to enjoy life’s pleasures. Workaholics have an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, a higher need for recovery, and struggle with cynicism and emotional fatigue; when your biological systems keep working around elevated set points, you have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and even death.

Worried you may be digging an early grave? Here are a few checks to flag your workaholic tendencies:

  • Your work eats into meal times
  • You are often first to arrive and last to leave
  • You are always on your phone or computer
  • You appear relationally distracted and find little time for leisure activities
  • You experience anxiety or irritation when interrupted or kept from work
  • You feel guilty when you’re not working and find it difficult to relax at night

Quality Trumps Quantity

Beyond improved health, accounting firm Ernst & Young found that for every additional 10 hours of time off taken, employees’ annual performance ratings improved by eight percent. How can you make productive changes if you are stretched too thin?

  • Reflect on reasons for compulsive work
  • Ask for help from your team and intentionally delegate
  • Set clear rules for how many hours you will work each day, quitting several hours before bed
  • Replace workaholic tendencies with positive habits: cultivating hobbies, building a skill you don’t use at work, and pro-actively scheduling time with friends
  • Resolve to save 25 percent of your energy to bring home at night. Put a fence around weekends to avoid temptation

Self-care keeps you on top of your game and ensures you STAY in the game. And that’s a win for us all!

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Branded Promotional Products Make a HUGE Marketing Impact

Give.pngPeople love free stuff; they always have, they always will. This is why branded promotional products are so effective. It doesn’t even necessarily matter what “it” is. So long as it’s free, people are going to come running.

Choosing the right type of promotional products can have a huge marketing impact because of their longevity and because they’re functional in a way that people truly appreciate. If you’re thinking about experimenting with branded promotional products but aren’t sure if it’s something that will be worth your time and effort, here are a few key reasons why now would be an excellent time to start.

Branded Promotional Products Earn You the Right Kind of Attention

According to a recent study, 53% of people used some type of promotional product at least once per week. More than that, six out of every 10 of them said that they tend to keep promotional products for up to two years.

This means that when you invest money in creating that attractive and helpful branded tote bag, you’re essentially putting a piece of marketing collateral out into the world that someone will carry with them for around two years. That is 24 months worth of opportunities for them to use that bag in public, acting essentially as a walking billboard. That’s a long period of time to effortlessly keep your brand at the forefront of someone’s mind.

Integrating Branded Promotional Products Into Your Larger Campaigns

Branded promotional products compliment your other marketing efforts and earn a place among all the other techniques you’re using. You also need to know when and where to roll them out. If you’re the type of company that will be appearing at a trade show, for example, branded promotional products like USB chargers or even fidget spinners are terrific because they can attract attention to your booth and help guarantee that every personal interaction gets off on the right foot.

Think about it like this – the first known use of branded products as a form of marketing dates all the way back to 1789 when a guy you may have heard of named George Washington was trying to get elected president. The commemorative buttons he used at the time undeniably made an impact on the message he was trying to spread. If it worked for George Washington, you could bet that it will work pretty well for you, too.

When you also consider the fact that adding a promotional product into your larger marketing strategy can increase the effectiveness of your other types of collateral by up to 44%, you begin to get a better understanding of why the “all of the above” strategy is one that is more than worth exploring.

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Never Underestimate the Value of Good Relationships

ThinkstockPhotos-639797508.jpgTattly was started almost on accident. Design blogger Tina Roth-Eisenberg was looking at the temporary tattoos her daughter received at a birthday party, and was disappointed by the uninspiring fake tattoo designs available. She had many talented artist friends due to an artistic coworking space she’d recently founded. Bringing these folks together to create a new product seemed a natural fit.

Soon after, she had a range of high-quality temporary tattoo designs that she was offering for $5 a piece. In addition to artists from the coworking space, she solicited work from artists who she knew online through her popular design blog.

Two months after beginning work, Tattly launched with 16 designs. The company has grown quickly, with their designs showing up everywhere from high-end retailers like Macy’s to the Tate Museum and the gift bags at the annual White House egg hunt. Over 8,000 retailers now carry Tattly temporary tattoos. Roth-Eisenberg’s success is due as much to successfully leveraging her relationships as it is to her innovative ideas. A few of the ways she made her relationships count:

Look for new ways to leverage relationships.

Like most bootstrapped companies, Tattly was running on a very small margin. Roth-Eisenberg provided the first $15,000 in funding from her own pocket. However, she ran into issues when she realized that she was out of cash to actually print the tattoos.

To solve her cash flow problem, Roth-Eisenberg reached out to a contact and asked if they’d like to sponsor the first “bonus” Tattly, a free temporary tattoo that would ship with every sale. Her partner was enthusiastic about the opportunity. With the advance, Roth-Eisenberg was able to pay for the first printing of her tattoos.

When you are considering a new direction, always remember what your current contacts do besides the business they do with you. You may have opportunities that you never thought of.

Show support to the ones who support you.

Too many platforms and businesses undervalue the creative talent that helps them find their success. Tattly has formed strong and loyal relationships with artists from all over by providing a healthy commission on every one of the tattoo designs shown. At the time of this writing, the company has paid out over $1 million in royalties to artists. Because of this, Tattly has attracted over 120 talented designers.

Let your fans be your ambassadors.

When Tattly started, the company did not have a budget for promotion. However, Eisenberg’s existing following from her design blog provided a huge boost. Her social media following worked like a built-in PR and marketing engine. Tattly’s influence only grew as proud followers shared the eye-catching designs. This was enough to quickly draw the attention of wholesalers who were happy to carry the bright and fun pieces of art.

Have confidence in your relationships and provide as much value as you seek. Through this and some creative thinking, you can make opportunities not just for your business, but for all of your potential collaborators.

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