Posts Tagged ‘Meetings’

ElephantintheRoom-Leo_CullumHow many times have you been in a conversation with others and wanted to bring up some obvious topic, but failed to do so?  How many times have you sat in meetings, heard proposals, watched presentations, discussed important matters, or been embarrassed on behalf of someone else, all the while dying to say what is really on your mind, but never mustering the courage to say it?  Why do we hold back and so often fail to acknowledge the elephant in the room?

In the case of meetings at work, perhaps you can’t bring yourself to openly disagree with someone higher up the org chart.  Maybe you are the kind of person who avoids conflict at all cost, both in personal and professional settings.  Maybe you fear the known or unknown consequences of being that person to bring up what you and probably many others wish someone would address.

If you don’t acknowledge obvious issues, it is very possible that the consequences of failing to address them will be worse than doing so.  For example, if you have relationship issues with someone, but try to keep the peace instead of putting matters on the table, aren’t the potential emotional and physical consequences of holding it all inside worse than the temporary awkwardness and unpleasantness of the dreaded conversation?  If you are being pitched a plan of action by a manager or someone higher up than you in an organization, and you know that the suggested path has major flaws, aren’t you complicit in failed and potentially harmful business decisions if you do not raise the concerns you have?  If others are trying to get you to go down some path that could be dangerous or have serious negative consequences personally and/or professionally, don’t you have the responsibility to listen to your intuition and interject a cautionary word into the conversation?  If someone’s dress, hygiene, personal habits or behavior are the subject of much discussion behind his/her back, isn’t the decent thing to do to have that needed and difficult private conversation in order to help the other person?

When it comes to acknowledging elephants in the room, few seem willing to be the one to step up and do so.  Oh, how we need more people willing to take that step!  Doing this doesn’t mean you have to do so in an unkind, harsh, abrasive, offensive way.  Besides, you won’t likely succeed in promoting positive change with that approach, anyway.  Instead, with a genuine heart of compassion, caring, and concern for what is wrong or what might fail, you have an incredible opportunity to change the path of a person, group, or entire company from darkness to light, from failure to success.  Those on the hearing end are usually able to sense genuine concern; they will most likely be able to see the intentions of your heart and hear your message, even if it is one that is difficult for them to hear.

Nobody benefits from having a bunch of “yes” men around.  While I’ll never be in a position of corporate power by virtue of the position held, if I ever was, I would hope to be fortunate enough to surround myself with men and women who always speak the truth, even when it is hard for them to deliver the message and perhaps harder for me to hear.  If it is my thoughts, plans, attitude, behavior or anything else that is ever the elephant in the room, then I desperately need and want someone to tell me that.  Do it gently and kindly and (if possible) privately, but by all means, do it!  I’m a big boy.  I can handle it.

I have no idea what life situations you are in where you feel you need to bring up something “obvious” that nobody else is saying, but I suspect you can think of one or two such situations at this time.  I strongly encourage you, in the interest of doing what is most helpful and kind and beneficial in the long run, acknowledge with whomever else needs to hear that there is an elephant in the room.  The benefit gained from the honest conversation will far outweigh the temporary fear of negative consequences that has held you back so far.

While looking over my calendar today at work, I bemoaned the fact that I had more time scheduled in meetings than I really felt like I could afford to give if I was to get more pressing things done.  Fortunately, one long meeting was cancelled and another went for only half the time scheduled.

Still, I wasn’t too keen on that final meeting of the day.  Upon closer look, I was stunned to see that the meeting had 198 people invited to it.  Huh?  Are you serious?  Anything with 198 people invited is no meeting.  It may be a presentation, but it’s no meeting.  The subject of the meeting was in the “might be nice to know about, but not critical for my work” category.

I cancelled out of it and went about my work.   The beauty of it is that nobody will ever care that I wasn’t there.  I bet most of the 198 did the same.

Leap year lesson #225 is Be selective about how you fill your day.

I was on a group conference call earlier today that had the potential of being a source of significant conflict.  We knew going in that some people present had very opposing views on a matter that needed to be resolved today.  Both sides could not possibly walk away getting what they came into the meeting wanting.  While it’s always nice to seek a win-win resolution, sometimes that just isn’t possible.  Sometimes, someone has to lose.

Fortunately, everyone was adult and civil in explaining their position.  Everyone got to speak their mind and did so with respect for others.  The matter was thoroughly debated.

Eventually we had to make a decision.  I am glad that the group decision ultimately made was one I supported.  I was very passionate about the issue and would have seriously disagreed with the opposing view as the final recommendation.

The learning moment for me, having resolved that issue, came in the remainder of the meeting discussing other less controversial matters.  I sat there on the call hoping the time would pass quickly, intentionally not making any waves in other matters of lesser significance.  To be honest, I was thinking “Jeff, you just won a significant case.  Now keep your mouth shut.”  And that’s pretty much what I did until the call ended.

The familiar advice to “choose your battles wisely” comes to mind related to today’s experience.  Having to get your way on every matter that comes along just makes you a pain to deal with that others will quickly resent.  Being passionate and standing firm for selective issues is quite a different matter.  So know when to speak up, and know when to stop talking.

Leap year lesson #189 is Once you win your case, stop talking.

I smile nearly every time I let my dog out in the backyard to do her business.  You’d think it’s some major, life-changing, important decision about where she squats.  No matter how many times a day she needs to do it, each time requires careful wandering around the yard, pausing like she is about to start, then changing her mind, going a few feet in a different direction, sniffing, winding around like she’s following some invisible maze and then suddenly all is right and she pauses for the few seconds needed.  I shake my head and think “Was all that necessary?”

I can’t tell you how many times in business I wonder the same thing as I see people sweat and toil over what appear to me to be quite simple, matter-of-fact decisions that really don’t warrant a lot of time and energy.  Some examples include:

  • Getting the wording just right in a policy that very few will actually read, and spending countless hours in meetings filled with a dozen people or more to do it;
  • Fretting over whether or not to do something because someone somewhere might somehow take offense at something stated or implied;
  • Requiring layers of management approval for small expenditures or decisions instead of empowering people closest to the action and front lines to make quick decisions they deem best.

Businesses, individuals and families have enough big decisions on their plate without wasting time unnecessarily belaboring matters of lesser importance.  Those who insist on perfection and extreme thoroughness in all things need to realize that perfection may be found in simplicity and efficiency rather than complexity.  They perhaps need to calculate once just for fun the ROI of spending tons of time on something versus allowing a simpler, quicker process to prevail.  They may just find that their complexity is costing their business time, dollars, goodwill, customers and/or standing in the industry.

Sometimes I want to say to these corporate bottlenecks what I want to say to my dog as she prances around the yard looking for that magical place to pee – “either piss or get off the pot.”

Leap year lesson #173 is Don’t over think small decisions.

Once a month the four of us on my team at work spend the whole day together on Friday away from our desks. We may still be on the premises somewhere, but at least we’re away from our desk phones and the routine interruptions that tend to sprinkle the day with good and bad flavors. During these team meetings we may have a list of specific things we want to discuss or accomplish, but we don’t always have the whole day planned, either. There is plenty of time for flexibility and fun.

From our time together yesterday, there are a few things that stand out to me that were not planned and that were just fun, contributing more to being a team than all the work discussion ever could. For example, just picking a place on the fly to go to lunch together, trying something new and enjoying the conversation around an awesome Smashburger. Of course, being the Social Media team, we had to take and upload photos of our meals and each other.

There was also the suggestion from Chuck that we join him and his wife in the 5k Muddy Fanatic run May 19. That sounded pretty cool, so we all signed up to run it together as a team. I have some training to do now.

And then there were just the laughs, the jabs at each other, and posting on Chuck’s Facebook wall as him when he left the room with his laptop unlocked.

I promise we got some things accomplished on the work agenda as well, but the best parts were just hanging out together and continuing to grow interpersonally as a team, especially since we’ve been together less than two months.

Our company didn’t hire any of us to be friends, to run races together, to be silly or to eat Smashburgers. But those things sure do help if we’re going to spend 40-50 hours per week together – perhaps more time awake than we spend with spouse or family.

I’m thankful for an awesome team – Lewis, Patti and Chuck – and I look forward to many such times together in the future.

Leap year lesson #94 is Work teams bond by having fun together.