We’ve all been stuck in ineffective meetings. They overrun on time, one person dominate the conversation and the wander off topic.
Whilst we can’t always control other people’s meetings (other than by being a considerate attendee) we can control our own.
Here are a few tips for chairing effective meetings:
- Circulate a clear agenda including timings
- Circulate any papers and other information beforehand. A couple of days before is best as, if you send things out too early, people set them to one side to read later and then forget
- Only invite the necessary people, you can send minutes to others
- Take contemporaneous minutes so that they can be circulated straight away rather than trying to find time to write them up afterwards.
- All actions should be assigned a clear name and due date
- Start the meeting on time. Respect the time of those who have made the effort to turn up on time rather than waiting for somebody who can’t be bothered. If you have a reputation for starting promptly most people will make more of an effort
- If you need more time to discuss and item then schedule a separate meeting
- Control the personalities; silence the overtalkers and encourage and listen to the introverts.
I’m an athletics coach as well as a business coach. This means that I often get called in to make up the numbers for track and field events. I’m not very good at them but it’s easy to collect a lot of points by coming third of three in the less popular events. One of the events that I discovered in middle age was the 400m hurdles.
And, you guessed it, I have an analogy with business life.
400m hurdles may be a longer distance than 100m hurdles but there are the same number of barriers to cross. At the 100m start I can just see a row of obstacles and it is quite intimidating to stare at them while waiting for the gun. The 400m hurdles are spaced out so that I can only see one at a time and there is time between them to recover my stride before focussing on the next challenge.
For me, and for most of the accountants and business owners that I coach, the last 15 months have felt like a very long 100m hurdle event. Obstacles coming straight after each other with no opportunity to recover in between.
Now we’re heading back to a new normal which is more like the 400m event with time for recovery between each hurdle. It is up to us to make the most of the flat bits to recover and prepare as well as to move forwards, ever forwards.
Have you booked yourself a holiday yet?
Have you got your self a post-Covid plan? Can we help?
I don’t know about you but I’m terrible at this. It’s not the same as being lazy as I’m usually doing something; just not the thing that I’m supposed to be focusing on.
Sometimes it’s because we’re postponing so work that we don’t enjoy, sometimes we’re worried that we might not be able to do a good enough job so we create the excuse that “I had to do it in a hurry”, some people are just paralysed by perfectionism and postpone writing that first word of their book or whatever the important project is.
This creates all sorts of problems so I’m running a webinar on this for business owners on 21 July. You can find more information here and sign up.
I’ll pass on some of the things that have and haven’t worked for me because, who knows, they may work for you.
I look forward to seeing you there.
There’s still a big debate over returning to the office. Personally I was remote before Covid and I intend to remain so as I coach accountants and business owners around the world.
In favour of the office:
- Casual conversations and useful remarks
- Easier to focus
- Dedicated space and resources to work better
- Easier to supervise and train staff
In favour of home working:
- Easier to focus
- No commute
- Saves some childcare
- No micromanaging
- Better Covid risk management
In practice most organisations will probably opt for a hybrid approach but do watch out for
- Creating an ‘us and them’ division of those mainly in the office vs those mainly at home
- Mixing online and offline meetings. Will somebody go into the office just to sit on a Zoom call with clients and colleagues working from home?
Whatever you decide to do needs a thorough risk assessment and discussion with your team about their own concerns and preferences.
I recently did a wholly unscientific survey on Twitter to find out what hourly rate people were earning working for themselves and taking payment as drawings or salary plus dividends.
The shocking, but unsurprising, result was that 25% were earning below minimum wage.
A further 8% were earning less than they had in their previous employment. In spite of taking on additional business risks.
Whilst in start up mode it may feel necessary to reinvest your profits into the business or to work longer hours to save a salary. This is still a problem but there is a finite period. If you have not recovered your hourly rate by the 3 year mark then you need to get some expert help to tweak your business. (This may be me or another favourite coach)
Look at your pricing, look at the type of work that you’re doing, and look at your internal efficiencies before taking on any more work. It’s no good pouring water into a leaking bucket so fix your bucket first.
Please don’t continue working too many hours for too little reward.
Anyone who has done any level of carpentry or even DIY will understand the benefits of measuring more than once in order to make the cut right first time.
The equivalent in business is to make mistakes on your business plan.
Try things out on paper, excel or one of the brilliant forecasting apps that allow you to run different scenarios. Make any mistakes at this stage rather than running out of cash in real life.
For instance, I allow 3 months for a new team member to get up to speed. During this training period my own productivity will also drop so I now build this into any of my forecasts.
What other scenarios are you considering in your future business?
My team always think that I’m very calm. Even when one of them has made a big mistake (which was rare).
I used to be much more excitable and respond to things without thinking but having kids has taught me that I am the grown up and the one who sets the tone for dealing with any problems.
And just being around for long enough to gather some experience helps. I’ve often seen this problem or something similar before. I may not have lived through a pandemic but I have traded through a recession and run a business with remote working.
Here’s how I handle crises these days:
1. Gather information and check facts
2. Reassure but don’t bluff. If you don’t know the answer admit that you don’t know but that you will find out
3. Limit any further damage before looking at the full solution
4. Do what needs to be done
5. Afterwards analyse and put systems in place to prevent it happening again. This is not about assigning blame!
6. Understand that we all make mistakes but if anybody is still making the same mistakes after adequate (re)training or deliberately ignoring the system then disciplinary action may be needed.
I heard this in a PSA (professional Speaking Association) talk and it really resonated.
Are we putting off the joy that we intended when we set up our businesses?
Are we reinvesting our profits for faster growth when we should be taking some of it for ourselves?
Are we spending silly hours working to grow the business faster when we could be spending that time with friends and family (now that we’re allowed out again).
If you knew you only had, say, five or ten years to live how would you spend your time?
Whilst most of my coaching clients want to grow their business or to get a better work life balance we have two who are preparing their businesses for sale and preparing themselves for the move into retirement (realistically semi-retirement because entrepreneurs never quite stop).
I did have four such clients but two of them liked the reorganised business so much that they decided that they didn’t want to leave after all.
If your business works independently of you it is not just easier to sell but it will also allow you to reduce your hours without impacting your profitability. Most of this is done by replacing the business owner with systems. Or with documented procedures that can be delegated, outsourced or even automated.
Whatever your plans for your business please don’t suffer in silence as we have a selection of group coaching programmes and individual coaching too.
With the return of face to face events this is one thing that I haven’t missed.
During Q&As the event organiser will offer a microphone to the audience member asking the question and a fair number will reject it announcing “I don’t need a microphone”
Well, I’m going to burst your bubble and tell you that you do. And here’s why:
- I’m a professional speaker and quite capable of projecting my voice to a significantly sized theatre and I still use one to save the quality of my voice.
- People fade as they speak. Especially if it’s one of those long questions that involves sharing your life history (don’t do this either; nobody is really interested)
- Your voice mainly travels forwards to it will be fainter for those behind you
- The event organiser will often be recording the event. If you don’t share your question via the microphone that is hooked up to the AV deck the speaker will have to remember to repeat the question “for the tape”
- Those wearing hearing aids will set them to a particular position for the best sound reception from the microphone. Use it in order to be accessible.
Also remember that the slot for Q&As is often limited so:
- Keep it brief
- Ask a question; don’t make a statement
- Ask yourself if it will really help the rest of the audience.