Paul Axtell

With more than thirty years of experience helping organizations and individuals be more effective, Paul Axtell has honed his insights in executive offices and training programs for everyone from office staff and line workers to managers and team leaders.

A large focus of his work is how to run effective and productive meetings—to turn them from something people dread into useful, productive sessions with trackable results.

Paul is the author of multiple books, including Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, Being Remarkable, and Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids. He can be reached at www.paulaxtell.com and via email at paulaxtell@mac.com.
Find me on:

Recent Posts

How To Refresh Your Strategic Plan in 4 Hours or Less

February 3, 2017 at 10:21 AM by Paul Axtell in meeting design

good-plan-today-better-than-perfect.jpg

We all know (or should know) that strategic planning is a necessity for business. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there.

Updating and ensuring that your plan is still viable is also a necessity. According to an Ernst & Young study, a full 66% of corporate strategy is never executed with one explanation being that they simply no longer reflect your business or circumstances.

Finding the right time for your group to get together and take a fresh look at your future can be difficult when the daily details of running the business are staring you in the face. Still, it’s imperative to know that your future plans still make sense and your current projects are aligned with that future.

Today’s blog covers an outline that can guide you through a morning of conversation to get back in touch with the future you created a while back and adjust it as necessary.

Read More...

Topics: meeting design

Accessing the Wisdom of Your Group

April 13, 2016 at 11:06 PM by Paul Axtell in meeting design

Once in a while, a new manager will come to an organization and do something that is both bold and disruptive. First, they will ask the group to set aside their PowerPoint slides and their usual meeting topics for an hour. Next, they will open up the conversation in a simple, elegant and powerful way.

“I want to know what problems you are dealing with in your units. I want to know what you are losing sleep over. I want to know what you are worried about.

We’ve got an hour and so let’s just relax and talk. Who wants to start?”

Why is this bold?

It seems we’ve lost our ability to utilize the wisdom of our groups and our colleagues. We tend to worry more about what others think of us than being open, honest and vulnerable. Our desire for comfort shuts down our intentions to get better.

Yet, there is something about the power of groups that arises when people who care talk about things that matter. We end up feeling like we belong to a group of friends. We erase this sense of being alone. We develop a community of understanding. We get thinking that comes from the group conversation rather than from an individual. We learn from the experience of others. And the sense of connection as a group builds.

One of the valuable conversations that can be included on any group’s agenda is working together on an individual member’s dilemma, problem, idea, or project. Gaining access to the experience and thinking of colleagues can add clarity and options to a situation. In addition, these conversations strengthen the sense of community within a group.

Read More...

Topics: meeting design

A Protocol for Clearing Questions and Handling Complaints

January 26, 2016 at 6:47 PM by Paul Axtell in leadership & facilitation, meeting design

One of the most common requirements on a job posting is “Excellent communication skills”. The hope is that if you hire people with these excellent communication skills, you’ll avoid all the confusion, distrust, mistakes and anxiety that arises when people fail to communicate openly and clearly.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to evaluate how well someone’s excellent communication skills will perform on an ongoing basis in the short interview process. And no amount of excellent skills can overcome cultural habits that discourage questions and complaints, layers of management that keep people in the dark, or managers who don't know how to truly listen to what people tell them.

Read More...

Topics: leadership & facilitation, meeting design

5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement in Meetings …and Why it Matters

July 14, 2015 at 7:35 PM by Paul Axtell in tips & techniques

Early in my career, my supervisor did me a big favor, although it didn’t feel like it at the time.

Kurt put me on probation for not speaking during meetings. He stated it very simply—Paul, if you don’t speak, you don’t add value.

I had lots of ways to justify my lack of speaking: I was the newest member of the group, I didn’t have much experience, other people seemed to have more to say, I wasn’t sure I had anything of value to add, and, of course, the blockbuster of all: I was shy.

Fortunately, my supervisor wasn’t into explanations or excuses—just results. And suddenly not speaking wasn’t an option for me.

Now, many years later, during training programs on personal effectiveness and coaching with individual managers, I am working to broaden the amount of participation in meetings and to deepen the level of conversation in group settings.

Two key ideas are at the heart of this issue:

First, participants need to embrace this perspective: If you are invited to speak, you are obligated to respond even if it is simply to acknowledge being asked and saying that you don’t have anything to express that hasn’t already been said. Part of being an effective member of any group is to always be self-expressed.

Second, when leading meetings, you need to call on people directly because you simply can not count on people speaking up on their own.

Read More...

Topics: tips & techniques