7 Insights about Conversation, Relationship, and Being Remarkable

May 31, 2016 at 10:58 AM by Tricia Harris in leadership & facilitation, tips & techniques

We recently co-hosted a Q&A webinar with Paul Axtell, and didn’t know exactly what to expect.

He gave such a great presentation – useful tidbits about meetings, great conversations, and life in general - that we decided we owed it to our audience to share.

Watch the recording, or read below for excerpts and the transcript from the webinar.

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Topics: leadership & facilitation, tips & techniques

5 Meetings for Remarkable Leaders

May 16, 2016 at 11:07 PM by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation, meeting design

Remarkable leaders understand that how they design and lead meetings determines how well their group functions.

Why Leaders Need to Master Meetings 

Meetings serve a critical function in the workplace. The meeting's job is to lead a group from wherever they are individually to a new place where they can have a shared perspective.

We call this convergence; the merging of distinct perspectives into a unified whole. 

Teams that fail to converge around a shared perspective don't work. They hold different visions of what they should be doing. They work at cross-purposes. Decisions aren't clear, projects meander, and progress comes slowly or not at all.

It is the job of the meeting to give everyone a shared perspective on their work, and the job of the leader to make sure meetings succeed.

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Topics: leadership & facilitation, meeting design

The Power of Gratitude in Meetings

April 21, 2016 at 4:38 PM by Tom Flynn in leadership & facilitation

We've known Tom Flynn for many years. Over lunch recently, he shared with us this story about a master facilitator he met early in his career who had a powerful influence on shaping the kind of leader Tom is today.

With all the "tips" and "tricks" and "5 easy ways" we see every day about how to improve our meetings, it's easy to lose sight of how important the simple things, like really listening and remembering to say thank you, can be. Tom's story is a beautiful reminder and we're very grateful he's allowing us to share it with you here.

Thank you, Tom, from all of us at Lucid.


Tom's Story

I learned one of my favorite meeting management tips during my time working with international standards groups back in the early 2000s. It’s as surprisingly simple as it is powerful, and something I practice whenever I chair a committee or lead a meeting today.

Back then, I helped facilitate a weekly teleconference call with 10 to 20 marketing professionals representing different companies on the DLNA marketing committee. Each week, these representatives called in at odd hours of the day from their offices in Europe, Asia, and the US.

Calls like these easily lose focus or become routine and boring. They can also be very stressful. The participants represent different companies attempting to agree on a single way forward. Each person there was supposed to make sure their company’s interests were protected. The competitive environment, the repetitive weekly schedule, and the added challenges of odd hours and choppy phone lines made it very hard for people to engage in meetings like this one.

None of that, however, was a problem for our calls because of the special custom our committee chair practiced.

He closed every meeting beautifully.

I’d facilitated international meetings like this for 3-4 years and thought I had it down. This new marketing committee however, was a revelation. Each and every week, the committee chair concluded the meeting by recognizing and thanking the committee members, to powerful effect. I’d seen people say “Thank you” before, but this was more than simple good manners.

Our chair thanked people individually by name for their contributions in a sincere and meaningful way. He made everyone feel good about contributing, and inspired us to come to the next meeting ready to impress. The whole dynamic of the group changed, as each person worked harder to deserve this recognition by the end of the call.

How did he manage to find something to say about so many people each week? He planned for it in advance.

Facilitate: verb

  1. to make easier or less difficult; help forward
  2. to assist the progress of a person.

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Topics: leadership & facilitation

The Key to Organizational Discipline

March 4, 2016 at 11:52 AM by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation

Usually when we think of discipline, it’s deeply personal and not that much fun.

One kind of discipline involves punishing others. For example, as a parent, I may discipline my misbehaving child.

Another kind of discipline punishes ourselves. We exercise self-discipline when we turn down dessert, get up earlier than we want to go jogging in the rain, and save for retirement instead of splurging on luxuries.

Yet without the discipline to make a plan and stick to it, we can’t reach our goals. This applies whether the goals are personal or organizational; goals are meaningless if we aren’t taking the action required to achieve them.

Most organizations lack discipline. It takes discipline to clarify and communicate goals across a team, and even more discipline for all the individuals in the group to stick to the plan and do their part as time goes on.

When you operate at the organizational level, the type of discipline that leads to punishment for doing the wrong thing comes into play when someone either lacks the skills or the willingness to do their job. In situations like these, discipline looks like corrective action, or coaching, or training, or getting fired.

On the other hand, when the people in the group have the right skills and a willingness to do the job, a failure in organizational discipline looks like a problem with accountability. For reasons we often ascribe to weaknesses of character, the people we work with just don’t seem to follow through with the agreed upon strategy. They appear to lack that second flavor of discipline - self-discipline – to stick with the program and complete their tasks. We cajole, we threaten, we push and we pull, but things just don't change.

Those people. Grrrr.

Rules, bribes, punishment, constraints - not the best way to create discipline and alignment in a team.
FWIW: Amy is not actually one of those people.

A more Enjoyable Concept of Discipline

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Topics: leadership & facilitation

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.

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Topics: leadership & facilitation, meeting design

Strategic Planning with Remote Teams Part 3: Crafting the Vision and Mission Statements

September 22, 2015 at 6:11 PM by Anna O’Byrne in leadership & facilitation, remote work, meeting design

This post is the third in a series. You can find the whole series in our Complete Toolkit for Strategic Planning with Remote Teams.


Have you ever tried strategic planning without first getting your vision and mission right? What did you find?

If you were a small, cohesive group, maybe you breezed through goal-setting based on complete unity. It happens, but it’s rare.

For everyone else, here’s what typically happens:

  • You generate ho hum goals: goals that just don’t stretch the team.
  • It sometimes feels like you’re writing a to-do list, rather than a strategic plan.
  • You sign-on for strategies that are far-removed from what you see as your core business.

In short, strategic planning takes far too long and feels anything but strategic. You look at the end result and fear you’ve created a Frankenstein: pieces from here, pieces from there, with no final coherence.

And the challenges don’t end at strategy. Teams that operate without vision and mission feel the effects everywhere.

How? Here are some everyday signs you need a vision and mission:

  • Your branding feels disjointed or superficial.
  • People outside don’t get what you’re all about.
  • People inside don’t see their work as meaningful.
  • You zig and zag to meet opportunity, but you get no closer to your dream.

If a vision and mission are this important, why would anyone skip it?

First, we’re all pressed for time. Vision and mission sometimes feel like the extras we’ll get to when we have space to breathe...or when we hold our next retreat.

Second, we make assumptions. Many teams believe they’re on the same page when it comes to where they’re going, but when they sit down to plan strategically, the gaps become glaringly evident.

Finally, we misunderstand the value of having relevant, vivid, fully thought out vision and mission statements.

Let me clarify.

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Topics: leadership & facilitation, remote work, meeting design

Reject the Hype and Fix Your Bad Meetings

August 25, 2015 at 2:53 PM by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation

The Hype: Meetings Waste People’s Time and Money

Have you seen the studies about the state of meetings in the workplace today? If not, here’s a sampling:

  • An estimated 36 to 55 million meetings occur in the USA each day and billions are lost annually thanks to unproductive meetings.1
  • David Coleman estimated that 25% of that time wasted.2
  • In 2013, employees chose “too many meetings” as the biggest distraction and waste of time presented by the workplace.3
  • A ResourcefulManager survey of 948 upper-level executives, directors, middle managers and frontline supervisors says nothing gets accomplished in 44.8% of the meetings executives and managers attend.4

The most popular article about this problem on social media today implores us to please strive for "Meetings that Don't Suck". Run a Google search for meetings that don't suck, and you'll see pages of articles on that theme.

Nowhere else in the business world do we see so much advocacy for such a pathetic goal.

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Topics: leadership & facilitation

How to Lead Introductions in Business Meetings

August 5, 2015 at 12:38 PM by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation, tips & techniques

Many years ago I was asked to represent my company on a national committee. I had to fly from Portland, Oregon to Washington D.C. for the meeting, find my way around the city wearing an actual business suit and heels, then walk into this room and make a good impression.

I was prepared for the content of the meeting - I knew my stuff - but I was far from comfortable. The 30 or so other members of the committee came from Microsoft, the Department of Defense, and a host of big organizations; I worked for a 20-person web software vendor no one had ever heard of. Most of the committee members were much older than I was, and there were very few women.

Soon enough, the gavel pounded and the chair began the meeting. After a brief greeting, he said:

“Go around the room and tell the group a bit about yourself, starting with Don here.”

Tell them about me? What am I supposed to say in this room of dour-looking, experienced people?

I knew that if I wanted any shot of making an impact in the meeting, the other people in the room had to take me seriously, and this introduction was my chance to make that oh-so-important good first impression. But what could I say that would impress this room? I felt like I was at an awful interview, and I began to sweat.

In this case, I needn’t have sweated the introductions (or my blouse) so much. Don stood up and calmly stated his name and the organization he represented, then sat back down. Simple. As it went around the room, each person followed this short pattern, and I began to relax.

My name and where I work? That’s it? Those are questions I can answer easily! Why hadn’t the chair been clearer about what he wanted people to say?

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Topics: leadership & facilitation, tips & techniques

Should you cancel your next meeting?

July 7, 2015 at 9:00 AM by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation

There’s a meeting on your calendar that’s fast approaching, but you’re just not sure about it. Maybe you’re too busy. Maybe you see it as an interruption that will keep you from more important work. Or maybe the meeting is really important, but you’re simply not ready. Whatever the reason, you now wonder, should you cancel your next meeting?

And if so, how can you do that without looking like a flake in front of the group?

John and I recently had a long conversation with David Coleman, Founder and Managing Director of Collaborative Strategies (CS). You can see excerpts from that talk in his post Stop Wasting Time: In Pursuit of the Perfect Meeting.

David conducted a lot of research on business meetings over the years – research that shows many of those meetings to be a big fat waste of time.

Related: The First Rule of Meet Club: Do we really need to meet?

So he asked us: "Are there situations where you don’t think we should meet at all?"

The answer is a resounding “Yes!

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Topics: leadership & facilitation

Meetings as Competitive Sport

May 14, 2015 at 6:18 PM by John Keith in leadership & facilitation

Many years ago, I met with Michael Harrington, a public speaking coach and trainer. He described his training approach as that of "taking a competitive sports view" to public speaking.

His view was that you could train people with some very specific skills and thereby teach them to win the day, so to speak.

For some reason, that competitive view of public speaking really worked well for me. The task of public speaking became something I really wanted to master, rather than something to be dreaded and endured.

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Topics: leadership & facilitation