A Protocol for Clearing Questions and Handling Complaints

Jan 26, 2016 by Paul Axtell in leadership & facilitation, meeting design (4 minute read)

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.


Topics: leadership & facilitation, meeting design

Why It's a Mistake to Run Strategy Sessions Yourself

Dec 1, 2015 by Anna O’Byrne in leadership & facilitation (3 minute read)

Small businesses thrive because their leaders have a can-do mentality; they take on all manner of specialist tasks, just to get it done on time and on budget. I'm the same.

But when it comes to running your strategic planning session, I'd urge you not to DIY.

You Really Do Need Neutrality

Anyone with a vested interest in the strategy shouldn't run the process. That's because when we have a vested interest, we tend to steer the process unconsciously. This applies to leaders and contributors, but when leaders facilitate, the influence is even stronger.


Topics: leadership & facilitation

Strategic Planning for Remote Teams: Interview with Hubstaff’s Dave Nevogt

Oct 31, 2015 by Anna O’Byrne in leadership & facilitation (8 minute read)

Up today in the series on how remote teams do strategic planning: Dave Nevogt of Hubstaff on getting more freedom with strategic planning - starting with mission and values.

You’ll learn how Dave invested in a new approach to setting expectations and priorities, and how it sets him free from constant on-call management. We’ll also go a bit broader, and talk about vision, mission, values and goals for startups.

If you work remotely, you may know all about Hubstaff. Their content world is definitely sticky. It’s easy to stumble on a productivity post and stay for the full How to Manage University.


Topics: leadership & facilitation

How a Completely Distributed Accounting Firm Does Strategic Planning, Virtually

Oct 21, 2015 by Anna O’Byrne in leadership & facilitation (9 minute read)

For the virtual strategic planning series I interviewed another expat entrepreneur living in nearly the same time zone. Carrie McKeegan and her husband, David, run their distributed business from Bali. Their company not only works virtually - with a global team - but exists to solve a pain point inherent in working abroad: tax complications.

The McKeegans came to appreciate the expense and challenge of expat taxes while working as Americans in the UK. “While they both loved being American and living abroad, they were fed up with the process of filing US expat taxes.” In 2008 Carrie and David founded Greenback Expat Tax Services.


Topics: leadership & facilitation

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

Sep 22, 2015 by Anna O’Byrne in leadership & facilitation, remote work, meeting design (7 minute read)

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.


Topics: leadership & facilitation, remote work, meeting design

Reject the Hype and Fix Your Bad Meetings

Aug 25, 2015 by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation (21 minute read)

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.


Topics: leadership & facilitation

How to Lead Introductions in Business Meetings

Aug 5, 2015 by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation, tips & techniques (6 minute read)

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?


Topics: leadership & facilitation, tips & techniques

Should you cancel your next meeting?

Jul 7, 2015 by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation (6 minute read)

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 your co-workers are 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?

Looking For a Printed Version?

Add this poster to your conference room wall to avoid time-wasting meetings!

The Backstory

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.

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

The answer is a resounding “Yes!


Topics: leadership & facilitation

Meetings as Competitive Sport

May 14, 2015 by John Keith in leadership & facilitation (3 minute read)

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.


Topics: leadership & facilitation

The Better Meetings Book List

Apr 22, 2015 by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation, book review (6 minute read)

The bookshelves in the Lucid Meetings main office are jam-packed with business books, technical references, Esther Gokhale’s fabulous 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back (posture, people!), and TONS and tons of books about meetings.

Many of which we’ve actually read, some that we aspire to read more deeply, all of which we’ve skimmed, and a handful that we keep dog-eared on the desk.

Should you wish to grace your workplace with some fabulous meeting-related reading, take a look at our list of top reads below. And if you’re in a book-buying mood, you’ll find handy links to all the recommendations here: The Better Meetings Book List on Amazon


Topics: leadership & facilitation, book review