Two people sit mostly naked in the snow, breathing deeply. They remain quiet and still for a long time.
At least it feels like a long time to one of them. The other –
a more advanced student – rests in comfortable contemplation, focusing deeply on sending healing energy throughout his body.
The first one wants to send healing to his body, too. If only it wasn't so damn cold! As the minutes pass, he begins to fear that bits of him must surely be freezing off. His anxiety escalates until he feels compelled to flee for the warm cabin.
An outside observer would say that these two men shared the same experience. But really, their individual feelings about the time they spent couldn't be more different.
One experienced a tortuous ordeal.
The other experienced a nourishing moment of calm.
This anecdote, relayed in the book What Doesn't Kill Us by Scott Carney, holds two lessons for the meeting designer.
Before that, there wasn't much need. Horses rarely ran into each other, and most people traveled by foot. There were no speed limits, no lane markings, no directional signage, and few street name signs. Traffic control was not a thing.
The first stop sign was an intervention. More cars led to more accidents, and something had to be done.
Since then, our understanding of how to manage traffic has evolved. Today, the stop sign is one of many internationally recognized signals. We enjoy sophisticated, continually evolving systems for routing traffic.
Like rapid travel, meetings used to be an infrequent activity. Courtiers, guild masters, and bishops met. Everyone else went about their business with no need to draft an agenda or call anyone to order.
While the 20th century saw a rise in the management class, it wasn't until the 1980s that most of the workforce held jobs that required regular meetings.
Still, there wasn't too much traffic running through the conference room. Most companies shared a few meeting tips with leaders, then expected everyone to work it out.
Then the 2020 lockdowns arrived, and meeting traffic exploded. Calendars became gridlocked with overlapping, back-to-back video conferences. Software that analyzes calendar data saw increases in meeting time ranging from 13-148% (Sources: National Bureau of Economic Research, Microsoft). So many meetings!
Two years later, employees everywhere are crashing and burning out from sitting in endless meeting traffic jams.
The Great Resignation is hitting some companies harder than others. Companies with a well-designed Meeting Operating System - a system that directs meeting activity to ensure meetings flow effectively and efficiently - enjoy calendars that look a lot like they did before the lockdown. Those embracing asynchronous communications have even more time free for other work.
Last week's invasion of Ukraine resurfaced this conversation. Looking back, the Notre Dame fire seems merely unfortunate in comparison to the events of the past several years. We've been bombarded by tragedies, and many teams have developed better ways of processing these events together.
Even still - when new events unfold, we need to decide: What should we do in our upcoming meetings?
Should we begin by acknowledging what's happening, even though most meetings deal with entirely unrelated topics? And how can you NOT talk about it?
As a meeting leader, you may feel it's important to address something that you believe is or should be on everyone's mind before diving into your agenda.
You might be right, You might also be making an assumption that could derail your meeting.
I enjoy planning meetings. I also enjoy large, easy jigsaw puzzles.
When you know the basic shape you’re going for, and you have a bunch of the pieces handy, it can be quite satisfying to get them to all fit together into a nice, coherent picture. With a jigsaw puzzle, it’s very clear that the value is in the activity itself. People who puzzle do so because they enjoy spending their time figuring it out—not because they’re genuinely curious about what the end picture might be.
Like the picture you see when you finish a jigsaw puzzle, most of the plans you get at the end of a planning meeting aren’t really meant to last.
Right now, many teams are dealing with massive turnover. Reports on the "Turnover Tsunami" and "The Great Resignation" reveal staggering volatility across industries and countries. Have you driven past the restaurants in your area recently? If so, you've seen the desperate billboards advertising hiring bonuses, increased wages, and pleading with customers to forgive their limited services.
Why is this happening? Lots of reasons.
According to Gallup, it may have nothing to do with the organization, the manager, or the team; this is part of what happens when major events force people to re-evaluate their life choices. Normally, major events like graduations, marriages, births, and deaths are infrequent and sprinkled randomly across the workforce. During these last 18 months, every single person experienced a major life event all at once. Everyone is re-evaluating their life choices, and a lot of them are deciding it's time for a change.
In short, it may not be about you right now.
Of course, if your whole team just quit, it might be entirely about you. Your company might be a terrible place to work. You might be an awful manager. Gallup also says that the Great Resignation is made worse by a pervasive Great Discontent.
Whatever the reason, labor shortages are making it hard to get work done.
The cascading failures are unraveling the supply chain. Whole teams are walking away from complicated systems, leaving their replacements with no one to tell them how it all works. This makes the new jobs especially difficult because customers haven't relaxed their expectations. Kindness, unfortunately, is not as contagious as Covid-19.
While many are leaving their jobs, it's likely that boredom, loneliness, or finances will drive them into new jobs soon.
What does this mean for employers and people leaders?
Most organizations host regular meetings involving everyone on their teams. These meetings go by many names: all-hands, all-staff, all teams, town halls, business update meetings, Teatime, TGIF, and more. This form of meeting, where you gather everyone in your tribe at the same time, is thousands of years old and practiced by every kind of group. Unfortunately, none of these names provide much guidance about how to make these meetings worthwhile.
Like every meeting, the key to a great all-hands meeting is to clearly define the purpose and intended outcomes in advance. Why do you host these meetings? What should be different afterward as a result?
"All Hands" just describes the attendee list.
I've been asked how to improve all-hands meetings by several clients over the years. In this article, I've pulled together all those separate bits of advice in one place.
So let's talk about those things you need to do to run great everyday business meetings with your teams. And yes, I'm going to share some guidelines you may already know.
Hopefully, you'll be inspired to follow them.
It's worth the effort. The leaders we've met who follow these "rules" enjoy more productivity, more loyalty, more engagement, better decision making, and less BS drama between team members than everyone else. And frankly, none of this is actually that hard to do.
Here are five rules for team meetings that I share with my business clients, and that I wish someone had taught me when I started my business.
What happened? So what does that mean? Now what should we do going forward?
In a retrospective meeting, you and your team work to answer these three questions together. When you’re reviewing a short event that just happened, your retrospective meeting might be very short as you all simply work to answer these questions directly.
When you’re looking at something as long as a year or something involving lots of complex interrelated parts, it doesn’t work to just ask “So, what happened in 2020?” That’s more likely to encourage day drinking than useful insights.
For something as 2020 as 2020, you’ll need to put a bit more structure in place if you want a useful result.
As his holiday gift to us all, Enrico put together a meeting template we can use to try and make some useful sense out of 2020 with our teams. Check it out!
~ Team Lucid
Running an End-of-Year Retrospective
How was your year?
In this short post I'll describe one way to run an annual retrospective so you and your group can reflect on what happened this past year, discuss what you make of it, and begin to decide what the next wise actions to take next year might be.