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Use Parenting Skills To Be a Better Boss

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Shari Storm: I listened to my husband as he talked through the night's agenda with our four- and two-year-old. They share a room and going to sleep is one of their least favorite activities.

dad reading book to child in bed

"Two books, one song, and lights out," he reminded them.

I wonder how many times he has said that phrase in the past two years. Parents know that in order to get the family to do most things, you have to spell out expectations every step of the way. We remind our kids every night: two books, one song, and lights out.

My mind wandered back to a meeting I had last week at the office. My coworker had sent a request for a one-hour meeting. Now, I work in the most meeting-oriented company I have ever known. We love us our meetings. And to us, meetings = one hour. No matter how little or how much we have to decide, we schedule meetings for one hour.

This particular meeting should have taken 20 minutes. But since the meeting request was for one hour, everyone came to the meeting with expectations that we were there for an hour.

It started off slow. It meandered. It went off topic. It took a long time to wrap up. The expectation had been set for an hour and the expectation was met.

Here is my advice for managers:

Learn how to run a good meeting.

All things in business start with a meeting.

All meetings should start with expectations.

I schedule a meeting for the shortest amount of time I want the meeting to take. Set expectations early to be focused.

I start all meetings on time. Set expectations that everyone is prompt.

I give an overview of the objectives before conversations begin. Set expectations for discussion.

When wrapping up, I remind everyone of their action steps and deadlines. Set expectations for execution.

Meetings might be the most misunderstood, most abused institution in the business world. Learn how to run a good meeting. It will teach you the discipline necessary for running the rest of your business.


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9 comments so far | Post a comment now
Debra Sanborn June 11, 2009, 8:44 AM

100% in agreement, Shari. Some meeting organizers feel the passive/aggressive need to exercise control over the captive audience they have gathered without consideration to the needs of the topic or time. A glance around the table to determine the hourly salary for the group that is gathered along with requiring meeting expectations could certainly lead to meeting and work efficiency.

Great post, Shari!


Lisa Hochgraf June 11, 2009, 9:15 AM

I also believe in the meeting before the meeting.

A former colleague of mine who works in IT once established a stretch goal to make a meeting of the organization’s top management at which they were to make one key decision take less than 15 minutes.

At first his boss thought he was nuts. “You’re thinking you’re going to get a bonus for having a SHORT meeting?” he asked.

But later, he realized the brilliance of this idea, at least in this case. To succeed in the goal he had set, my colleague would have to communicate well, consider and respond to roadblocks presented, and win over each exec to common thinking—before the group sat down to make that final decision.

Sonya June 11, 2009, 9:48 AM

Excellent post Shari, @ our company we take that one step further, when sending an email to set up the meeting, we bullet point the items to be covered, thereby allowing people to gather thoughts before arriving @ the meeting. If there are any documents to be reviewed, those are distributed beforehand as well so everyone can familiarize themselves with the information.

Regine June 11, 2009, 9:51 AM

I have also been and held many meetings in my life and must say that I try to focus as much as I can since many see meetings more like a *social gathering* and forget the purpose why we are there. Nothing wrong with an “Icebreaker”, lots wrong with loosing focus and therefore time. Ergo: I am in total agreement with you, Shari.

Nala June 11, 2009, 1:02 PM

Great post, Shari, and useful tips. I know when I’ve spent the greater part of my day hunched over my computer, a chance to meet is an opportunity to reconnect with my co-workers. But I’m doing the meeting leader a disservice if I don’t let him or her achieve the meeting’s objectives. I can always rehash the American Idol outcome (yes, still!) after business is done.

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