Meetings – The Linchpin of Organizational Health

Recently, someone asked me how I know whether a client will succeed in achieving organizational health.

Read what organizational health is

It is a great question.

While several factors are involved in making such a prediction, I’m convinced that one indicator demonstrates that a client really “gets it” and is likely to experience the transformation that only organizational health can bring about. Though that indicator isn’t directly related to teamwork, Clarity, communication or systems, it connects all these disciplines in a way that nothing else can.

What I’m talking about are meetings.

Yes, meetings.

Not the kind of meetings that non-healthy organizations have, where every issue under the sun gets thrown onto an agenda, nothing seems to get decided, and unimportant topics and PowerPoint presentations take up valuable time. Executives check their watches, waiting for the painful ritual to end.

I’m talking about meetings with Clarity, focus and intense interaction.

Most of our clients immediately understand the importance of the model of the meeting I propose, and they excitedly adopt it. Adoption is rarely a challenge, as my approach is simple and practical. The more significant obstacle they face – and this is a litmus test – is whether they will have the discipline and courage to stay with those meetings over the long haul and keep passionately focused on the most critical issues.

Solving a problem is one thing; continuing to exploit that solution after its novelty has worn off is another. Too many leaders struggle with discipline, getting bored with consistency and continuity and searching for something new and exciting. And many of them, even if they do stick to the structure of their meetings, lack courage when entering the danger around difficult topics, choosing a more harmonious path instead.

How Healthy is our team? Take the survey

The myth is that meetings are inherently flawed.

 For some reason, we have accepted that meetings are a necessary evil of organizational life. Worse, we think all meetings are painful and unproductive time wasters.

But the fact is, bad meetings are a reflection of bad leaders. Worse yet, they take a more devastating toll on a company’s success than we realize.

Fortunately, for those willing to challenge the notion that meetings are unfixable, it is possible to transform what is now tedious and debilitating into something productive, focused, and energizing.

However, the key to improving meetings has nothing to do with better preparation, agendas or minutes. To address the problem, leaders must understand why they are so bad, take a contrarian view of meetings and apply a few basic guidelines.

Meetings are bad due to two basic problems.

  • First, meetings are boring.
  • Second, most meetings lack context and purpose. They are a confusing mix of administrivia, tactics, strategy and review, all creating unfocused, meandering and seemingly endless conferences with little resolution or Clarity.


The Meeting Agenda That Creates Drama and Clarity

            Lightning Round (Report) – (What and where does each individual need help on work that is deemed the “Most Important Right Now”)

            Organizational Clarity – (Confirm Clarity – every time to ensure the meeting is focused on the right work)

      1. Why Do We Exist?
      2. How Do We Behave
      3. What Do We Do?
      4. How Will We Succeed?

What Is Most Important Right Now? (Thematic Goal)

How to decide what is the most important thing to be working on

Today’s Topics (should be directly connected with achieving the Thematic Goal)

      1. Topics for discussion
      2. Topics for strategic meetings – are there subjects so strategic and essential that they require their own meeting
      3. Decisions
      4. Cascading Communications Messages

How to be the Chief Reminder Officer

Closing Thoughts

The fact is, running a healthy organization is neither sexy nor comfortable.

Leaders who want to be stimulated and entertained more than they want their companies to succeed will often find it too taxing.

They’ll be easily tempted by the latest fad or flavour of the month, which almost always means their meetings will become scattered, unfocused and inconsistent.

What is particularly ironic about all of this is that eventually and inevitably, those meetings become boring.

And so, here is my advice to any leader considering the journey toward making his or her organization healthy: know that one of your primary responsibilities, perhaps the most important, is ensuring that your meetings are outstanding.

Make them a constant, living example of teamwork, Clarity and communication.

As unsexy as that may seem, there is no greater predictor of organizational health than well-run meetings. 

There Is No Value In A Conversation That Starts With ‘You Idiot’ – Even If You Only Say It Under Your Breath.

99% of being a leader has everything to do with interpersonal relationships and social interactions.

And not every interaction is with someone you like.

Read more about working with that SOB in Accounting

The book Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute is easy to read and written in the form of a fable.

The gist of the book is that conflict between people is based on our self-deception that we view others as either a help or hindrance and begin to feel we are more critical than others.

Whether it is a family member or that ‘idiot’ at work, this perception becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We inflate our self-worth while deflating the other person until we rationalize our behaviour by blaming the other person.

How does the book suggest how we can get past this self-deception?

  1. Have empathy. Treat people like people. When you are in the box and are being self-deceptive, you treat others as objects, not as human beings.  

This doesn’t mean you don’t fire someone who isn’t right for a job; firing can be done by seeing the other person as an object or as a person among people.

  1. Don’t let your expectations affect your view of someone’s actions. One way of being in the box is having a view of a person or the world and then fitting all the evidence to reinforce your view.  

Suppose you expect someone to be a particular way. In that case, you view their actions differently. “we subconsciously begin to ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our worldviews, since we surround ourselves with people and information that confirm what we already think.”

  1. When you betray your sense of what you should do for another, you begin to see the world in a way that justifies your betrayal. And that leads to blaming others and viewing yourself as a victim.

For example, if you are sure that SOB is a jerk, everything that person does will begin to reinforce that perception, Even if he is doing the right thing.

  1. Self-betrayal leads to self-deception. When you engage in self-deception, you are in the box. You exaggerate your virtues, inflate the faults of others, and emphasize factors that support your self-deception.  

 When you betray your core values, you explain the betrayal by deceiving yourself.  

  1. Being in the box leads others to be in the box. By justifying your view of the world and acting and communicating accordingly, others will develop a view of you that causes them to be in the box. 

The leadership self-betrayal results when we don’t do what is right and justify that action or inaction to protect our egos. This leads to us shifting the blame onto others. We start to view others as activating or stumbling blocks – they help or hinder us.

This book’s message is that the problem often lies within ourselves, and only through self-awareness can we move forward.

I wish I had read this book in my twenties when I was starting my leadership journey … except I suspect I had deceived myself and was so self-absorbed that it would have been lost on me.

As is most good life advice. 

Food Glorious Food – The Most Underrated Of All Leadership Tools

With the holidays over, I find myself thinking about food.

Family Dinners.

Staff parties.

And the many times that food contributed to my success as a Leader.

Leaders Eat Last

This phrase was recently made famous as a Simon Sinek book title.

But it isn’t a new concept; leaders eating last has been the standard of victorious armies for eons.

It is when the most senior leaders of a unit only eat when all privates and corporals have eaten.

Leaders eating last accomplishes two crucial leadership functions:

  1. It is a physical expression of servant leadership. Leaders care that the troops have eaten.
  2. It allows the leader to test and correct the supply chain. Is the food hot, healthy and is there enough?

It would be best to understand there is a problem than your company’s lowest paid or ranking person does.


The Soldier’s Christmas Dinner

The Soldier’s Christmas Dinner is a tradition where the soldiers are given the day off from their duties.

This is possible because the officers and sergeants cover their duties and serve dinner.

It goes back thousands of years and is still in practice today.

It is a simple, thoughtful thank you and an appreciation for past and future service.

It recognizes that there would be no need for officers and sergeants without soldiers.

Final Thoughts For The Holidays

Share a meal with your team.

Give your people as much time off as possible over the holidays.

But inevitably, someone will still have to work … so call or visit each office between Christmas and New Year’s to tell those working that you appreciate their duty & service and wish them the best.

This season, be thankful for your people.

You have a job because they are good at theirs.

What Are The 8 Hot Leadership Questions I Have Been Asked In 2023, And How Will They Shake Your Leadership?

According to my consulting, speaking and coaching clients, the coming year will challenge leaders and employees to find balance and a new purpose at work.

Companies everywhere have been struggling to find top talent.  Yet when they do hire quality employees, they often don’t prioritize career growth or flexibility to nurture and retain their talent for the long run.

A lot has changed over the past few years in the face of challenging world events, including the hot leadership topics and workforce trends that companies must stay ahead of to retain top talent.

1.  How do I create positive work cultures?

Work culture has taken its biggest hit in decades.  With more employees dispersed than ever, workplaces traditionally in person see their talent drawn to greener pastures.  There’s a risk of toxic “bubbles” building within companies that don’t appear to offer all their people the same flexibility consistently and fairly.

According to the Leaders I work with, workplaces will continue to become more diverse, flexible, dispersed, and challenging.  As a result, leaders will play a more vital role in creating positive and magnetic work cultures for their teams.  More inclusive and empathetic leaders can prevent toxic cultures from emerging and better foster and sustain the positive work connections that help retain key talent.

2.  How do I move to real commitment?

All the changes in the world outside of work have fueled a strong desire from employees to see companies commit to new ways of doing things.  Employees and consumers are voicing a stronger desire to see companies embrace changes to address significant challenges in business and society.

How can companies find the best path to success while growing a talented workforce that wants to stay with them through challenges?

Will more companies come to adopt a 4-day work week?  There are strong signals that a reduced work schedule may better meet the needs of the modern workforce.  However, when companies decide to move forward, they must understand that people want to see real change, not return to the old way of doing things.

3.  Management—the burden fewer want to bear

A growing sense of crisis and change fatigue has been sinking in for leaders, many of whom have been overwhelmed by talent losses amidst rising inflation and hiring costs.  As a result, companies are seeing an increased risk to their most critical talent pool that can’t be satisfied only by increased pay.

Considering how crucial frontline leadership will be to retaining all their other talent, companies must quickly prioritize leadership development and support before they take on critical losses at higher levels.  This may mean extending leave time and other benefits to reduce the growing risk of burnout for leaders, who historically have been rewarded by bonuses alone.

4.  Hybrid and remote teams seek stronger connections.

It’s lonely out there for many workers, especially those who are hybrid and don’t find connections as meaningful as companies might expect.  According to a recent study on work loneliness, building lasting relationships isn’t about how much in-person time people are exposed to but about the closeness, security, and support they get in their interpersonal relationships.  This means that even an in-person or hybrid work environment could fulfill the interpersonal needs of only some and not others.

How employees connect matters more than where they connect, so developing leaders with more effective interpersonal skills will help foster stronger team connections, no matter where they work.

5.  How do I shift from “Great Resignation” to “Great Retention.”

As companies face the reality of operating in leaner, more expensive times, they have a greater need for retaining top talent.  No matter what the buzzword du jour (and there have been a lot of them this year), it’s clear there are immense pressures to find and keep their best people.  For many, this leads to a sharper focus on identifying high-potential talent and finding ways to mobilize and share their skills internally.

6.  Soft skills rise to the forefront of leadership.

Influencers’ mentions of the leadership skills most needed in the workplace this year focused on critical interpersonal skills (e.g., empathy, emotional intelligence, communication, influence, etc.).  Although they have always been important, these skills have gained attention as the workforce has had to confront increasing change and crisis after crisis.

Leaders have had to navigate more human and personal discussions with their teams, which can be challenging if power skills aren’t equipped.  Leaders will need to continue to develop these skills to manage teams well.  Leaders with stronger interpersonal skills will continue to be vital in helping teams manage the changes ahead, especially when building stronger relationships in hybrid and remote teams.

7.  The new employee learning imperative

Accessibility is quickly becoming an imperative in employee learning and development.  Employees want to learn to grow their careers, which is critical to retaining talent.  So, companies must be able to deliver quality learning experiences to employees anywhere—whether they are in person, hybrid, or remote.

Since employee learning starts the moment they onboard a new company, their impressions about what learning quality they will receive can quickly take shape, not to mention their beliefs of what kind of place it will be like to work at.  As companies grow more flexible and dispersed, so must their learning experiences.  To better meet employees’ needs for flexibility, companies must provide great employee experiences that are equally accessible.

These seven questions prove we are not returning to “normal.”

So, we are all faced with the question: “Where do I place my bets?” 

I want you to place your bet On Your People.

There is no better bet at this time.

If you’d like to have a quick conversation with me about how betting on yourself can yield massive returns, here is the link to my schedule.  I look forward to it.

Is Your Team Ready For That Big Change – 9 Questions To Check

There is a proverb that teaches that it is both a curse and a blessing to live in interesting times.

Most of my clients are facing a change or a looming disruption, much like the advent of autonomous and electric trucks in the motor transportation industry.

We, the leaders of organizations, invest inordinate amounts of time in looking over the horizon, divining the future and developing strategic plans to protect and defend our organization or to prepare to exploit the disruption for growth and success.

Leaders and their organizations fail to prepare their people for the disruption and whatever the impact of that means to them, their career, their families and their dinner-plates.

watch the article where I explore why people are afraid of change

Because the leadership has spent all that time thinking, considering, and envisaging the change, they feel like they are already living in that new place where cats sleep with dogs, it only rains at night, and it is just enough to keep the golf course green.

Our employees only see the change in the area of old maps labelled ‘There Be Dragons.’

How prepared is your organization?

Click the image to download this 9-question assessment to see if you are ready to change ….

If you are not scoring 4s and 5s across the board, your big plans are at risk of being eaten by the dragon.

I have seen battles lost, money squandered, and opportunities frittered away because we have not brought our people along.

Clarity thru the Grace of Pauses And The Hardy Boys

With apologies to Victor Frankl, as leaders, we must learn to embrace the pause between the stimuli we receive from a million sources.

Who has never received a stimulus from our employees, coworkers, bosses, family, or customers?

And who has never responded too quickly?

This week, listen to Steve’s boyhood shoplifting experience and a series of gracious pauses that impacted his life and his leadership style.

And how we can use that moment to be better bosses.