Manage Get Things Done . . . With People
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Manage and Lead Effectively
As your career progresses, you’ll be asked to manage projects, which ultimately means managing people. In this chapter you’ll learn to manage communications in meetings and with email and chat. We’ll also discuss motivating at critical moments.
Take a minute to read the advice below about leadership from experienced leaders.
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”
Kenneth H. Blanchard
“Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.”
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
“May we be men and women of honesty and integrity in everything we do.”
Pres. Thomas S. Monson
“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.”
Meetings can be valuable. They’re also costly in time and human resources. Long, disorganized meetings burn through precious resources and are excruciating.
According to a 2016 study published by the Harvard Business Review (Collaborative Overload), “Time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more” over the last two decades. Consulting with others can consume up to 80% of an individual’s time, leaving very little time for productive, independent effort. The complexity of global business has led to more team-based decision making and action . . . and that means more meetings.
As a manager, you might feel that calling a meeting is the logical next step in any project, but are you sure? An unnecessary meeting creates inefficiency, resentment, and lack of trust. Make sure you run meetings that are well-planned and effective. Ask yourself these questions:
Should I Hold a Meeting?
Call meetings when you need to collaborate on solutions, create new ideas, make decisions, or assign actions. Generally, don’t call a meeting to convey information—unless your message is sensitive. Weekly meetings can help keep a group cohesive and moving forward, but consider less time-consuming ways to stay in touch (e.g., shared documents or project-management software). Don’t let a regular meeting become a recurring time drain. Question the necessity of every meeting you call.
Whom Should I Invite?
The smallest meetings are 1:1, a formal individual meeting with a subordinate instead of just “catching up” in the break room. Andy Grove, the legendary founder of Intel, believed 1:1 meetings pay off handsomely. “Ninety minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for two weeks, or for some eighty-plus hours.” High Output Management
When calling a team meeting, try to keep the number of attendees small (though you should publish the results as widely as necessary). In large groups, social loafing occurs: Participants reduce their effort and avoid responsibilities. An odd number of people, close to five, is a good size for a discussion-based meeting. Guard against inviting too many people (trying not to offend anybody), or too few (inviting only those you’re comfortable with).
Be Sure Your Attendence List Includes:
- The decision maker (authorized to make key decisions)
- People who can frame the current issues, provide context, and propose specific solutions
- People required to implement the decisions
When Should We Meet?
According to an article in Fast Company (“The Best Time of Day to Do Everything at Work"), Tuesday afternoons at 3 p.m. is a good time to hold meetings. Attendees have time to prepare for them after the weekend, and they still have a few days before the end of the week to execute assignments. Avoid Friday afternoons and Monday mornings if at all possible. Use the company calendar invitation system or a facilitator like Doodle, Calendly, or NeedToMeet to efficiently set a time when all invitees can attend.
The Best Time of Day to Do Everything at Work
Schedule a meeting? Tuesday at 3 p.m.
Scheduling a meeting on Tuesday allows time to prepare after the weekend and act on the decisions made in the same week.
Send an email for a quick response? 6–7 a.m.
You’ll compete with fewer emails in the morning inbox, and reply rates are highest, about 45%.
Make a tough decision? After lunch.
Judges make more consistent decisions when they have full tummies. You probably will too.
Brainstorm new ideas? When you’re tired.
A tired brain won’t jump to logical solutions but will start throwing out random and innovative ideas.
Source: Stephanie Vozza, “The Best Time of Day to Do Everything at Work, Fast Company, 23 June 2015.”
Where Shall We Meet?
Choose the right place for your meeting. You have options.
Office Meetings: Schedule a right-sized room—avoid one that's so big that participants mentally check out. Make sure the room has enough chairs and that you have what you need: projector, strong WiFi, water, paper, etc.
Standup Metings: For brief progress report meetings, try stand-up meetings. Stand-ups are short meetings in which participants remain standing in a common area. The idea is that everyone will conduct business more efficiently since they don’t want to stay standing too long!
Walking Meetings: Another alternative meeting location, much favored in Silicon Valley, is outside. Walking meetings work best for 1:1 or 1:2 meetings in mild weather. Plan a route beforehand that will last about the length of your meeting, and warn participants in advance so they’ll wear comfortable shoes. Walking meetings can spur creative thought, increase friendship, and give participants a break from the office.
Lunch Meetings: A good meal can help people relax and feel closer. At a restaurant, consider scheduling early or late—you’ll have more room, a quieter space, and more attentive service. If you order lunch to be brought in, be aware that people need downtime, so don’t frequently overschedule their lunch hours.
Remote Meetings: Remote meetings are increasingly common in decentralized teams. If you are calling a meeting for a new team, make the effort to use a video conferencing platform like Zoom.us, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime, or Join.me. The extra hassle is worth the increased information you will acquire by reading body and facial language as you spend time getting to know each other. As you become comfortable working together, phone meetings will become more common and efficient. Become familiar with screen-sharing technology so you can all discuss a single document, flow chart, or spreadsheet.
Engaging Remote Participants
Research by Rosanne Siino at Stanford suggests that emotional engagement is the key to effective meetings, and that remote participants have trouble staying engaged. She recommends four ways to make remote meetings more effective:
- Avoid “mixed” meetings with some participants on video and others in the room. Think all or nothing: either everyone’s in the room or everyone’s remote.
- Have remote participants introduce themselves at the beginning and identify their role (e.g., note-taker, timekeeper, etc.).
- Discourage calling in via mobile phones, which have unpredictable connections. When you combine a thick accent with a low-quality line, everyone quickly becomes mentally exhausted. Use VOIP if at all possible.
- Keep track of who talks and who doesn’t. Draw in non-participants by asking questions and seeking their opinions.
Practice holding a remote meeting with a team you work on. Create a document and share your screen with the others in the meeting. Have everyone contribute to a single document using Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides.
How Long Shall We Meet?
The length of time you should plan for your meeting is, of course, determined by your purpose. Here are some examples:
- 15 minutes: Status updates. Help a colleague with a single roadblock. Readjust assignment loads.
- 30 minutes: Brainstorm. Create a project schedule. Conduct a performance review. Review a report before publication.
- 50 minutes: First team meeting on a new project. Work through a recurrent multi-faceted problem. Hold a discussion including more than five people.
Try to plan meetings that feel a little short for the task. Meeting participants are more likely to stay focused, alert, and grateful.
Time’s up and you’re not finished with the agenda? Table the rest of the items and resolve to do better next time. By ending the meeting on time, you communicate respect for your colleagues’ time and your trustworthiness in using it.
If you are having trouble getting through meetings on time, create a timed agenda.
What Should I do Before the Meeting?
Create and publish an agenda. Include the meeting purpose, invitees, roles, location, length, and links to minutes from the previous meeting so participants can review their assignments. Conclude your agenda with a few questions you’d like participants to be thinking about before the meeting and links to any material they’ll need to review.
Create an agenda for an upcoming meeting. Send it out to prepare attendees, then follow it during the meeting.
How do I Run a Meeting?
As a manager, you‘re responsible for guiding the meeting, but don’t assume that means you should be joyless or strictly limit discussion to the work project. To get the best from your team during a meeting, pay attention to relationships, roles, and results.
Relationships: A few years ago, Google spent millions of dollars gathering and analyzing data, trying to optimize its teams. Its data on successful teams did not easily yield commonalities. After years of research, Google found only two common factors in its most successful teams:
- Equality in the distribution of conversational turn taking. Everyone on the team spoke about the same amount over time.
- A high average social sensitivity. Members quickly and accurately read how other teams members felt, as indicated by tone, expression, and nonverbal cues. Women are often naturally skilled in this, which is why they make such valuable team members. See more of Google’s results here: Why Some Teams are Smarter Than Others.
Roles: Make sure people at your meetings know what their responsibilities are. Some managers like to assign roles like timekeeper, facilitator, recorder, questioner, etc. For solving problems or group writing, some like the model of assigning figurative roles like architect, madman, carpenter, and judge. Or randomly divide the team into Blue Hats (who are free to find flaws and criticize) and Red Hats (who can only comment on positives, despite personal opinions). Ensure that everyone has input.
Results: While simultaneously paying attention to the relationships and roles in your group, you must also move your tasks to completion. Quickly refocus wandering conversations and keep desired results visible so you’ll all move toward them. “Let’s check the agenda and move on.” “Our main goal here is to . . .” Write your meeting’s purpose on a whiteboard or a poster. Try using project management software like Trello, Asana, or TeamGantt.
Visit the splash pages of some project management software services: Trello, Asana, Wrike, TeamGantt, Zoho. Which do you like best and how do you see yourself using it?
Ask attendees to put their phones in Do Not Disturb mode during meetings.
How Should I Follow Up?
Don’t lose all that meeting goodness. People may leave meetings motivated to do their assignments, but they can use your help in providing them with reminders and tools. So be sure to delegate and publish the next steps and due dates that team members have agreed to. Enter assignments in your project software or send a clear follow-up email like the one below. Peer pressure (sometimes) works wonders.
Hi, Team. Great meeting this morning! Here are our next steps:
Dave: File the patent application by June 20. Here’s an example.
Corinne: Make the changes we discussed to the UI by June 25.
Paulo: Contact ProCorps by June 27 about support for the additional features. Call Brady James (123.555.4321) and mention me.
Me: Write up project report and share for team review by June 19.
Let me know if you run into any roadblocks. I’ll check with each of you two days before your deadline. Our next meeting is July 1 at 3 p.m.
I’ll bring bacon donuts because . . . bacon.
Section TwoEmail and Chat
Good managers need to fully understand the zen of email. It must be your servant, not your master. We’ve already discussed how to write clear, concise emails in Chapter 4: Build. Here are some email management tips:
Breathe. We tend to breathe very shallowly when reading email. So that you don’t become a victim of Email Apnea, remember to breathe deeply and stretch occasionally.
Search rather than sort. Rely on Gmail’s incredible search capabilities to find emails you need rather than spending time sorting and maintaining topic folders.
Fence your email time. Don’t let email take over your day. Resist the impulse to check email constantly—choose the hours you’ll spend working on your inbox.
Achieve and maintain Inbox Zero. If you routinely ignore email in your inbox, you might ignore something important or forget it as it drifts down your long inbox list. Read Anthony Casalena, founder and CEO of Squarespace, who deals with about 300 emails a day, on How to Achieve Inbox Zero. Let your email software filter for you (Google has great tools). Keep your inbox to under 10 items.
Times the average employee checks their email in an hour
Minutes spent refocusing after handling incoming email
Source: “You Waste a Lot of Time at Work,” Atlassian.
Instant messaging is common in business settings, probably because so many more people are working remotely. Texting is instantaneous, but also asynchronous. It accommodates groups, records threads, and is appealing to those who don’t speak English as a first language. But does it decrease productivity? If you manage notification settings, IM can be a productivity boost rather than hindrance.
Read and follow Lifewire’s 8 Etiquette Rules for Using Messaging at Work.
SLACK is a popular messaging, archive, and search tool for teams. Watch this Introducing Slack video.
Motivational communication is a topic that makes many people cringe. They picture the slick motivational speaker, oozing with counterfeit charisma, or a televangelist, manipulating emotions for self-gain. (See Shia LaBeouf’s “Just Do It” motivational speech.)
But the ability to inspire and motivate others is one of the hallmarks of extraordinary leaders. More importantly, research by leadership experts Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman shows that inspiring and motivating others requires powerful communication. Zenger and Folkman’s book, The Inspiring Leader, suggests the following six best practices.
|Communicate Often||Inspiring leaders are prolific communicators. They are in touch with their people, listening to them, sharing ideas, providing encouragement, and reminding them of the bigger picture.|
|Be Positive||Pessimists and critics are rarely inspiring. Research by University of Michigan professor Kim Cameron on leadership teams (Positive Leadership) finds that in the highest-performing teams, the ratio of positive to negative comments is 5:1. In medium-performing teams, the ratio is 2:1. And in low-performing teams, the ratio is 1:3 in favor of the negative. Follow the 5:1 rule and keep it positive.|
|Ask Questions||Stereotypes suggest that inspiring leaders give lofty speeches and articulate grand visions. Turns out they actually ask a lot of questions. Questions inspire because they indicate openness and encourage a two-way dialogue. Social scientists Marcial Losada and Emily Heaphy find that in high-performing organizations, leaders ask a question for each instruction they give; in low-performing organizations, the ratio is closer to 20 instructions for each question.|
|Celebrate!||Shine the spotlight on others rather than on yourself. Being generous with praise and giving credit to oftenanonymous co-workers are powerful ways to inspire and motivate others.|
|Tell Stories||Inspiring leaders tell stories that draw the audience in. Stories are concrete and real, and therefore more memorable than lists of facts or well-honed logical arguments. Stories often evoke emotions; they’re funny, sad, embarrassing, shocking, admirable, etc. Stories provide a sense of completion because they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. To be more inspiring, keep a fresh stock of anecdotes that you can deploy in your formal and informal communications.|
|Show Passion||To inspire means “to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on” (merriam-webster.com). Your passion as a communicator has a direct effect on how animated and enlivened your audience feels. Remember that communicating with passion doesn’t require high-energy histrionics. Quiet authenticity and consistent commitment are proven ways to convey personal conviction for what you’re communicating.|
Your career will include managerial roles. The ability to facilitate effective meetings will make you stand out in a world where time-wasting meetings are the norm. Managing your email and messaging will help you survive and thrive in our era of communication saturation. And if you can inspire and motivate others to achieve important goals, you’ll always be in demand for getting things done . . . with people.
Please let us know.
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