Leadership Essentials: Masterful Meetings

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There’s no shortage of jokes or complaints about how horrible meetings can be. They’re boring. They’re pointless. They’re a waste of time.

Leaders know better. Leaders know that meetings are essential for excellence. Leaders know that meetings are the ultimate lever, capable of producing exponential results.

Tom Peters says, “The idea of using “meeting” and “excellence” in the same sentence may strike you as absurd. But, again, if meetings are your principal leadership stage, then they must either be the platform for the aspiration and expression of Excellence or you are not serious about Excellence. A meeting for the leader is pure, unadulterated theater.”

For your leadership “theater” to be successful, there are several “performances” you’ll need to master and add to your portfolio. Each is essential to your team’s continued alignment and effectiveness.

Leadership Essentials: the Schedule Template

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As a leader, one of the most important benefits we can give our teams is to be organized and intentional. It’s also one of the best feelings we can give ourselves.

After coaching dozens of leaders, I’m convinced the best place to start is with our time. Once we master it, we can achieve anything. And without having it under control, little feels possible. As Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Based on an exercise I learned from Michael Hyatt, the key is to design a template for your week. Here are the steps to create one for your life.

Leadership Essentials: the Daily March

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“Leadership” is a verb. It is a mindset, a choice to accept responsibility, empower others, and make a difference. It is available to any of us, regardless of our age, education level, title, or any other characteristic.

Once we choose leadership, we must live it. For that, we need a system. I call it the Daily March.

This practice is particularly important for leaders.

Leaders are quitters.

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“Does everyone have a To Do list?,” asked Jim Collins at the Inc. 500 conference in September 2008. We all raised our hands.

“How many people in this room have a Stop Doing list?” Not so many.

Asked what he was planning to stop doing next, he replied, “unnecessary fire drills.” To him, that meant replying to emails without thinking them through and causing havoc and false urgency within his team.

That made sense to me, and I scribbled a note. I also began to research more about his background and found this article about pulling the plug.

“The power of removal can be immense. A few years ago I set a goal of reading about 100 books a year. So I embarked on a vigorous program of doing. I made lists. I set aside a room as a library. I bought reading chairs, desks, lamps, and stacks of books.”

“Yet in spite of all that energetic doing, too many of the books remained unread. After a tiring day I’d get sidetracked. In my left hand, War and Peace; in my right, the TV clicker. Faced with long passages on the burning of Moscow in 1812 or short quips on Monday Night Football, I’d flick on the TV and lose a couple of hours. So my wife and I unplugged and jettisoned the TV. My reading productivity soared.”

Since then, he’s written four ground-breaking bestsellers and become the authority on business leadership. His wife? She’s won an Ironman Triathlon.

Beware of Bikeshedding

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The term was coined as a metaphor to illuminate Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. Parkinson observed that a committee whose job is to approve plans for a nuclear power plant may spend the majority of its time on relatively unimportant but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bikeshed, while neglecting the design of the power plant itself, which is far more important but also far more difficult to criticize constructively.

This trap snares lots of folks, and leaders are particularly susceptible. We’re asked to make a multitude of decisions every day, usually without enough facts and often with no good answer. It can be exhausting.

Given the chance to think about adjusting our revenue management strategy or the color of the lobby chairs, my mind leaps at the chance to take it easy.

But I shouldn’t indulge. And you probably shouldn’t either.