Archive for January, 2011
Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Meeting Etiquette Part 1 focused on attending business meetings from a participant’s point of view. Now, we move on to how to be the best possible meeting leader.
1. Take the lead. Learn how meetings are run. Get familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order as the foundation of how all meetings are conducted. How closely you choose to follow it will depend on the level of formality of the meeting.
The person who organizes and leads the meeting has full charge over whether the meeting is a success. If that person is you, you must take control and manage every detail, including how the meeting is run, the tone and pace, what topics are discussed, how participants behave, and what outcomes and results occur by the end of the meeting. You are also in charge of follow up.
2. Schedule the date and time. As far in advance as possible, alert everyone you are inviting. Specify the date, time, location, and purpose. Ask participants to respond within a few days to confirm their availability. Doing this well in advance gives you the flexibility to choose alternate dates if the majority cannot attend.
Initially, send an email to everyone you want to attend, listing at least three dates and times. Ask everyone to respond with all the dates and times they are able to attend, and the most popular date and time will be the winner.
To avoid annoying extra emails, ask people to respond only to you or to the single designated person, not to the entire group. Or, address the email to yourself and use the “Bcc” box, and then list everyone’s name in the body of the mail so people will know who is invited. This method guarantees no one will send other emails “To All.”
3. Confirm any guest speakers. Part of your job is to coordinate all details with the guest speaker. Confirm all details in writing-and orally, if possible, including: the date and time, exact address or location, driving directions, the start and end time of the overall meeting, and the exact start and end time for the guest speaker to present. Other helpful information might include parking instructions, background information on the company or organization, and a list of all participants, as appropriate.
4. Draft an agenda. Send a draft agenda as soon as possible to gain input and approval. If a person needs more time on the agenda, they can ask you to add it in advance, as running overtime will not be acceptable.
Try not to cover too many topics in any one meeting. The “KISSS” method is the best policy: keep it simple, short, and sweet. A brief, one hour or less, targeted meeting will always be more productive than a longer two+ hour meeting where too many items are discussed.
About two weeks to a full week in advance, distribute a final agenda, attaching all pertinent reading materials to review before the meeting. State clearly which reports certain individuals are expected to make and ask speakers to bring copies of their reports for everyone at the meeting. This way each participant can be fully informed without the speaker having to read every word. Written reports will also help those who were absent catch up. As the facilitator, always ask for an electronic version of the report so you can send it to those who were absent.
For optimum productivity, have all reports submitted ahead of time so everyone will be well informed when they attend. Those who must be absent can submit their comments ahead of time, and the time at the meeting can be full spent on discussions.
Show specific start and end times for each report, to keep things flowing and not run overtime. For example:
8:45 a.m. Check in and get coffee
9:00 Welcome and Overview of the meeting
9:10 John’s Report
9:30 Jane’s Report
9:45 Old/New Business
9:55 Final Q&A, Next steps, Wrap-up
When writing the cover memo or email, clearly state the meeting will begin and end on time, and state that everyone is expected to arrive on time. Review the guidelines on conduct you expect throughout the meeting, including raising hands to speak, and to please turn off all cell phones, and other electronic devises during the meeting.
5. Make your opening remarks. Either have people introduce themselves, or introduce everyone yourself, adding why you have invited these individuals to attend, and from what perspective you think their contributions will be most helpful.
State the purpose of the meeting and what results and outcomes you hope to achieve by the end of this meeting.
Review the guidelines for proper conduct at the meeting, such as raising hands and sticking to the agenda timeline. Make a final reminder about turning off all cell phones and other electronic devices, so people will give their full and undivided attention to the meeting. Ask if anyone has to leave the meeting early or is expecting an important call. If no one responds, you should have a fully attentive group.
Also ask for whether anyone has last minute items to add to the end of the agenda or if anyone has any questions before you begin.
6. Keep the meeting flowing: Throughout the meeting, move the agenda along, calling attention to every page number or agenda item you are about the discuss. Be clear in your introduction to each section as to whether it will be an interactive time or a time to just listen. Your foremost goal is to drive the meeting toward constant results.
When you notice certain participants are not contributing, request comments from them by name, such as “John, we haven’t heard your views on this, what do you think?” Do not allow a few individuals to monopolize all discussions.
Manage the timing of each item on the agenda, reminding a speaker or the group when they are going on too long or getting off point.
Do not rely on a wall clock in the room. Bring your own small portable clock to have in front of you. There’s nothing more distracting than watching someone’s head constantly looking up at the wall.
Stick to the agenda. Establish what is called a “parking lot list,” whenever people get off track.
Encourage free communications, managed through raised hands and only having one person speak at a time. Build an environment where everyone is encouraged to share points of view and new “out of the box” ideas. Build a T.E.A.M., “Together Everyone Achieves More” spirit among the group that makes attending meetings fun and productive. There are no dumb ideas and no one should be made to feel as though his or her contributions were not welcomed.
Do not let the meeting get out of hand. Disagreements and arguments can be healthy to allow participants to air their opinions. However, make sure all comments are directed to you, the chair, and not at the person on the other side of the argument. If the discussions turn ugly, step in and take back control of the meeting to move on.
7. End the meeting on a positive note. Take a time to recap the meeting discussions, reviewing all action items and next steps with specific names attached, and reminders of all due dates. Finally, thank everyone for attending.
8. Follow up promptly. Immediately following the meeting, on the same day, send attendees a quick e-mail thank you note for attending the meeting. Keep this message brief and positive.
In a separate email, recap everything that took place at the meeting, and what is expected of each person in the days and weeks ahead. Sending this written redcap will serve three purposes: Those who were absent will get caught up; If no one took minutes, you now have a record of what transpired; and it will serve as marching orders for individuals who have assignments before the next meeting. Without a to-do list, we all forget things.
Send the recap within a week of the meeting, while your notes and mind are still fresh. The longer you wait, the fuzzier your memory may become. Mark your calendar with all due dates and follow-up with individuals to ensure progress.
BONUS: Pre-printed name cards and/or name tags for each participant are a nice touch at meetings where not everyone knows each other. I like having both. When name cards are printed properly in large, bold letters, it helps me learn who is speaking, and name tags help me to identify people during breaks. You can also ask people to pass around the appropriate number of business cards. Participants can place them on the table in front of them in the order in which people are seated.
QUESTION: What other items do you have to add to this list that will help make every meeting the most productive? We’d love to hear from you.
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Thursday, January 13th, 2011
I’m surprised by how many inquiries I’ve received lately from clients and others about how to behave at meetings. More people while in meetings are viewing emails, texting, holding side conversations, and plainly not paying attention. Because of this problem, I am dedicating two newsletters to this topic, starting with how to behave as a participant of a meeting. In Part 2 I’ll cover what to do if you’re the chair or facilitator of a meeting.
1. Be prepared. When you receive a request to attend a meeting, know why the meeting is necessary, who called it, who else is attending, and be clear about what results or outcomes are expected. Review the agenda and figure out what is expected of you and what you should contribute beyond simply attending. In other words, take a proactive, leadership role by always learning exactly what is going to happen at a meeting. Never show up cold.
2. Organize your materials. No later than two weeks before an important meeting, set up a temporary file or location to organize and set aside all information needed for this meeting. Make sure you include a pad and pen.
3. Synchronize your clock. Bookmark and use either the official U.S. time site of is http://www.time.gov/ or for the world www.timeanddate.com/worldclock as your “official” guide when setting your clock and alarm. Absolutely stop what you are doing at least 15 minutes before the time you need to leave the office to get to the meeting on time. Use this time to gather all the information you need and to visit the restroom to check your appearance. If you are speaking at this meeting, take at least an extra 15 to 30 minutes to review your notes and practice your presentation.
4. Be on time. For an out-of-the-office meeting, arrive at the meeting location at least ten minutes ahead of the meeting time. For in-house meetings, get there about five minutes ahead. Use this time to get nicely settled and relaxed. Perhaps visit the restroom one more time to check your appearance, or get a cup of coffee or water for the meeting. You always want to be relaxed and prepared when the meeting begins, not harried because you just rushed in.
5. Seating arrangements: Depending on the level of formality, seating may be designated. If you are unsure, ask the chair where to sit. In the American style, the meeting the chair sits at the end of a long rectangular table, with all participants on either side. The most senior person or guest speaker sits to the right of the chair. At international meetings, the chair typically sits at the center of the table, with participants seated on either the same side (usually senior staff), or opposite the chair (other guests and participants).
6. Stay focused on the meeting: It’s easy to get distracted, but your job is to stay attentive to the flow of the agenda and discussions. You never know when you may be called upon for your thoughts. Do not hold side conversations. At most slip someone a note saying, “Let’s talk after the meeting about…” Do not succumb to the temptation to check email, take a phone call or text messages. Turn all electronic devices to vibrate or turn them off completely… and leave them off. If you and everyone else gives their undivided attention to the meeting, it will result in higher productivity. Maybe you’ll even get out faster because everyone is focused. Do everything in your power to keep your mind occupied, so you won’t doze off or be tempted to make side comments with the person next to you.
7. Be a good team player. Once the chair or group has made a decision on something, get with the program and make that decision turn out positively, even when–and especially when-the decision was contrary to your opinion and overall vote.
Never complain afterwards about the decisions made, items discussed, or against specific people at the meeting. Air grievances with the chair, or perhaps with the specific individual who concerns you.
8. Other meeting etiquette tips:
• Keep an open mind to all ideas and comments shared. Don’t attack a suggestion by saying things such as, “That’s a dumb idea” or “That won’t work.”
• Especially important for high level and international meetings, allow more senior level individuals to contribute and speak first, before you and others.
• When speaking, do not go on and on. Get to the point and end your comments.
• When arriving late, quietly take a seat. Express your apology at the next appropriate break.
• Be familiar with the general principles of Robert’s Rules of Order. Typically all meetings follow this format. The higher the level of formality, the higher the expectation that all participants be aware of how it works.
• Never interrupt or talk over anyone else. Allow the other person to finish his or her comments before you chime in. Raise your hand to be acknowledged by the chair before speaking, if that is the correct style. Don’t just jump in, unless you know this is an acceptable practice.
• Address all comments to the chair, even when responding to someone else’s comment, unless doing so is an acceptable practice within that group culture.
• Being a welcomed participant of any meeting requires you to be aware and adaptable to the many nuances, styles, and cultures. At the first meeting, remain silent until you are sure that when you choose to speak, your words will be well received.
• As the saying goes, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” It is inappropriate to share meeting information with others. Consider all discussions and information confidential, unless otherwise stated. When in doubt, ask the chair.
• Keep your cool. Don’t take things personally or find offense to comments. Remain calm. Never raise your voice; always speak in a professional, low and even manner of voice and tone.
• Last and most importantly… Absolutely no electronic devices! Contrary to popular practice, it is not appropriate to check email, text, or take cell phone calls during a meeting. Your 100% focus should be on the meeting, not on other activities. As you enter the meeting room, do check and turn off—or to vibrate—all electronic devices.
QUESTION: What other items do you have to add to this list? Do let us hear from you by locating this article at http://www.AdvancedEtiquette.com/blog. You may also reach us at http://www.AdvancedEtiquette.com/. If you enjoyed this article and want more, subscribe to our “Etiquette Tip of the Month” newsletter—at no charge—filled with great monthly tips on all sorts of topics from international business and social etiquette and protocol to everyday life subjects. It will be great to have you as a member of our happy family of subscribers at http://www.AdvancedEtiquette.com/subscribe.If you have other tips you think would be appropriate to this article, please let me hear from you. Your help will be most appreciated.
Monday, January 3rd, 2011
Whenever the New Year arrives, it says to me… “Yippie! I’m leaving behind all the terrible stuff I did last year, for a new chance to begin the year with a clean slate.”
For most people, having a clean slate means setting New Year’s resolutions. Do you make them? Perhaps you did at one time, but stopped when you couldn’t stick with them. The key to making your resolutions come true is you must set a plan and then execute it to be successful. It all boils down to what is known as setting “smart” goals. S.M.A.R.T. means… your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Timely. If they do not meet all five of these standards, you run the risk of the goal not succeeding.
I used to set New Year resolutions to lose weight, make more money, or clean my office. Sure these are worthy things to achieve. However, I’ve now switched my thinking to deeper rooted items. Items that will truly give me to most “bang for the buck” to improve the quality of my life, to build better relationships, and to create a life of well-being, happiness, and abundance. It is, of course, through the attitude of etiquette.
Here are my 8 New Year Etiquette Goals for this year and ongoing:
I promise to…
1. Say “please” and “thank-you” with every request. This means not only with “important people”, but with everyone… your subordinates, co-workers, spouse, family members, close friends. Without using please, your requests appear more like a command than a polite request. Without saying thank you, it appears you are not appreciative or grateful. When it comes to building relationships, to me these are among the top most powerful words to use in all situations.
2. Be on time for every appointment and event. Whenever a person is late it disrupts the intended flow of the meeting or event. By being on time it shows your respect and care. The primary reason I am ever late is at its core because I did not take enough time to think ahead and plan for the traffic and other situations. The biggest tip being tuning in to the traffic report online, on the radio, or television within a few hours of leaving. It’s amazing when I leave enough time, I am never late. Also, “I never leave home without it” is the telephone number of where I am headed to call if I am delayed.
3. Fully stop at every stop sign. I’m getting better at this; to the point I now see how many other people don’t even slow down at a stop sign. Seriously, think about this. It’s not only dangerous, but it truly doesn’t gain a thing. It’s merely a terrible bad habit.
4. First send a thank-you note for every holiday gift I received by 10 January. Then, each week throughout the year to send someone a short card or note by regular mail… no emails. It’s not about going green. It’s about caring enough to take the time to write by hand. I promise, the responses are well worth the effort—tenfold, at least!
5. Keep all shared items and areas at home and in the office clean and neat. I admit, I have been known to take a pair of scissors from a drawer and not put them back for my husband or others to use. I’m also terrible at hanging up my clothes when I first take them off. Keeping my desk and office neat is definitely a lifetime struggle.
6. Invite someone to lunch or coffee once a month. There are so many friends, co-workers, clients/customers, distant family members, and other acquaintances I’d like to know better. I will now do it by having lunch or coffee with these individuals, once a month. For folks far away, a telephone call will surely be a welcome surprise. Tip: Use Skype or Google Voice for as low as 2 cents a minute for international calls. There is truly no longer any excuse not to stay in touch with someone you care about.
7. Make a habit of turning off my cell phone and other electronic devices the moment I enter a meeting, restaurant, theater, museum, or other public place. This one I am actually pretty good at. I’ve discovered that by leaving my phone permanently on vibrate, I actually feel and hear it well enough in most instances to answer the call. If I don’t hear it, it meant I was focused on other important matters. I also check the phone regularly to see if I’ve missed a call. If find this sure is better than having it ring at an inappropriate time because you forgot to turn it off.
8. To follow through with things I say I will do. This especially includes all those passing comments such as: “I’ll be sure to send it to you.” “I’ll call you next week.” “Let’s get together soon.” I’m keeping a note pad in my purse to make every effort to jot things down when they happen or to send myself an email about what needs to be done. I no longer can rely on my memory.
QUESTION OF THE MONTH: How about you? Do some of the above goals resonate with you and are you willing to make some SMART resolutions for yourself this year?
Won’t you begin this year by taking what I am calling the Etiquette “PLEDGE” with me? The acronym of P.L.E.D.G. E. means…People Leading Everyone to Do Good Everywhere.
Do take “one small step for man” and yourself; and in so doing take “one giant leap for mankind” in making this a better world in which to live.
It’s easy to participate and will produce lifelong benefits:
1. Write a list of a at least six items you pledge to accomplish this year that will be based on displaying better manners, building better relationships, adhering to good etiquette and civility, and generally transforming yourself into being a better person, for life.
2. Declare your intentions by posting your list on our blog for everyone to see—especially me—and also place extra copies in visible places… on your desk, on the refrigerator, or wherever you are likely to see it daily. NOTE: If you are shy to reveal your true name on the blog, make up a name for yourself. But when it comes to listing your email address, do use your real one. Your address will not be shown publically. Only I will see it for internal purposes and to get your prize to you at the end of the year. Good luck!
3. At the end of the year receive a specially selected gift from us as your reward. We’ll revisit the list and if you can say with integrity you stuck to your list and fulfilled at least 50% of your goals listed, we’ll send you a special gift of congratulations…absolutely at no charge. Admittedly, I tried this once before several years ago. It failed for a number of reasons, the main one being I inadvertently deleted the primitive tracking system I had when I switched to our current new system. Thanks to new technology it will be most convenient to properly follow-through this time.
So no excuses… have fun… just DO IT!
Happy New Year!
By the way: Do not tackle your entire list at once. It will be unrealistic and impossible to manage, and you will become discouraged. Choose one or two items at most each month. As the year progresses, you will make these a habit each month, then add more in subsequent months. By December you will have built six new habits you didn’t have before that will enhance your life forever.
Monday, January 3rd, 2011
A friend and associate in India (founder of www.TheAchieversProgramme.com) sent me the below story about how African Tribes care for its members. Reading it led me to be reminded that today, December 26 (by my calendar), is the first day of a 7-day celebration of Kwanzaa.
While there may be some controversy over this celebration, “Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.”* Although it was created in the United States, it is now becoming a holiday that’s celebrated around the world.”
*The above definition comes from http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org. See it and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanzaa for full details on this distinctive holiday.
They Are Playing Our Song
When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor or and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.
When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child’s song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child’s song. When the child passes through the initiation to adulthood, the people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song. Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person’s bed, just as they did at their birth, and they sing the person to the next life.
There is something inside each of us that knows we have a song, and we wish those we love would recognize it and support us to sing it.
In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the centre of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them. The tribe recognizes that the correction of antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.
If you do not give your song a voice, you will feel lost, alone, and confused. If you express it, you will come to life. We attract people on a similar wavelength so we can support each other to sing aloud. Sometimes we attract people who challenge us by telling us that we cannot or should not sing our song in public. Yet these people help us too, for they stimulate us to find greater courage to sing it.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song and sing it well. You may feel a little wary at the moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you’ll find your way home.
Most people who celebrate Christmas, do it but for one or two days… the 24th and 25th. Yet the celebration of Christmas actually has twelve days. Use this period as your bonus time to reach out to those you may not have been able to see, call by phone, or correspond with during the earlier frantic days of the holiday season. Give them a call, write them a letter or email, or send them a gift now! It’s never too late to “sing your song” to someone you care about.
Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanzaa and… Happy New Year!