INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
Nobody ever said, “I wish we could have more meetings.” This just in, managers hold too many, especially new managers, who, research shows, hold 29% more meetings than their counterparts. That’s not a good thing, especially when other research shows 71% of meetings are unproductive and inefficient. I know you know this, but it begs an important question, “How far to scale back on meetings?”
An interesting study by a consortium of business schools provides an eye-opening answer. The study, centered on 76 companies that deliberately reduced or eliminated meetings, showed an increase in job satisfaction, communication, cooperation, and productivity, and a decrease in micromanaging and stress. In fact, in many cases, some of the benefits reached their maximum value when the company held zero meetings! Realistically, though, few of us will pivot to never sitting through a meeting again.
The study showed the sweet spot was eliminating 4 out of every 5 meetings (80%), which yielded maximum levels of improvement on the key metrics of productivity (+74%), cooperation (+58%), engagement (+44%), and feelings of being micromanaged (-74%).
By the way, while stress levels and feelings of autonomy were even greater when 100% of meetings were eliminated, 80% reduction still yielded whopping improvement in both cases (stress -63%), (autonomy +86%).
Drink all this in for a moment. Can you envision a path to cutting 4 out of every 5 meetings? The researchers also offered strategies for meeting reduction to help:
* Replace daily check-in meetings with a check-in message (i.e. send out a message on Slack or a Teams channel asking, “What’s on your plate?”, asking for an answer within an hour).
* Meet for only three reasons: to review past work and learn from it, to clarify and support something (such as a policy or goal), or to distribute work within a team. I’d also add to make a decision that must be collectively decided.
* Encourage your team to flag or cancel meetings if they aren’t the best use of their time. Make it clear that, as their manager, you encourage it and won’t judge or punish them.
Bottom line – you now have a target – scale back meetings by 80%. Even if you can’t get all the way there, I’m 100% sure you’ll see substantial benefit.
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake many make)
It’s one of the great challenges of the working world – working in a world where you don’t like all your co-workers. It leads to mistakes all too easy to make that send the relationship spiraling downward. That’s why I like the help that author Michael Bungay Stanier offers on being able to work with just about anyone. He advises building your BPR (best possible relationship) by discussing 5 questions with your cantankerous counterpart:
1. The Amplify Question – “What are your best qualities?” Being clear on your own creates awareness of what to amplify about yourself. Knowing theirs increases your awareness of what to appreciate in them.
2. The Steady Question – “What are your practices and preferences?” (how do you like to work, what are your habits). It’s all too easy to dive right in to how you like to work.
3. The Good Date Question – “What have you learned from successful past relationships?” And how might we apply it to this relationship?
4. The Bad Date Question – “What have you learned from frustrating past relationships?” And how might we avoid that in this relationship?
5. The Repair question – “How will we fix it when things go wrong?” This last question is especially smart, as it signals an intention to overcome the inevitable bumps in the road, rather than letting things spiral downward in the relationship.
Five questions can be the answer for any relationship you want to optimize. If you’d like, check out Stanier’s new book, How to Work with (Almost) Anyone.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
A strategy for greater happiness can be gleaned from, of all things, the hummingbird. Imagine if you thought of the collection of experiences you have at your disposal in life, as a vast field of flowers. The goal is to buzz from flower to flower, experience to experience, taking what’s sweet about each experience, savoring it, then vigorously buzzing over to the next “flower.”
Yes, I’m saying that greater happiness comes from being a nectar collector. Put energy into being one.