Meetings

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Small Change?

If a butterfly flaps its wings…

On a recent workshop focused on personally coping with and adapting to change and uncertainty, the point was raised that we often don’t recognise small change in our lives as significant. 

When we get made redundant or join a new company or buy a new house, these ‘big ticket’ items stand out in our memories as significant. 

We might give ourselves time to consider the effects of that change and wonder how to accept the new normal.  But what about those smaller changes in life that can have equally big impact? 

Getting a new boss or colleague or losing a close colleague as they choose to leave the business or are made redundant?  Realising an aspect of our work has changed or that our expectations of something have changed.  These things can cause emotional turmoil and upset our routines, but do we recognise them?

You may have come across the concept of ‘The Change Curve’ before?

It provides an overview of the emotions that people go through when faced with change. It considers the impact of change over time in terms of self-esteem and morale and identifies four broad, common responses to change:

Denial, Frustration, Experimentation and Integration

This is a fluid curve and people will go through each area at different rates.

Dealing with resistance to change is often a case of understanding where someone is in the process of responding to change – and then helping them move towards a more positive response.

Recognising where people are, is an important first step to having the impact you desire – what might it be like to be in each of these four areas? What would you hear people saying? What would indicate someone was in this area of response to change? Thinking this through will help you recognise the signs through behaviour – then how can we help people move forward towards Commitment?

Denial—clues How to move on
Shock, anger

Fighting the outcome, saying why this should not happen

Claiming the change will not go ahead

Confront with evidence of the reality: what will change and what will stay the same

Create awareness of what will happen when

Describe the problem / reason for the change & discuss the implications for the future

Take time to listen and understand concerns

Resistance— clues How to move on
Pulling back from work, doing the minimum

Stating how they will not engage with the change

Showing frustration or going quiet

 

Take time to listen and understand concerns

Look for quick wins—help them see how the change could benefit them in the short-term

Remove barriers to change

Challenge assumptions: what do we know vs what is opinion or a guess

Listen to understand

Be supportive

Exploration—clues How to move on
Suggesting ideas on how the future might work / feel

Trying out working with aspects of the “new normal”

Asking questions about how things will work and how to make the best of the situation

Explore solutions: how could you help this work better?

Focus people on priorities

Set short-term goals and give feedback on progress

Get people involved

Commitment—clues How to help people stay here
Talks less about the way things used to be and more about making the new normal work

Shares ideas on getting the best out of the new way of working

Talks openly about both successes and challenges, focused on finding ways to make things better

Focus people on results

Look towards the future

Set clear goals, adding in some longer-term aspirations and giving regular feedback on progress

Acknowledge and recognise / reward progress and achievements

The focus with these tips is to help people accept change and recognise their new normal, so that they can adapt and make the most of it. So what is going on in your life that may not be a big ticket change item, but still requires you to go through this journey?

How might it help you to consider where you are experiencing frustration or even denial and work towards acceptance and adapting to this new life?

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Effective Meetings

meetingWe all love meetings right?  Er, that’ll be a no then.

According to a Barco survey in 2013, more than 60% of all meetings we go to don’t have a defined agenda, and even more incredibly – more than 50% don’t have the right people attending!

Ask a manager their greatest challenge and you tend to hear different things.  Ask them what gets in their way and there is almost unanimous agreement on time: Specifically, having too much time wasted in meetings.

It has become perfectly acceptable to have a whole day of meetings and never question the value gained or even worse, the cost of that time.  Based on our conversations with clients, global research on meeting inefficiency and experience using various best practices, we have found that decisions can be made in a fraction of the time and meetings can be extremely effective.

One of the great ways of doing this is by using Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, you can find out more by following me.

It’s hard to train an approach unless you have seen it in practice.  We so we highly recommend you pull in an expert, naturally we can help but there are plenty of alternative providers you could choose.

Totem Gummi Bears

Isn’t this just common sense?  Why do we need training?

The simple answer is yes, this is common sense.  That doesn’t mean though that we don’t need reminding how to put common sense into practice.

Over the years of using these techniques, we have found two key themes emerging about managers’ experience of learning meeting efficiency approaches.

Firstly, many people have been taught the principles in theory.  For example, many people have read De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats or have been trained to write better agenda items and clear minutes.  We find that hearing or reading about such things tends to switch people off – they cannot see it working and therefore doubt the effectiveness of the approach.

This is why we always combine the training workshop with a live meeting to demonstrate the techniques and the impact they have.

Secondly, just because something is common sense, it doesn’t mean we’re already doing it.  Seeing the approach work in your context and learning how you can apply it simply as a team or business enables you to move past what makes sense as a concept to real practical benefit.  We find that when clients tell us these approaches don’t work, it is simply because they have not seen it executed well and with benefit.

This is why we recommend that we stay with you after the training – to coach and develop your facilitators after their training and ensure they are gaining maximum benefit from the approach.

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HR Jargon Buster

Let’s bust some Jargon!

We love our industry, we really do.  But sometimes it can get a touch difficult keeping up with all the acronyms and buzz words.  This is especially true for new comers to our industry.  We thought it’d be useful to highlight some of the more common phrases and share our understanding of them.

What follows is by no means a definitive list, and has caused plenty of heated debate in our own office about what these definitions should be.  So much debate that this post should really be listed under research.

But we have come to some consensus on 9 of our industry’s most beloved phrases.  Below we give Totem’s definition of each one, starting with our favourite…

Talent

The definition of talent depends on the organisation.  Some companies talk about their “top talent,” and they tend to identify high-flyers based on previous performance and potential to become future leaders.  This definition is usually what is being referred to in “talent development.”  Other companies use a broader definition that the workforce is the talent – the focus of business, the most critical resource.  This broader definition is usually what is being referred to in the term “talent management.”

Talent Development

Keeping hold of our best people is a focus for every organisation.  Talent Development describes the process of identifying top talent or high-flyers, and the development of those individuals.  This usually forms a part of succession planning, which involves planning who will take on critical roles in the business when the current post-holder leaves.  If your CFO were to leave tomorrow, who is ready now to step into that position?  What are you doing to develop your top talent, so that they are ready to move into critical roles?  These are the risks that talent development is designed to avoid.

Talent Pool

Usually a group of individuals in an organisation who have been identified as high-flyers or top talent.  The company will normally invest in this group’s development – see talent development.  Talent pools are also referred to in a recruitment context, when we talk about the talent pool in the market we can select from – i.e. the talent or skilled individuals appropriate for our role, that we would like to recruit from.  Forward-thinking, pro-active organisations will often have a constant view of the external talent pool, using tools like Linked In to keep in touch with individuals they may one day like to recruit or head-hunt.

Talent Management

This is quite simply good people management, but the new name recognises that people are our talent; our most critical resource.  Talent Management describes a broad area of work that encompasses recruitment, learning and development, engagement, talent development, leadership development, succession planning, critical role analysis and outplacement.

Succession Planning

Planning for the succession of the business and its people.  This is the name for a critical business practice of thinking through who will take on important jobs if someone should leave.  “Where is our next CEO coming from?”  And, “what would we do if the FD left tomorrow?”  Questions like these need to be answered, so we plan by identifying individuals that may have the potential to do those roles, then ‘groom’ them for the position.

Leadership Development

Leadership development tends to be delivered to develop certain skills or behaviours in the senior team.  It can often come about following a change in the business that requires a different kind of leadership style, or a general realisation that things are not as the could be.  It is difficult to develop anything until you know what you’re aiming for and where you are now.  We begin by working with clients to understand what they need from their leadership team.  This can come in the shape of organisational values and competency frameworks or a more specific review of leadership competencies required to meet business objectives.  We then design some way of measuring where each leader is performing now against that benchmark, usually through a development centre, personality profiling and 360 feedback.

Critical Role Analysis

A way of finding out what the most important roles in a business are, and how to plan for people leaving.  Traditionally, succession planning has targeted development for top Director-level roles, but are these the most critical roles in the business?  We identify the truly critical roles and therefore concerning risks in the business, so that high-potential individuals can be targeted and developed for the most important jobs.

Generation X, Y, Z

These terms are used to describe a certain demographic, where trends have been observed regarding communications experience, employee working preferences and career tendencies.  Generation X is the baby-boomer generation, born post World War 2 and generally expecting more of a job for life.  Y is the generation born between roughly 1970 and 1990, growing up with more exposure to the internet and tending to change jobs every 3 years.  Generation Z, born post 1991, has only known a world of the internet, mobile phones and fast-moving information.  Employees from this generation have very high demands of employers, including a focus on work-life balance, and tend to like to move jobs every 1-2 years.

360 Feedback

Essentially means all-round feedback.  We ask for feedback on job performance and behaviour from the individual, their manager, peers, direct reports and sometimes even their clients or customers.  This provides a much broader indication of strengths and development areas than we could get from just self-scoring or manager feedback.  This can be useful for 1:1 coaching, leadership development, skills gap analysis and many more conversations.

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Lotus Flower Creativity Tool

Totem-Lotus-Flower-400x265Bringing back the genius with Petals of Creativity

There’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that we’re actually all born geniuses.  By genius we mean a person who displays exceptional creative ability, or divergent thinking. Ken Robinson gives an outstanding account of this in the video here (click forward to 7mins40 if you’re tight on time and just want the relevant bit).

But by the time we’ve become young adults, our linear and regimented education system has taken its toll, we’ve learned that there is one right answer to every question and we have been strongly encouraged to stick with that.  So when our employer one day tells us they want us to be creative, to innovate, to think outside the box or brainstorm – we can face a pretty serious challenge.

Aside from not having developed skills and practice in creative thinking, we also face the challenge of our lazy brains.  It’s a good thing that our brains are lazy and operate on auto-pilot most of the time, because otherwise we’d be reaching burnout many times per day.  We know our route to work, how to drive the car, how to interact with colleagues in an appropriate way (sometimes!) and how to get routine jobs done.

The issue is that when we are confronted with a new challenge, we go into that same autopilot response.  We subconsciously jump in rapid speed to something in our past that has worked before – and that becomes our solution.

Totem Lollipops

Someone slightly more reflective might come up with two or three ideas to consider – but again these come to mind quite quickly based on previous experiences and our beliefs.  We analytically select the most promising approach based on our past experiences, and we have our best solution.

This paints a bleak picture – we have been trained not to think in a divergent or lateral way, and our brains are so quick to come up with an autopilot answer anyway, creativity is going to be a struggle.

There are thankfully well researched tools and ideas that can help us, by giving us a structure or framework for stepping out of our usual ways of thinking.  The creative thinking tools split into two types: One encourages you to think of lots of very different ideas, encouraging associative thinking; whilst the other encourages you to really drill down into a particular theme, investigate your assumptions and move beyond them.  This second type is great for really interrogating an issue or problem – and the Lotus Flower technique is one of the most powerful.

Originally developed by Yasuo Matsumura of Clover Management Research in Chiba City, Japan, the Lotus flower technique helps you to organise your thinking around significant themes, starting with a central subject and expanding into themes.  Just like a flower opens to reveal more of its scent and its bloom, so this exercise enables us to fully appreciate and explore the creative opportunities inherent in a particular problem.

Lotus-Blossom-720-x-340

Round 1: Place an open question in the centre of the flower and ask people to generate as many ideas as they can in response IN 2 MINUTES – the time is important because it prevents people self-judging and thinking too hard. This round is about getting the generic ideas and the assumptions out in the open.

Let’s say as an example that the question was “how can we attract more customers to our website?”  A 2 minute brainstorm will get out all the classic things we’ve tried before, and it can highlight assumptions being made like “we don’t want to invest any money in this, so I’ve only come up with cost-free options” or “we won’t go for the Google Adwords approach because it didn’t work last time.”

Round 2: Take each of the ideas and “re-pollinate” them, giving pairs or trios of people other people’s ideas to work with.  The groups are given 15-20 minutes to generate 8 more complete ideas.  It is very important at this point that you introduce constraints to the ideas – ie some criteria on what you’re looking for and what sort of ideas you want people to develop.

In our website example, we might say that we want ideas to be specifically describing what exactly we would do.  We might also say that all ideas need to be things each person can directly do something about, avoiding the tendency to say other departments need to do X and Y.

Each group then presents their ideas and the next step would be to choose the best ones and develop them further – but that’s another story…..

Any final idea can of course form the centre of a new lotus flower and the process can begin again.

We may have lost our natural creative genius through our schooling, but with some careful facilitation and some useful tools, we can still be great collaborative innovators.

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Six Thinking Hats

hatsIf we’re trying to make a decision, how do we stop the most critical person being the one who gets all the airspace?

Have we really considered all the angles when we make decisions?

What questions should I ask in a meeting?

These are questions we get asked a lot by business leaders, HR professionals and anyone who is questioning the value of the time we all spend in meetings.  Based on the concept of Six Thinking Hats, our experience and our focus on keeping it simple, we have developed an approach that works for making decisions, reviewing an idea and a wide range of other contexts.

This is an overview of how it works and how you can do it yourself.

Jelly Bean Diversity

Edward de Bono revolutionised the way we consider decision making and thinking overall.  He highlighted that since the Greek philosophers we have celebrated critical thinkers.  It is the most critical person in a meeting who gets the most airspace.  And what is the outcome of too much critical thinking? A lack of action.

De Bono highlighted the importance of more balance in our thinking, challenging us to yes be critical, as well as positive, creative, data driven, emotionally open and structured.

So how does this work in practice?

For meetings to be effective we need to be thinking in the same direction.  How often do we waste hours in meetings playing the tennis of,

“I agree with Richard, but I’m not convinced that will work here.”

“Well I disagree with that, we’ve got early data telling us it does work.”

“Yes but that was only in the area of…” and so on.

This is thinking in opposing directions which is unproductive.  De Bono showed us a simple way to all think in the same direction, which takes disciplined facilitation and works extremely well.

The six hats represent six types of thinking – and we can all put on every single hat.  Some people take this to the letter, have people wearing coloured hats and stick to the structure very strictly.  We like keeping it simple, so we tend to simply ask the questions that we find helpful under each hat – and if someone goes off topic, we remind them we’re only looking at this angle at the moment.

Totem Lollipops

We’ve listed some of the questions we find most helpful here under each of the topics or hats for decision making and considering a challenge:

Positive

  • What is good about this idea?
  • What are the benefits of this approach?
  • What could be a potential benefit of this?
  • What are the positive features?

Critical

What is not so good about this?

  • What are the risks?
  • What could go wrong?
  • What experience tells us this might not work?

Creative

  • What could we do to make this better?
  • What new ideas could grow out of what we have already discussed?
  • What else could we do to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks?
  • How could we overcome barriers to doing this or things that have stopped it from working before?

Data-driven

  • What information do we already have to help us make a decision?
  • What further information do we need to make a decision about this?
  • What data will we want to monitor our success?
  • What other data might be interesting to look at?  What might that tell us?

Intuitive

  • We’ve talked rationally about this, now let’s just acknowledge that we’ll each have an emotional or intuitive reaction to the idea as well. How do you feel about it / what does your gut tell you?
  • What are you excited about?
  • What are your fears?
  • How might this affect you personally ?

The final topic or hat is the process or structure of facilitation itself.  You might use this in your own preparation time, thinking about how to best structure the meeting, or it may be that you use the concept of structure to end the meeting with questions like:

  • What have we agreed?
  • What will happen next?
  • Who will do that?
  • When will we review that?

You can find out more in Edward De Bono’s frankly amazing book, click the picture and be whisked away!

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