Look where you’re going!

People looking through binoculars
I’m all for taking stock – especially this time of year, it’s important to see how you’ve measured up against your goals. Once that’s done, though, it doesn’t do any good to keep rehashing your old mistakes. Figure out how to go forward, and understand your course corrections, then set your eyes on the future. 

This afternoon I had an opportunity to catch up with a board member I used to serve with. He was lamenting that there are always a couple of people in the organization who are stuck on “replay”, always bringing up some past transgression that’s long done. They’re the same people who are unwilling to try anything new, or examine their own part in any so-called failures. 

Does this sound familiar? Do you have team members who would rather grouse about what didn’t work in the past, than to try and discover a better way forward? Ultimately, these individuals aren’t helping the team. It’s worth having a quiet conversation offline, to remind them in advance of the next meeting, that you’re focused on the future. Here are some other ways to prime them for the right kind of action:

  1. Ask them to describe in writing the most persistent problem that exists today – and to list five or ten possible solutions. Share their most positive ideas with the team, so they feel acknowledged. You want to reinforce the behaviour you’re working to create.
  2. At the meeting, ask them to be a note-taker and reporter for the group. This may not stop them from airing their grievances, but it will make them listen more carefully to people who are expressing more positive opinions – and positivity can be contagious.
  3. Acknowledge that problems do occur, and engage them in telling a story of what kinds of solutions have made positive improvements in other situations. Then ask them to describe how similar approaches might be used here.

If you’ve given your best effort to be sure their voice is heard, you’ve done your work. Keep repeating your mission and make sure the meeting ground rules are clear. And if necessary, find a project that will consume their time elsewhere. Then, eyes forward. Face the future, and plot your course.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners and Founders here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients see everything they need to know to make better decisions for their organizations. Looking for a facilitator who can help you have richer, more robust conversations? Let’s talk. In the meantime, you can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn – or you can sign up to get useful business ideas sent right to your inbox, using the handy button below. 

Sometimes you need a disguise…

Image by Nancy Sticke from Pixabay
I know, we’re a day early. But since many of you are already eating the candy, and I thought I could use one more pumpkin-and-costume graphic, with puppies, we’re posting a day early. This week I had a lovely time with connections and colleagues from the Toronto Product Management Association, where I was sharing a facilitator’s-eye view of meetings and how to make them work for you. My first rule: treat your colleagues like you would treat your customers – give them and their ideas the same level of respect and consideration.  No one likes meetings, for sure, but there are some key things that make them run more smoothly:
  1. Curate who needs to be in the room.
  2. Make sure you hold only one kind of meeting, per meeting (status update/info sharing, decision making/problem solving, ideation/creation, team building). 
  3. Set an agenda and communicate the 5Ws of the meeting in advance.
  4. Respect people’s time and contribution by ensuring they are heard, using their time wisely, and doing what you promised (and only that). 
  5. Make space for what doesn’t fit by using a parking lot.
  6. Use a tool like the Ivory Taboo Tower* to let people mention the unmentionable.
  7. Leave with actions.
  8. Follow up with notes that parallel the agenda, summarize discoveries, and give a who, when, what to the actions.

I was thrilled with the enthusiastic response, and I really empathized with some of the questions afterward. These included:

  1. How do I keep from getting stuck always being the one taking notes at the meeting? Note that this question almost always comes from women. (Check this out). 
  2. What if my boss brings someone along who isn’t on my curated list of who should be in the room?  (Give them an assignment like managing the parking lot or taking notes – another reason not to always be the person above). 
  3. How do I get someone to do a task that really is their responsibility, but I’m getting measured for it? (This is where those attractive costumed pups come in at the top of the page – disguise it as something they want to do. And also, if you’re being measured on the actions of people who don’t work for you…that’s a whole nother discussion).
  4. What can you do about a boardroom bully? (We talked about that here). 

What meeting challenges do you have? Steve and I are happy to try and address those in future posts. Let us know in the comments below, or email us with your questions. Product management (brand management, marketing management, roadmap management)…is people management. People are our specialty.

*The Ivory Taboo Tower is a “secret parking lot” out of the room, or on a discreet wall, where people can note topics that are taboo to talk about, and yet are having an impact on getting things done, agreeing, or moving forward. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA, along with Steve Willson. We help you and your company to see everything you need to know to make better decisions, so you can find, understand, and keep customers. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook, and if you’d like more news you can use, delivered straight to your inbox, click the handy button below to sign up. 

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Image by Birgl from Pixabay
It’s the Friday before a long weekend. A deadline is looming. You only have today to make a decision about your big launch. And goodness only knows no one wants to be working on Labour Day. Fortunately, the usual naysayers didn’t make the meeting – they’ve already headed to the cottage. Everyone at the table has been carefully selected because they’re committed to getting the work done. You’ve set the end time for 3pm so you can submit the recommendations and all be on your way. What could possibly go wrong? Here are some last-minute checks to make sure you get finished on time.

First, congratulations on the time constraint, maybe. Time constraints do signal that this is not the time for endless discussion. But they can also mean that people who need a lot of time to express themselves, may simply shut down or acquiesce, instead of giving valuable feedback. 

Does everyone know the purpose of the meeting? If you haven’t set a clear agenda stating that this is a decision-making meeting (as opposed to an information/status update meeting or an idea-generating meeting, even the best people can arrive with the wrong idea, dragging out the conversation because they feel like they weren’t heard at the last meeting. 

Do you have as much information as possible, readily at hand? Save time by running around looking for data or feedback you’ve already gathered in advance. Make sure it is already assembled in one place, and that a copy has been forwarded to the attendees in advance of the meeting, in case they need more time to process.

Did you gather that information collaboratively? In the video on Mind the Product’s blog, Tricia Wang points out that you are not the voice of the customer. None of you. And while we try not to use never, always, all, none, and everyone in a collaborative environment, we’re with her on this one. 

Did you appoint a decider? The thing about urgent decisions, is that they must be made. Sometimes, even in the face of indecision. There may also be someone who can ultimately overrule whatever you decide. They need to be in the room. If they can’t (sound of screeching brakes), you may just have to push out the deadline. 

If you’ve done all this, and someone is still arguing, filibustering, or sulking in the corner because they’re not being heard, it’s time to step back and start over. And if the team can’t agree that this is a decision-making meeting, that decision may just have to wait for Tuesday, because you’ve got bigger problems to solve. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m a Partner and CEO here at PANOPTIKA. I’m also a researcher, strategist and facilitator who works with clients to help them hear the voice of their customer, figure out how to use what they’ve learned, and make better decisions. You can also find me, and my partner Steve Willson, on Twitter or LinkedIn. Want more News You Can Use delivered right to your inbox? Click the handy button, below. 

What are we deciding, exactly?

Business people expressing different opinions
One of the challenges when there has been pent-up demand for action, is that if a team comes forward to figure out the way forward, each member has his or own stake in the decisions as well. Everyone brings emotions, needs, agendas, perspectives, and old wounds to the table. That’s why it is so important to ask this question at the outset, and to not move forward until there is agreement:

“What are we deciding?”

Then, if the process gets sidetracked by the many agendas at the table, or an individual needs to be heard, or something else takes the conversation in an unintended direction (as it invariably will), any member can get things back on track by asking, “What are we deciding, again? Let’s park everything else that doesn’t relate to this direct decision, and get back to those items once we have decided.” This is a way to refocus the conversation on the decision, separate from people’s individual needs, yet without suggesting that any of the “sidetracks” are invalid or not worth discussing.

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or a better frame of reference. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.