Meeting Optimization & the Unmeeting

At the head of the boardroom table, empty chairs There isn’t a manager I haven’t met who hasn’t rolled their eyes at the mention of scheduling a “meeting,” from time to time. Some are essential and others not so much. How does one optimize meetings then (more tips from some of the world’s productive people as found at fast company.com)? Ask yourself next time if you really need to schedule that meeting or if it’s just a quick phone call or a drop-by-the-office kind of one-on-one query.  Meetings should address some kind of call to action and highlight new and important information requiring the attention of all.

Some of my most productive meetings came about when the team was called to kick-off a project or to start off the quarter. Following that, what worked well was breaking into one-on-one phone conversations or paired collaborative meet-ups as needed before the team reported in mid-point and end of the project.

Setting expectations helps immensely. This tip works for both collaborators and clients. I schedule and let my meeting partners know that it will only be for 20 minutes or 1/2 an hour and this takes care of any hums and haws.  The onus is then on the person who calls the meeting to be tactfully direct, stay on topic and to prepare thoroughly for the meeting. Ideally this should always be the case, but for many without the idea of having a 20 minute clock stare at them to finish up (think TED speaker style), some meetings can go unproductively long.

Dressing down the pretense of the meeting also helps as a lot of meeting goers feel nervous, be it the uncertainty or the formality. Why couldn’t they all be like brain-storming sessions? Fun, engaging, collaborative and productive, shouldn’t this “unmeeting” be the model for getting together with your colleagues to “make it happen?”

This is not to say that you shouldn’t spend time relationship building with your teammates, clients and stakeholders. On the one hand keeping it brief is showing respect for their time, as well as yours. On the other hand, there are other ways and times you can build a relationship other than to have a meeting. Enter coffee breaks or lunch, killing two birds with one stone is always appreciated, you’re going to need to take a break at some point during the day, may as well make it a fun and productive one.

Whatever your style of engagement, maximizing time, being mindful of preparation and staying focused will return some free space back into your schedule. Using your time wisely will pay out in dividends.

Strategies for Difficult Decisions

Two women standing in front of an ice cream counter looking at all the flavor selections.While some of us are decisive, others will avoid making decisions of any kind if they can help it. The majority of us land somewhere in between. The ease or challenge of selection often depends on current context and foreseeable outcomes, as well as interpretation of priorities, but even this ordering is a decision of sorts. I’ve asked myself, if decision making is time consuming and challenging, what are ways that can help with the process?

Questions I’ve come across to risk assess and to prevent the agony of the process:

1. What’s the worst that can happen? vs. What would the best outcome look like?

2. What is my greatest fear in making this decision?

3. On the flip side, what would be the opportunity cost? Another way to think about it is, what lost opportunity would occur if fear is left to influence decision making?

4. This is right about the time that I would ask, “what are the pros and cons?”

5. A most excellent question to ask is, “Why?” As mentioned by author and speaker, Simon Sinek .

The pros and cons list, despite being the obvious mechanism still leaves many stumped. If any of you have reached this point, I have learned from the most surprising lessons of all. We often think that those in leadership roles have made solidly excellent decisions to get where they are. In fact, if you have ever read the back stories of contemporary influential figures (Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz, Martha Stewart and Oprah,  they have made their fair share of mistakes and confronted multiple setbacks and have somehow gone out of their comfort zone and developed the courage to learn and move forward from them, and despite them. And in some cases, leaders are not necessarily the best to learn from either, for more on Why good leaders make bad decisions,” Harvard Business Review (Campbell, Whitehead and Finkelstein, 2009) provides behavioral insight on how leaders can over rely on experience and habit to consider choices.

In reality, why shouldn’t we take stock of our own individual contexts, where we are in life for example, and think about how a decision can affect ourselves and others around us from there? According to this article on pscyhcentral.com and others, going with your intuition can also be helpful, the question is do you trust your own gut? From observation people who make sound decisions tend to think about how they can manage the risks involved and potential outcomes in a timely manner, no matter good or bad, and take action. Many times over, they have a quick moment of reflection, asking themselves why before doing so. Reflection has been a constant companion in my life’s journey. Questioning why comes with the territory, though challenging, the key is not to over think it. Setting a reasonable deadline to make decisions can help too.

Lessons We Can Learn from Great Organizations: Disrupting the Family

Inukshuk formation overlooking English Bay

To act in the capacity of a human, an Inukshuk may also signify a change of direction from an intended course (thecanadianencyclopedia.ca).

I spend a lot of late nights cultivating relationships with family and friends. Like any another evening, I was speaking to a close confidante, Peter (Pseudonym), about his issues in relating. He yearns to have a good relationship with his extended family members, but he’s not sure if it’s possible. He’s also afraid of rejection and the idea of giving of himself and not having any emotion, or representation of it, reciprocated. The main conundrum from what I could gather from observation and conversation is that family feuds of the past have haunted familial relationships of this current generation. The result: the current generation of cousins wants to be on good terms with one another, but don’t know how, or revert back to old ways.

This is where I start to think, and love to apply the idea of how the new way of business and leadership can so greatly benefit Peter’s issue. Instead of dwelling on the past, I asked my friend, “Why don’t you disrupt your family’s culture by being the first to be a role model of future behavior? If you are so uncomfortable with the awkwardness of the current state, why don’t you try shaking things up?” The funny thing here is that Peter is a serial entrepreneur, yet he would never think to apply his professional lessons to his family life. It’s interesting how we’re so compartmentalized in our thought processes sometimes (not that I should be one to talk).

“Ultimately, great companies execute and disrupt at the same time. Often they disrupt themselves. “

“Truly great companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Starbucks constantly find new ways to become relevant to us and remain an essential part of our lives. When analyzed closely, you can see that they are simultaneously executing and innovating.”

Disrupt or Be Disrupted by John Kotter for Forbes.com

What can be done for the success of an organization can be very much applied to the structure of the family. In the same way that entrepreneurial thought leadership, execution and innovation can be used to influence the success of a vision, it can be used to support and motivate the positive relationships amongst organizations and relationships, even one of familial nature. Maybe by creating new ways to interact with relations, with some semblance of relevance, it just might allow for those members to come closer. Just maybe.

Regaining Creative Mojo

Girl sitting at a hotel lounge reading the local paper, learning about the local sceneI found myself at a loss for words, imagery and playful thought early this spring. It was a frustrating experience. Stemming from a busy period of commitments, guilt was weighing heavily on my mind. I needed to spend more time with my family, find some proverbial balance. As it turns out, the gift that frustration provided for my problem-solver-self, was the opportunity to find ways to bring my creative juices back. So what did I do?

Travel – A view of the world from a tangible, yet different, perspective often leads to an enhanced appreciation for the life around us. A lot of the time it leads to the next t0-do on this list. I’ve done weekend road trips that so happened to help me with my last couple of blog posts for instance.

Learn – After attending a technology workshop recently, I felt energized to setup self-development goals for the next five years. Informal or formal versions of learning can be humbling and rewarding, opening up the mind to new ideas professionally and personally, a great exercise for the brain and idea generation.

Give Back – Share what you learn with others, literally and in application. Volunteer work is a great way to give back, share and gain insights into different worlds. My recent online volunteer research experience with the UN has brought so much perspective in working with others across the globe, it helped me develop more empathy and allowed me to view time and resources from a whole other angle.

Connect – Staying in touch with your tribe of supporters, teachers and relatives. Send a quick email or text to say hello, greeting cards are always a nice gesture as well. Meeting for a brief coffee or lunch outing can fit easily into any schedule too. Reading responses from my heart-felt messages to social groups or friends always opens up meaningful internal and external dialogues.

Take Care – It would be such a waste to have creative juices without a vessel to hold and dispense. Regular exercise (even if it’s just merely more walking, see my last post about how I did this with my FitBit), eating well and getting sufficient rest is necessary for a body and mind to be at its optimum. I should be one to speak about this, but trying can only reap benefits, why not?

Whether its seeing the world form a different lens, picking up new ideas, sharing gifts, making connections or trying to stay in shape, disrupting life always brings back creativity without fail. It’s not to say that all of the above has to be undertaken to get there, sometimes just one break from the routine will do. It’s a different kind of busy, one that leads to more creative productivity and hopefully more fulfillment.

How I Became a Fan of Wearble Tech

WearablesWhen news of wearable technology was released, such as Google Glass or Samsung Smartwatch, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. Partially skeptical, how practical would it be? Would it be another added distraction? However, I was also partially intrigued by the idea, would it mean empowerment of decision making with more information about current events and well being at my fingertips? At what cost would these devices come at?

Enter the Fitbit. (Other fitness and wellness bands are also worth mentioning here, the sleek Shine by Misfit is worn by Google Ventures’ General Partner, Kevin Rose. But, anyone looking into one of these gadgets should do some research before taking the plunge. To check what fits your lifestyle and the compatibility of mobile devices, visit sites like cnet.com for product reviews.) After I learned about it from an installment of Bloomberg West, it became a birthday gift to myself. In keeping the celebration of milestones and future longevity, I felt it was the perfect time (or excuse) to start keeping tabs on my health and fitness level.

The Fitbit is an affordable (approximately $99 in May 2014) device that is worn on the wrist. While wearing it, your number of steps and patterns of sleep are tracked. The device can be synced to a mobile device, Android or Apple. With the Fitbit app downloaded, the wearer can check their statistics seamlessly. (The features I refer to are the free tools that come with the application; there are other premium features that users can pay to access.)

Pros:

  • Steps automatically logged whenever taken
  • App updates wearer when close to daily step target
  • Catalyzes consciousness about what is consumed
  • Has the functionality to help a person track their diet, as real time data tracking platform
  • Allows for customization of foods consumed if unlisted

Cons:

  • Logging is a pain for foods consumed
  • Food items in its existing database are limited

Overall the Fitbit helps the wearer become more aware of their lifestyle when it comes to exercise level, food and water consumption. It acts as a healthy habit agent.

I have had the device on for about month. I continue to wear mine, accessorizing it with bracelets and coordinating it with outfits. Since it’s light, I find it fairly comfortable. I find myself more mindful of my movements, water consumption and sleep because of it (wished it came in more fashionable palettes and styles). My next experiment will be to see what happens when I stop wearing it for a period of time. For now, I’m content with my wearable tech.

Finding Favorite Food and Features in the Pacific Northwest: Portland

An opportunity to visit friends in the Emerald city presented an over night side trip to Portland. What did I discover, or rediscover?

Dining

Piazza Italia is a neighbourhood restaurant. Located in the trendy Pearl District, this trattoria’s offerings include the Italian classics, rigatoni bolognese is delicious here, with a nice combination of recommended house favorites. Reservations are recommended as there are early line-ups here for dinner. piazzaportland.com
Piazza Italia on Urbanspoon

Bo Kwon’s Koi Fusion is a food truck favorite amongst those in PDX. To satisfy my curiosity, I waited patiently in line for my bulgogi beef burrito. Asides from the wait, I wasn’t disappointed, the bountiful fresh vegetables, grilled to perfection bulgogi beef and secret sauces all culminated in a tasty experience. For locations visit: koifusionpdx.com
Koi Fusion on Urbanspoon

Shopping

Zupans Market is a modern supermarket carrying an exclusive variety of products. It supports sustainable and local manufacturers. For connoisseurs of fine foods and wine, it seems to be the go-to-shop to find all the necessary lux ingredients, from rare truffles to large format bottles of Cristal. www.zupans.com

Powell’s Bookstore, the legend continues for the world’s largest independent bookstore with its landmark City bookstore location undergoing renovations.  For book buffs its famed mix of new and used inventory is a real treat. I could spend a whole day here. Each visit inevitably results in a new stack of volumes to add to my library. www.powells.com

Accommodations

If you are driving into the city, and you’re booking it last minute, booking directly at the hotel’s website seems to provide the most reasonable rates and many hotels provide price matching offers. Don’t forget that AAA or other recognized automobile association members may be able to take advantage of further discounts or special package offers. Hotelcoupons.com also advertises local accommodation specials specific to the Northwest.

DIY: Personalized Flower Arrangement

This quick and easy little project can bring smiles on Mother’s Day or brighten up a table arrangement for a festive event.

Volunteering: An Inspired Privilege

Volunteer Mentorship in Action

Volunteer Mentorship in Action

April is National Volunteer month, a time to celebrate and to participate in volunteerism around the country. To spice up my blog recently, it dawned on me to share my volunteer experience in my About Me section (coming soon). I always shied away from tooting my own horn about it, but volunteerism should be celebrated. It should inspire. I encourage anyone who can spare a moment to help their communities, big or small, or to support meaningful causes close to their hearts.

Volunteering is great way to give back to your community and the world. Skies the limit. Not only will you feel great about making a difference, but you might learn new skills, meet new friends or gain inspiration from others through the experience. From local opportunities within North America to global ventures in volunteerism, here is a handy short list of general volunteering websites to help you get inspired.

https://volunteer.ca/

http://www.boardmatch.org/

http://www.volunteermatch.org/

http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/

International Women’s Day and Beyond

International Women's Day Purple White LogoIndustrialization was a catalyst in the evolution of social change for women. Ever since post World War I, International Women’s Day is celebrated every March, on the 8th. These days the whole of March is designated to celebrating women’s achievements and to bring awareness to supporting women in need of it. But, just because we’re nearing the end of a month long promotion of awareness, my effort to support the cause won’t end here.

In February of this year, I received the exciting news that my application to the Women’s Economic Empowerment Project for Goodness and Mercy Missions Africa (GMM) was accepted. By March, my research and brainstorming of ideas to generate economic opportunities for the project was well under way. My draft proposal of ideas is at the half way point. By the end of April I hope to present to the Founder of GMM Africa, Rev. Teh Francis, with potentially feasible processes and programs to help more women in Cameroon in the future to become financially independent; to help support their families and communities. To learn more about GMM Africa and their ongoing efforts to empower women economically in Cameroon please view their video feature by Diane Dalton on YouTube at http://youtu.be/lC0XfVdT1QM.

Being Present is a Beautiful Gift

Taking the fundamentals of yoga outside the classroom, I stopped and smelled these beautiful spring blooms while on a recent weekend jaunt around the harbour. I’m glad I did. It was a nice contrast to the usual errand filled routine. Relaxed and more mindful than usual, it allowed me to realign my goals and plans for the upcoming week after taking a moment to just be.

How many of us take any time from our schedules and routines, or look up from our smart phones, to just pause for a second and absorb, enjoy, process and observe what is happening before our eyes? If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been set to auto-pilot, savouring the moments in life, being present, can be a grounding experience. It seems to allow us to forge ahead with strength and motivation.