TagPractical Management Lessons

When Good Meetings Go Bad

Once upon a time, I was in an all-day meeting. It started at 8am sharp and was scheduled to go until at least 6pm. Presentation after presentation. Lots of talking and lots of slides. Not a lot of breaks.

Sometime after lunch, I started to lose focus. My mind started to wander. And so did my eyes.

My eyes landed on the phone of the co-worker seated next to me. He was texting. I didn’t want to be obvious in my bored nosiness so I couldn’t see what was said. But I know what came back as the response.

Ta-tas. Puppies. Jugs. Tiggle-bitties … BOOBS!!! Big ol’ boobs!!!!

My co-worker was sexting. In the middle of the meeting. And in my nosy boredom, I’d stumbled on his girlfriend’s booby pics.

It was like a car crash.

I tried to look away — but I couldn’t. I was freaking out — but couldn’t say a word. It was so awkward and uncomfortable — and hilarious!

As it gets more difficult for management to be unreachable for long periods, it becomes more common to see smart phones in our meeting rooms … Inevitably this leads to people emailing about other topics during meetings and texting answers to quick questions from staff. It also leads to loafing behavior like gaming, checking social media, online banking, personal errand and calendar prep, and even sexting.

Have I done these things? Yep. Every single one. More than once.

It is nearly impossible to keep a room full of adults fully focused for a meeting, especially when it lasts all day. I’m not sure it is realistic to expect people to hold it together for that long when we all have so many other things pulling at us in any given moment.

Most employers nowadays don’t care. Attendees at meetings are welcome to bring their smart phones and tablets to meetings so they can multi-task.

Others find it upsetting. Attendees at meetings need to be focused on discussing and resolving the agenda items. And they need to show respect and appreciation for the meeting organizer by being fully present and attentive.

If you fall into the latter group and want attendees to be more focused in your meetings, here are a few tips you can use:

  • Declare the meeting a device free zone.  Instruct attendees to leave their devices outside the meeting or designate a place for them to put their devices while the meeting is in session.
  • Take longer or more frequent breaks. Schedule breaks specifically for device checking. We often don’t give enough time for lunch, restroom and checking/returning messages. Make sure your break schedule allots for this.
  • Call out abusers. If someone is more into their device than the meeting, politely call them out. Emphasis on polite. Suggest they take a break and step out to handle their issues in a way that doesn’t leave hard feelings or tension.
  • Gamify disruptions. At the start of the meeting, ask attendees to place their phones on the table upside-down. Let them know that turning their phones over will result in penalties like having to wear a funny hat or glasses or gloves. Keep a count and give a cool prize at the end of the day for the least distracted attendee.

Love them or hate them or love to hate them, meetings are a necessary part of the world of work. Whatever we can do to make them more effective, bearable and fun is worthwhile effort.

But the next time you’re bored in a meeting, DO NOT attempt to read your co-worker’s texts. There’s no telling what you’ll see.

 

Finding the “Flow” at Work

A couple weeks ago, I downloaded the game app “Flow” onto my phone and tablet. It’s a game where you connect matching colors to fill the board space. The colors cannot cross or overlap; they cannot go outside the game board. You win by successfully matching the colors and then you move onto the next board in the series, then to a new difficulty level or time trial.

One night, I was playing to try to clear my mind after a rough day — and the game inspired my approach to resolve a lingering work issue! So I decided to share some of what I learned here.

Your flow should not block the flow of others.

flow1

There really is enough space and resources for everyone.

flow3

Sometimes the best way is the shortest, easiest and most obvious.

flow4

Sometimes you have to take the long way around to benefit others.

flow2

When everyone is in their flow, it’s really beautiful.

flow5

 

Being in the flow at work requires clear, consistent communication. Being in the flow at work requires willingness to share space and resources. Being in the flow at work requires falling back at some times and stepping up at others. Being in the flow at work requires willingness to share responsibility for the good and the bad.

Being in the flow at work isn’t easy. It will take time and effort to find the right flow. It will take time and effort to maintain it … And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, it will be time to move to another level and establish a new flow.

Finding the flow never gets easier. Finding the flow never stops being necessary. The only options are to find the flow or quit altogether.

Because finding the flow is the point of the game. Keep playing and don’t give up.

 

HR and Sorority Sisters

I am a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I crossed in November 1996 through the Rho Rho Chapter  of the University of Richmond. I treasure my membership and affiliation with my Sorority and the relationships I share with my Sorors. I’ve written about it on this blog (read HERE) — and the post remains one of the most popular ever.

I also love reality television. Judge me if you want to — but I am completely entertained by the drama. All the Real Housewives, all the Love & Hip Hops … I watch them all. Sorrynotsorry.

When I heard VH1 was going to feature members of Delta and the other historically Black sororities on their new reality show Sorority Sisters, I was nervous and very skeptical about it. The idea of seeing women on one of these shows as if they represent my Sorority and all of its members just did not sit right with me … Membership in any Greek Letter organization is built on traditions that aren’t for the public at large to see or know about. How would this work in the reality TV space? MTV tried it years ago (yep, they did. And I watched! My love of reality TV drama goes back over 20 years) — and it was pretty much a disaster. How would VH1 do it differently or better? It was hard to be hopeful looking at their roster of shows like Mob Wives, Basketball Wives and who can ever forget the Flavor of Love series …

Yikes.

Still, I decided to give the show a fair chance so I watched the premiere episode … It was as bad if not worse than I thought it would. I texted and chatted with my own Sorority sisters throughout the airing the horror of it — and I vowed that would be my first and only time watching the show.

I’ve kept that vow.

Almost immediately after the first show, I began seeing petitions and calls for boycott and directives from Sorority headquarters about the show … Just as quickly, I began seeing posts asking why the sororities and the members were so upset about the show. Had it struck a nerve because it was too close to the truth? Why care about this show and not the others?

When I examined my own feelings and reasons for being upset about the show, the reasons spoke back to me in my inner HR voice.

Whether it is the Sorority you joined or the Company you work for, you don’t get to speak or act on behalf of an organization you’re a part of without their permission. If you ignore this and act anyway, you will face scrutiny, consequences and repercussions.

Every day, HR deals with employees who behave badly while representing the organization. People say and do all kinds of inappropriate, rude things to each other at work. Social media and other interactions outside office hours just add to the possibilities for things going awry — not just for managers but for all employees … When this happens, the organization and the other members of it get to feel some kind of way about it. And the organization can take punitive or corrective action as a result.  In most cases, it will because the organization has to protect its brand reputation and to mitigate liability.

That’s my issue with with the show Sorority Sisters … If people want to be an amplified, exaggerated version of themselves on television or social media, I don’t really care. I think it is a bad idea and a super wack way to be — but whatevs. I can watch/follow or I can turn the channel/unfollow if it doesn’t entertain me … However, when you go on television or social media and claim to represent an organization, you will come under  much more scrutiny and you may face negative consequences that you didn’t want, anticipate or bargain for.

In the case of Sorority Sisters, several of the women who appear on the show have been suspended from active membership by their organizations. The #BoycottSororitySisters movement has caused many sponsors to pull out of the show. If the show survives to a 2nd season, I would be really shocked … And I hope everyone learns lessons and has productive dialogue about 1) what really makes for good television, 2) what organizations can/cannot regulate with their members and 3) the undeniable power of unity in the Black community toward a single goal.

If not, stay tuned because I’m not quite done talking on these topics. Boom.

In closing, I want to wish a Happy 102nd Founders Day to all my Sorors of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc … May our history and legacy of scholarship, sisterhood or service continue and strengthen.

Stop Whining And Start Winning At Work

So I wrote a post in November and caught some flack. In “How To Delegate Effectively – Part 2”, I said you should never delegate to your boss because it’s essentially whining.

But but but Buzz, sometimes I really am super busy. Just because I’m not the boss doesn’t mean I don’t have lots to do, too. You’re telling me that if I’m honest about that with my boss, I’m wrong?

Maybe I didn’t accept the assignment because I’m not interested in learning that task. Are you really saying that’s not OK? Are you telling me I can never say no? Are you telling me I just have to do whatever work my boss give me?

In a word … Yes.

Yes, you’re wrong. Yes, that really is not OK. Yes, I’m telling you that you can never say no. Yes, I’m telling you to do whatever work your boss gives you.

Yes. All the yes.

Unless you’re being asked to do something illegal, immoral or unethical, you should do what you’re asked — even if you’re really busy doing other stuff and even if the task isn’t something that especially interests you.

Here’s why:

  • All tasks have value … Whether it is some really important, highly visible project or taking out the trash, all tasks add to your learning, knowing and professional experience. That’s how you should embrace the work that is assigned to you, even if it is not something you’re especially interested in doing or learning more about. Refusing work delegated to you, no matter the reason or how politely you do it, flies in the face of this — and you’ll come off looking unappreciative and unwilling.
  • No one cares that you’re busy, especially your boss. If your boss cared that you’re busy, your boss wouldn’t have assigned the task to you … I know that’s harsh — but it’s generally true. Your boss knows the work you’re doing. And if your boss knows and is giving you more work, there’s a reason. Maybe it’s a test. Maybe it’s for learning. Maybe it’s because you’re busy but your boss is busier. Maybe your boss is a lazy, stupid, arrogant jerkface who likes to watch you suffer (because that’s what you’re really thinking). The reason is ultimately irrelevant because …
  • Not doing the tasks assigned to you is insubordinate and grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment … I know no one likes to hear that — but it is still true. I’m not sure who started the rumor that refusing assignments and talking negatively about and to your boss was acceptable and cool. It’s not and it isn’t. Doing it could get you in more trouble than you want. Don’t hurt your reputation or your livelihood by being insolent and argumentative.

 

Fine, Buzz. I get it. But if I can’t refuse the task, what can I do?

 

Try this instead:

  • Ask about the learning goal is for the task. “Hey boss, is there something specific you want me to gain from this? I just want to be sure so I know what to look out for and focus on as I’m working on this.” Understanding the objective can help you get into the spirit of the activity, even if it’s not something you love or truly want to do.
  • Ask for help setting priorities. “Hey boss, can I have about 10 minutes of your time to go over my to-do list? I could use your help setting priorities so I can be sure to meet all my deadlines.” With your boss fully aware of your work and on your side for the order in which things should be done, you’re free to attack all the tasks without worry for what might get missed.

 

Approach the tasks assigned to you with an open mind and a willing spirit. Always and in all ways.

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