Friday, August 26, 2005

Management Minute by Cy Charney

Cy Charney, President of Charney & Associates (905-886-5606,, is a leading Canadian management consultant focusing on organizational performance improvement. Following is a brief excerpt from his book, 'The Portable Mentor', published by Stoddart.

Meetings ...Managing People

Achieving your meeting objectives will be easier if you manage the people involved. A variety of behaviours will be demonstrated in any meeting, but there are many ways to deal with each.

Dealing with aggressive behaviour can be tough. Strategies to use include:
  1. Remaining calm. Showing anger allows the aggressors to feel that they have successfully caused you to lose your composure.
  2. Allowing people to vent. If someone wants to discuss a problem that is not on the agenda but that he needs to get off his chest, let him vent for a short while. If his issue is legitimate, albeit off topic, show empathy by agreeing. When he is finished, ask id he is done, and if so whether you can proceed with the topic at hand.
  3. Avoiding giving people a political platform. Don't allow people to use your meeting for their own political agendas. If someone's tone of voice is hostile and she begins to hijack your meeting, intervene when she stops for breath and point out firmly but politely that the matter may be important but that this is not the meeting at which it will be addressed.
  4. Avoiding debates. If a person is totally out of line, making exaggerated claims or suggesting ridiculous ideas, don't debate with him. Canvass his peers to confirm that he alone holds that view. If there is general agreement that the hostile person's argument is invalid, confirm this by saying, "Well, it looks like no one agrees with you, so why don't we agree to discuss this later?" Then move on to the next item on the agenda.
  5. Finding out the reason for a person's anger so that you can deal with it inside or outside the meeting. If that person feels that you emphasize, even though you cannot solve the problem, she will be more inclined to co-operate. This can be done within the meeting, if the issue is relevant, or outside if it is not.
  6. Taking the person aside at a break or at the end of the meeting. Share your observations and frustrations. Ask for help in making the next meeting productive.
You can bring out the best in quiet or withdrawn people if you:
  1. Invite participation by maintaining eye contact and directing questions at them periodically.
  2. Use the person's name when asking questions so no one else can answer.
  3. Ask questions the person should be able to answer to encourage self-esteem.
  4. Sit opposite the quietest person so that your conversation can be directed at him.
  5. Make quiet people feel useful. Give them jobs that will increase their visibility. The role of recorder will ensure that the person is standing up while canvassing ideas from the group.
  6. Use a round robin to collect ideas. This technique gives everyone a chance to express an idea. People who don't have one can pass.
  7. Get opinions on issues by asking questions that require a yes or no response. Praise people without appearing patronizing if they expand on their ideas.
  8. Give people advance notice of subjects to be dealt with in the meeting so they can collect their thoughts.
  9. Canvass their ideas one on one outside the meeting. If necessary, express those ideas to the group, giving due credit for it.
If someone tries to dominate your meeting, you can use many of the same techniques you use to deal with shy people. But they must be used in reverse. For example:
  1. Sit next to the person and keep eye contact to a minimum.
  2. Look at everyone but the dominator when posing questions to the group.
  3. Point out the problem outside the meeting, while expressing your appreciation for the input. Ask for help in keeping everyone involved.
  4. Interject when the person stops to catch breath. You can say, "Thank you. What other opinions are there?"
  5. Indicate your desire to get a variety of opinions before you ask a question.
  6. Get opinions in sequence (round robin), reaching the dominant person last.
If someone tries to sidetrack your meeting, you can:
  1. Post the meeting objectives where they can be seen by all. Before the meeting begins, get agreement to stick to the agenda.
  2. Point to the objective on the wall and ask if people could focus their comments on the central meeting purpose.
  3. Ask how the issue is related to the subject under discussion.
  4. Interrupt when the person takes a breath, with a comment such as "Thank you, but it appears we are on to something else. Could we agree to get back on topic?"
  5. Allot a "Parking Lot" on a flip chart to record issues unrelated to the meeting. Agree to deal with these issues later.
People can be difficult! Meetings can be hard to manage even when attendees are co-operative! Based on my facilitation experience, Cy's are great tips that will help you in a pinch. When we are called in to assist organizations with their meeting challenges that are impacting on their customer service, I share these and many more.

What tip above will be most helpful to you and why? What meeting management tip can you share that works for you and is not in Cy's list? My 'comment section' will open to you when you click on 'comments' immediately below.

Until next time, how can I help you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"More Effective Decision Making"

Life comes with difficult challenges, but individuals can take steps to solve problems more efficiently.

There are five, key steps according to University of Alabama at Birmingham clinical psychologist Timothy Elliott, Ph.D.. These were reported by NewsWise earlier today.

Hopefully, you will find them as helpful as did I. Here are Elliott’s five steps. I’ve suggested a sixth for your consideration:

1. Get the facts! “Don’t try to solve something that you don’t have all of the information about.”

2. Stay positive! “Trying to solve a problem when you’re frustrated or angry only limits your ability to think.”

3. Be creative! “Sometimes the simplest of problems seem complicated because we aren’t willing to be creative in our solutions. Try bouncing some ideas off of a friend or family member.”

4. Consider how well you understand the problem. “Make sure you understand who or what is causing the problem.”

5. Consider the positive and negative outcomes of each possible solution.

My suggestion on the last step is to weight the pros and cons carefully but as quickly as possible. This way you will avoid what I call ‘decision paralysis’.

Have executed the five steps, here’s my sixth …

6. Make your decision comfortably knowing the you have done the best you know how in making the wisest choice. Remember: Life is no fun without some risk. And we learn fastest and best by making mistakes. Babies learn to walk by falling down and getting right back up again.

What are your biggest challenges in making good decisions? What tips(s) would you add to what I’ve shared above? Share what you think and how you feel about the content of this post by clicking on ‘comments’ immediately below.

Until next time, how can I help you?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Practices of Life-Affirming Leaders

These are the practises that the Berkana Institute share as the ones the leaders they work with demonstrate:
  1. Life-affirming leaders are able to nourish and evoke the best qualities in people-their creativity, commitment and caring. To evoke these qualities, leaders use many different processes, but all of these approaches rely on life's innate capacity to self-organize in creative, sustainable, and generous ways. Life-affirming leaders:
  2. Know they cannot lead alone. In these complex times, no one person is smart enough to know what to do. Many different perspectives are necessary in order to gain a fuller understanding of what is happening.
  3. Have more faith in people than they do in themselves. This is especially important in organizations and nations where people have been oppressed or told they're not capable of being creative or powerful. Leaders patiently and courageously insist on peoples' participation as the means to discover their potential and contribute to the organization and community.
  4. Recognize human diversity as a gift, and the human spirit as a blessing. We each see the world differently. When we share these unique perceptions, we gain a larger perspective of what's going on. And it is only our great human spirits that bless us with hope and possibility even in the worst circumstances. media.
  5. Act on the fact that people only support what they create. And only act responsibly for what they care about. Therefore, leaders engage people in anything that affects them. Decision-making processes expand to include more and more voices.
  6. Solve unsolvable problems by bringing new voices into the room. Systems grow healthier as they connect with those formerly excluded. New and different information changes how we define the problem, and make new solutions available.
  7. Use learning as the fundamental process for resiliency, change and growth. When reflection and learning are built in to all activities and projects, people become intelligent. We quickly find workable and innovative solutions. Without reflection, we keep repeating our mistakes.
  8. Offer purposeful work as the necessary condition for people to engage fully. When people know why they're doing their work and connect with the purpose of it, they then assume responsibility for that work. They become creative and work hard to find the most effective solutions.
You can discover more about the interesting work of the Berkana Institute here.