If Zuck Were Project Manager, He’d Learn More ‘Tricks’

Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) once praised her boss for “trying to make meetings as productive as possible.” According to her, Mark Zuckerberg “asks people to send materials in advance so we can use the time for discussion” and “we try to be clear about our goal when we sit down for a meeting–are we in the room to make a decision or to have a discussion?”

At first, I thought Ms. Sandberg was being sarcastic: Can you really call those “efficiency tricks”? But then I had to admit that outside a limited ‘club’ of a few strong managers I have worked with, almost none of the business meetings that I have audited could be considered efficient.

Now the good news. The ‘tricks’ that make your meetings productive are not new or hard to learn, you can easily get ahead of Zuck (although he may be getting some extensive coaching right now); it is just a matter of self-discipline. Well, almost.

Just think about your next meeting as if it’s a project.  

Continue reading “If Zuck Were Project Manager, He’d Learn More ‘Tricks’”

What did I do to James?

What did I do to James?

I have not yet met a single manager who would not complain about ‘boring’, ‘endless’ and ‘useless’ meetings they have to host or attend on a daily basis. And yet most of them are literally just a few words away from making their meeting a really effective communication and teambuilding tool.

I once worked with a senior leader, let’s call him James, who had daily ‘planning’ meetings with his extended team, first thing in the morning. Continue reading “What did I do to James?”

Canoeing with Mintzberg

Canoeing with Mintzberg

The CoachingOurselves Reflections 2017 – Rebalancing Society conference was an outstanding 3-day event filled with ideas, presentations and passion shared with us by the brightest minds: Henry MintzbergPhilip KotlerDan PonterfractEd ScheinJonathan GoslingMitch Joel and many other prominent thinkers, businesspeople and coaches.

This true feast of sustainable leadership was concluded with a savory dessert – The Great Canadian Canoe Trip, five hours in double canoes going down the Devil’s River in Mont-Tremblant National Park.

Now, mentally going through the experience again, I think that this trip in the end of the conference was more than just for pleasure and relaxation. The unbridled nature, the canoes, and the river flow – all have their profound role in the understanding and “internalization” of the worldview experienced during the main event.

Here are my key takeaways from the Canoe Trip.

1.      Key safety rules in the canoe are familiar to every manager:

  • Avoid sudden movements.
  • Go with the flow.

Nothing new, but that does not mean “don’t rock the boat”; it’s just that any disruption creates unnecessary risks and may lead to an accident, and is not necessary when you are on the right course.

2.      The real leader in the canoe, the helmsman, is the paddler in the stern. He is the more experienced one, doing the steering. Leading from behind, he will be looking over the front paddler’s shoulder all the time, and if the latter does not have a small frame and wears a hat, the helmsman will not see much. Continue reading “Canoeing with Mintzberg”

How can I improve my skills in listening and how can I practice my speaking?

Practice makes perfect.

Practice speaking and listening – and use technology to analyze your skills and measure the progress.

Sounds sophisticated? Not at all.

All you need is a simple speech recorder or just your smartphone. Make it a habit to record all substantial conversations that you have during the day, then allocate ample time to listen to the recordings and do a conscious “flight debriefing.”

You will be amazed.

That happens pretty much to everybody because you have never heard yourself “from the outside.” You will notice some obvious mistakes or mannerisms that sound so … well, disgusting, that you will not need much effort to get rid of them (like talking too much, interrupting, using pleonasms, periphrasis, discourse markers, grandiloquence, or being excessively magniloquent – just like I am now).

Additional benefit: you will retain much more from the conversations. That’s a good thing, especially when the discussion is important, and you have no chance to make notes. Next time you’ll impress your counterparts with your attention to detail.

One caveat though. You have to be discrete, i.e. your recording device must be hidden. Obviously, when you start openly recording the conversations all the participants do not talk naturally (yourself including) or do not talk at all. Another thing to bear in mind: this may be illegal in some states…

(Originally answered on Quora)

What’s More Important to You?

gender bias

Grammatically correct – or politically correct?

I always thought that expressing oneself clearly and concisely is the No.1 priority in a professional environment.

I was wrong.

Today, everybody is obsessed with gender equality. These confusing “he or she,” “he/she,” or the incredible “s/he” and singular “they” are now inserted everywhere. Like in this great example of verbal gender-affirmation surgery:

“Prepare to watch a charging bull stop in his or her tracks with a confused look on their face.”

Continue reading “What’s More Important to You?”

Negotiate Out of Anything

Negotiation Skills Help With Police

Ever realized that negotiations play a major role in your life?

What to eat for breakfast, where to go for vacation and how to get a discount, as well as your starting salary, your promotion, and eventually your severance package – those are but a minor sample of the items that you have to negotiate daily, whether you recognize this fact or not.

And do not forget such things as speeding tickets or court hearings: things happen. Even when you have nothing to lose (the cashier erroneously charged you full price for a discounted item), it will take you considerably less time to get your money back AND rip the possible benefits, if you know the rules of the game. Continue reading “Negotiate Out of Anything”

Leaders’ Digest One-Page Essentials: A Corporate Primer

Corporate Sharks

This is an old classic dating back to late 18th century. The author, Voltaire Cousteau, is allegedly related to both Francois Voltaire and Jacques Cousteau. The text was translated and turned into a dinner talk in late 1970ies by a French scientist working in the US. Perhaps the guy moved from science to management and realized that quite a few “natural laws” are applicable in the corporate world.

It has been abridged to fit on one page, downloadable and printable as a handy one-pager. Continue reading “Leaders’ Digest One-Page Essentials: A Corporate Primer”

17 Points of Effective Presentation: Delivery

Effective Presentation

 

This is the sequel to “7 Points of Effective Presentation: Killer Powerpoint Slides.”

Last week, we started work on a presentation with a client. We identified 7 important areas for improvement, and the client created a very effective slide stack as a result of our effort.

However, the delivery of the material is equally important. When we started working on it, we realized that it required even more effort than the “hard” part, i.e. the slides.

That’s how we ended up with 17 points that needed the client’s attention in order to make the presentation really great. Continue reading “17 Points of Effective Presentation: Delivery”

7 Points of Effective Presentation: Killer Powerpoint Slides

presentation

I am going through a “killer presentation” sent over by a client, and I am excited….

I am excited because I see that we have a good topic for a successful coaching session:  it will bring immediate result. Actually, I see two successful sessions coming, because every presentation is built on two pillars: the slide stack and the delivery. Continue reading “7 Points of Effective Presentation: Killer Powerpoint Slides”

How to Spot a Lie (and Deliver Alternative Truth)

lie

Let’s face it: we live in the world of lies. We are telling lies and are being blatantly lied to every day, 24/7. That’s exactly why my initial statement may have surprised you – at first: because we are all used to lies. Not you? How about these:

“Guys, I know you work hard.”
“No, you don’t look fat in that dress.”
“Sorry, I was on a conference call.”

We all feel when someone is lying. Continue reading “How to Spot a Lie (and Deliver Alternative Truth)”