What’s this meeting about?

“What’s this meeting about”?

I’ve run a few productivity workshops recently. Poorly run meetings are identified as one of many people’s primary time-thieves.

There are some neat ideas about mitigating the less productive elements of poorly run meetings. Meetings aren’t the problem. (Meetings don’t kill time; people kill time). Some orgs designate a chunk of time as ‘focus time’ eg Thursday mornings are meeting-free. Some orgs arbitrarily constrain meeting length to x minutes.

I’ve been proposing nudging a culture where people treat time as money – their own money. How often do a couple of people make a meeting start 5-10 minutes late, not because of a legit reason but because they stopped for a coffee? It’s disrespectful and expensive. They don’t seem to care about the disrespect and the expense isn’t known or assigned.

You can download meeting cost calculator apps. Pop in some generalised salaries and a clock counts up in $ as the true cost of the time is displayed to all. A tad performative but a neat little shock n awe tactic.

How much did reading this post cost you? (But, how much might it save you…)?

Where does your resilience come from and where does it go?

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt from my new book ‘You Be You (But Better)’. The book is about personal development. That excerpt was about resilience. Here’s a little bit more on the topic.

A survey of British employees (Ovans 2015) from public, private, and not-for-profit organisations revealed that it wasn’t major tragic events that depleted resilience but rather everyday events such as dealing with co-workers and changes in work demands. The survey asked the question: ‘What’s the biggest drain on resilience at work?’:

– When I am challenged on work matters
– Juggling work and non-work responsibilities
– Upheavals in my personal life
– Work shifts outside my comfort zone
– Being personally criticised
– Volume or pace of work exceeds my abilities
– Office politics / personality clashes

Those same survey respondents were asked where they sourced their resilience from:
1 Myself,
2 My relationships,
3 My work,
4 My organisation. 😦

There are many ways to increase resilience and though it might be a very individual pathway, there are several common themes: having a good support system, maintaining positive relationships, having a constructive self-image, and having a positive attitude. Other factors that contribute to resiliency include:
– Having the capacity to make realistic plans.
– Being able to carry out those plans.
– Being able to effectively manage your feelings and impulses in a healthy manner.
– Having good communication skills.
– Having confidence in your strengths and abilities.
– Having good problem-solving skills.

So, if you’re wanting more resilience, or you’re wanting it for others, this might indicate we need to enable individuals (the ‘myselfs’) to target developing those skills in that last list. Before they needed it would have been the best time. But, now is good too.

#personaldevelopment #teambuilding #resiliencetraining

More at www.terrywilliamsbooks.com

The Building Blocks of Resilience

I’m reviewing my latest book ‘You Be You (But Better)’ and thought this excerpt might be pretty topical right now.

According to Conner and Davidson (2003), resilient people have a bunch of these characteristics:

– Viewing change as a challenge or opportunity

– Commitment

– Recognition of limits to control

– Engaging the support of others

– Close, secure attachment to others

– Personal or collective goals

– Self-efficacy

– Strengthening effect of stress

– Past successes

– Realistic sense of control / having choices

– Sense of humour

– Action-oriented approach

– Patience

– Tolerance of negative affect

– Adaptability to change

– Optimism

– Faith

Ultimately, resilience is fuelled by a belief that we have options – possibilities not probabilities. The best way to believe something is to generate or seek evidence supporting that belief. What evidence of options do you have right now – before you need it?

In the same way that aggregated stressors add up to over-balance and topple into anxiety or overload, so too is the rebuilding process an aggregated one. There is no one magic bullet. It is a series of building blocks to need to collect and re-stack. And, yours will be different to other people’s.

Build a block a day.

#resiliencetraining #personaldevelopment

Piling On Optimism

I’m as guilty as anyone of optimism. Lockdowns, terrorism, and pandemics aside, shared efforts at supporting people towards optimism is necessary and the collective act of it is probably more useful than cliches. Only recently, I posted about rituals in the workplace as stability structures. So too are our shared responses to adversities, obstacles, and even tragedies.

Over and unsubstantiated optimism is worse than no optimism at all. Check out Martin Seligman’s classic book ‘Learned Optimism’. In one study, he was focusing on salespeople but I think it’s generally true: the best spot for success in the long run on the optimism spectrum is ‘practical pessimism’.

The cartoon with this post captures the vibe of ‘piling on’ optimism. The hit TV show ‘Ted Lasso’ both celebrates optimistic belief and warns of its limits. I myself vary from optimism and practical pessimism in my default personality. I won’t slam people suggesting lemons make lemonade or more fish in the sea or Edison discovering his 999th way not to make a lightbulb. Or even thoughts and prayers. They’re trying.

The groups of kiwis “doing it hard” and “shouldering more of the burden” including but not limited to Aucklanders generally; low income south Aucklanders, tourism/hospo; self-employed / small business; frontline health may or may not value your optimistic well wishes. But they need more than that.

I’m catching myself before automatically mouthing optimistic cliches. I don’t always stop myself, nor should I. But, I do try and add more than that. I’ll ask questions. Questions accelerate the re-engagement of the logical part of the brain and direct focus away from the negative experience onto a path forward. And it is paths forward that people need. Not lemonade.

#resiliencetraining #mindset #teambuilding

The ‘Belief –> Confidence –> Assertive Behaviour’ Spiral

Different people can assess and respond to exactly the same set of circumstances in very different ways. You might receive an email from your boss, “Can I see you in my office for ten minutes now please”? A colleague may receive the same email, word for word, in an hour. You might interpret it as good news, perhaps a potential raise or promotion, or assignment of a cool new project. That springs forth from your existing set of beliefs about yourself, work, your boss, the purpose of emails, and more. That might end up driving your behaviours, in that you spring to your feet, smile and hurry to the boss’ office. You stride in and take a chair. The colleague might interpret exactly the same message as a potential negative. They slump, wander off, perhaps pretend to have not received it. Once they eventually get to the boss’ office, they timidly knock and ask permission.

These effects can be both self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing. For those of us who ever find ourselves in a downward spiral, we need to create a pattern-interrupt to break the spiral and re-set back to, at least, a neutral starting position.

Sometimes people use the terms ‘confidence’ and ‘assertiveness’ as synonyms – interchangeable terms. They’re not.

Confidence is an internal state of mind within yourself. Assertiveness is a set of behaviours observable from the outside. I cannot tell if you are or are not confident but I can observe your assertive or unassertive behaviour. Even if you’re not confident, if you’re motivated, you can simply choose to act assertively in contradiction to your feelings. There certainly is a debate, like the chicken and the egg, as to which comes first. Yes you can act assertively if you are not confident but it’s easier to act assertively if you’re already confident.

The foundation of either your upwardly positive assertive behaviours built on confidence, or your downwardly negative unassertive behaviours built on a lack of confidence, is your inbuilt set of beliefs. Some are about yourself and some are about the world. Some are helpful and resourceful whereas some are harmful. You might be aware of some but not others. Between yourself and others you trust, it is helpful to take stock and make two lists.

#personaldevelopment #leadershipdevelopment #selfconfidence

More at www.terrywilliams.info

Look & Sound Like You Mean What You Say

I’m generating a lot of interesting conversation in my recent leadership workshops with the term ‘congruent communication’: you look like you mean what you say and you sound like you mean what you say.

A classic and perhaps over-referenced and over-simplified study on communication was by Albert Mehrabian. I have been as guilty myself as anyone (in the distant past) in cherry-picking elements of it and distorting them to make a point in my training.

What I used to throw out in a once-over-lightly way about the study about the effectiveness of spoken communications was that from the perspective of the receiver, the impact of your communication is:

– 7% of meaning in the words that are spoken:

– 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said / tone of voice).

– 55% of meaning is in facial expression / body language.

Superficially, it emphasises the loss of meaning on the phone or in an email where we don’t have the 93% at our disposal.

Let’s not delve into the debate or argue the relative numbers weighting the individual elements. The important numbers here are not 7, or, 38, or 55. The important number here is 7 + 38 + 55, and that equals 100!

I don’t doubt that we can alter the perception of us and our message by deliberately varying our tone of voice and body language. That is literally an exercise we conduct but life isn’t acting class and you’re not Robert DeNiro or Meryl Streep. (If you are, I apologise and thanks for accepting my invitation to connect Bobby and Mary Lou). You’re a normal person wanting to enhance your personal effectiveness via better communication. To me, the number 100 represents congruent communication: you look like you mean what you say and you sound like you mean what you say. So, if you’re delivering a message that is serious, for you what does serious look and sound like? Are you sure?

At the very least, we need to ensure we’re not shooting our own message in the foot by being INcongruent.

#communication #emotionalintelligence #leadership


I’ve always had a bit of a struggle with attention span and boredom threshold. With a bit of good luck, mostly good self-management, and the occasional courageous leap, I seem to now be in a groove of varied, interesting and useful gigs.

This week started at a central South Island freezing works workshopping accountability. Tuesday was training trainers at a horticultural tech outfit. Wednesday I was team building some scientists who have had an intense 18 months. Today, I just got back from working on personal productivity with an immigration consultancy. I better look up what tomorrow is in a minute. I do recall it is in exotic Ponsonby.

I got seconded to my first training role 30 years ago as a ‘subject matter expert’. I was not. I was the youngest worst performer in the team the course was about and the training dept wanted some credibility in the room, and my boss wanted less of me.

Haven’t looked back.

The person asking the questions controls the conversation (without being or seeming controlling)

The ‘Influence Continuum’ graphically represents a spectrum of options by which we attempt to move others towards change.

At one extreme, we have force. There are few situations in which that is appropriate but if someone refuses to leave a burning building and you drag them out, I guess that’s OK. In less dramatic situations, the downside of force and threats is that they might achieve what you want in the immediate term but it damages the relationship moving forward and you have to be there. To put a figurative gun to someone’s head, you need a gun, be thought to be willing to use it, and be physically present. Part of being more personally and professionally effective is lessening your burden by getting others to do the heavy lifting. Force and threats are not long-term fixes and are very much in the heavy lifting category.

The other end of the continuum with the vagueness and inaction of implying and hoping are for avoiders. With that come regrets and poor results. Avoidance is only a short-term fix and it doesn’t really fix anything.

The good old middle is the happy hunting ground / ‘useful zone’ for change agents on the Influence Continuum. Which of tell, ask or suggest you choose to use depends on at least three things:
– the individual with whom you’re dealing,
– the objective of your interaction, and
– the situation / consequences.

The Person Asking The Questions Controls The Conversation (without being or seeming controlling).

#leadershipdevelopment #influence #communication #supervisoryskills

Presentations and Memory Boxes

Recently, I ran a ‘Presenting With Presence’ workshop with the senior NZ leaders of a pretty recognisable international brand. One person had a very common issue presenting: they wrote a script and tried to memorise it. One slip up and they were toast.

This is fraught with peril. If presentations are a stressor for you, on top of everything else, that stress is likely slow down or shut down your brain’s logic centre when you need it most.

For normal people who aren’t natural storytellers or who lack the time, I’ve been working on a hopefully happy medium between winging it and robotic rote.

With feint acknowledgment to the memory palace idea, we trialled ‘Memory Boxes’. My person last week put their 3 key points into 3 distinct boxes visualised in ways suggesting the content within. They knew their stuff so once they chose to open a box’, they spoke to what was inside. The boxes provide a logical flow and an aide memoir without the rigid impossibility of memorising. (Though I think I came up with this, even cursory research tells me this is a basic element in Maori culture, though with ketes not boxes). Turned out they were a great presenter and it showed once memory was removed as a potential problem.

It’s a bit more than I can cover in a post but if you’re interested in this for your people who need to present but who aren’t naturals, let me know.

More at http://terrywilliamsspeaker.com/

Writers Should Do The ‘Heavy-Lifting’ For their Readers

I know what the writer of the sign above meant when they thought the thoughts they ended up writing. But, it is now the shortest example I’ve found of how, in business-writing, uncertainty and ambiguity are the enemy.

(Hint: “empty” can be both a verb and an adjective.)

In the workshops I run on this topic, I use the term ‘heavy lifting’. We desire the readers of our writing to actually read it, understand it, and do it. The fewer obstacles in the way, the more likely our writing achieves our objectives.

Writers should do the heavy lifting for their readers. One of my 8 principles in my business-writing training is ‘uncertainty and ambiguity are the enemy’. How can we do this heavy lifting for our readers? Test it. Not all writing but if it matters, it matters, so get some fresh eyes on it.

Or, you’ll end up with something like an ice cream billboard I saw promoting a flavour that was “97% fat-free & gluten-free”.

#businesswriting #businesscommunication

More from Terry’s training at https://www.terrywilliams.info/trainer

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