Thursday, April 29, 2010

Avoid Conference Call Catastrophes

Have you ever been on a conference call and couldn't get a word in because there were so many people on the call and they were talking over each other? Does it seem like nothing is accomplished on conference calls? Here are some ways to avoid conference call catastrophes and make the most out of teleconferences:

Determine the purpose of the meeting and how many people will be invited.
If the conference call (not to be confused with web conference) will involve more than 10 people, you may want to consider having the meeting in person and for those who cannot attend, have them call in. The larger the conference call, the more difficult it will be to manage.

Give Conference Call Rules prior to calling the meeting to order.

Give attendees "conference call house rules" for example, if they need to mute themselves, inform them of how to do so. If recording, let attendees know that the meeting will be recorded. Let them know that everyone's comments are important and Roberts Rules of Order apply. If anyone has a comment, wait until the chair asks around the virtual "teleconference table" if there are any comments and wait to be "recognized". Picture attendees seated in a conference room, this is the virtual "teleconference table." It is impolite to blurt out or cut people off, you wouldn't do it in an in person meeting, don't do it on a phone call.

Start on time and end on time.

Treat a conference call as if it was an in-person meeting. Always start on time and do your best to end on time by following the agenda and "table" topics that require more discussion. Typically, you will hear when another caller joins the meeting because there will be a "beep." Acknowledge the new caller by asking their name. If they are late, it is helpful to let them know what agenda item is being discussed--do not go over what has already been discussed--it's a time waster. The Minutes will bring them up to speed.

When making a comment or suggestion, state your name first so that minutes can be recorded properly.
This makes it easy for minutes to be properly documented and promotes meeting order.

Distribute the agenda/handouts prior to the meeting.

When you send the meeting announcement including conference call login information, attach the agenda and any pertinent handouts so that attendees will get a "heads up" of the meeting content. If it is possible, send the documents as one attachment and not several (ie. agenda, minutes from last meeting.)

Teleconferencing is another convenient and travel-free way for us to connect and get the job done and may be one of the easiest and cost effective meetings because there is no need to reserve meeting space and no refreshments to order. The effectiveness of each teleconference depends on the facilitator and the methods used to allow attendee participation and maintain meeting order.

Monday, April 19, 2010

You may work for someone, but you are your own boss

Everyday millions of people throughout the country make the commute to work to spend at least 8 hours working with colleagues and one or more supervisors. We know this is true because we see and hear on the news how traffic is backed up and travel times are astronomical. All these people have one thing in common, besides being on the road at the wrong time every day that they are going to work for someone. Here is some food for thought, your supervisor has duties to the company and to you as an employee and you have similar responsibilities to yourself. The table below gives you a perspective comparison of job responsibilities between a supervisor and YOU:


Supervisor Duties to the Company 

Your Duties to Yourself

Offer constructive criticism that is designed to help us grow professionally 

Offer constructive criticism that is designed to help us grow professionally and personally 

Allocate tasks and projects to be done in a timely manner 

Prioritize and management your time with family, friends, and work

Make decisions for the good of the department and company

Make decisions for the good of you and your family

Regularly reviews the needs of employees and customers or clients

Regularly review your own personal needs

Reward employee performance 

Reward ourselves for hard work (ie.vacation)

Sets goals and objectives pertaining to tasks, projects

Sets goals and objectives in order to manage and balance individual life events

Resolve conflicts and solve problems within the company

Resolve conflicts and solve problems within oneself 

Know company policies and procedures in order to effectively make decisions 

Know ourselves so that we can effectively communicate and interact with others 


It's like working as a debt collector and you don't pay your bills on time. How can you expect to be a leader over others when you can't lead yourself? You have the ability to control your behavior and decisions. Take charge of your life, own up to your mistakes, learn from them, and grow to be a better person!


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Acknowledge the Elephant in the Room

Here we go again another Monday morning meeting. It is a difficult meeting to attend because it is a time waster - unproductive and boring. This week's agenda has the same items as last week's and again nothing is resolved. The only difference in this week's meeting, is you decide to mention how dissatisfied you are with the meetings. After a long dead silence, you finally decide to speak on the purpose of the meetings and give suggestions on how they can be more productive. To your surprise, everyone agrees, and a discussion ensues on how the meetings can become more productive! Finally, the elephant is acknowledged.

The ability to speak openly in a meeting is a part of being a professional and a leader. Leadership involves being able to tell others what is right as well as what is wrong and knowing that there may be some resistance, but this is how you feel and your opinions need to be expressed. Here are a few tips on how to acknowledge the elephant in the room and feel better that you did:

1. Abandon fear.

Fear is the biggest obstacle because when we are afraid we are restricted and we limit ourselves. How many times have you been in a meeting and had a suggested but was afraid to express it because of what others might think? Then someone else did and everyone thought it was the best idea next to sliced bread. The most effective way to get over fear is to face it – head on!

2. Voice the facts.

When making comments or suggestions as the result of some negative behavior be able to back up what you're saying. For example, if you are talking about the organization of the meeting or its purpose, reference meeting materials or if this is a meeting that involves a specific group and there are written rules and regulations such as bylaws, make reference to them so that everyone understands the source of your concerns.

3. Practice.

If you know you want to make a suggestion, practice how you are going to say it. Be mindful of your tone and speak clearly and concise. Choose your words carefully and use tact.

5. Don't place blame or make accusations.

Pointing fingers or making accusations at certain individuals will discredit your comments and others will look at you as a complainer. Don't make references to people. Stay focused on your issues and concerns.

Don't be afraid to acknowledge the elephant in the room; voice your opinions or suggestions, but always be professional. People will respect you and value you as a contributor to the meeting.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Overcome your Independency

So you like to work alone and don't ask other s for help; you feel like the task will be done and done right if you complete it. Guess what you are on the road to becoming a micromanager. I call this an independency. Having an "independency" can cause stress from work overload, misuse of time, cause deadlines to be missed, and result in errors and mistakes. There are times when we are so independent that we leave others out not because we don't trust them, but because we are so used to completing tasks ourselves. Here are a few tips to overcome your independency:

  1. Ask for help. This is the number one solution to independency. If you can avoid it, try not to wait until a deadline is approaching and then put pressure on someone else to assist you in completing the task. You may need to break the task into pieces and have several people complete each piece. The key is to ASK!
  2. Plan Accordingly. Map a strategy for what you need to accomplish. Break the project down in parts and decide how you can complete each part. Set internal deadlines for yourself. Then reward yourself for meeting the deadlines. For example, I need to clean my closet (Spring cleaning long overdue!) this is a 3-part project – the top shelf, hanging clothes, and bottom half of the closet. This way I am pacing myself and getting rewards.
  3. Manage yourself first then time will manage itself. If you can learn to manage yourself and eliminate stress, then you will be able to control your time and; therefore, appropriate tasks effectively. Here is a tip on how to manage yourself: Schedule time for YOU! There are 24 hours in a day and you are at work 8 – 10 of those hours, there is time to be spent with family and friends, house chores, school work, etc. Manage yourself by scheduling time to yourself – ½ -1 hour and in that time do something for YOU! Read a chapter in a book, write a poem, stare out the window; do something that is comforting. Then you will be revitalized and can refocus and can get more done; hence, time managing itself.

Get the independency monkey off your back and ask for help, devise a strategy on how to approach tasks, and stick to it, and learn how to manage yourself. If you can do either of these suggestions, you are on the road to recovery! I am not only the author, but I am also a client!