Why Do Valued Team Members Leave? Part 1

All leaders in business and non-business organizations will have one of their best quit on them. Sometimes it’ll be obvious why, other times leaders will be left scratching their heads as to why one of their best and brightest is suddenly gone. Especially with the new trend of “ghosting” in our society—leaving suddenly and without explanation—leaders may want to heed the following thoughts.

While a seasoned leader probably wouldn’t make the classic mistake of overworking their best, which is tempting when a peer is particularly talented (why wouldn’t you want them on every project?). A leader might also under appreciate their best team member’s talent. These are some more obvious reasons someone might up and leave. Yet there are some less obvious reasons an employee might suddenly disappear. And it should be no surprise that these reasons are somewhat all a different side of the same issue.

First, make sure you are challenging your best team members. Those who aren’t being given work according appropriate to their talent. Sure, this employee will get the job done and probably in a timely fashion but piling on what feels like busy work will lead to boredom and force this talented person to seek challenges outside their comfort zone elsewhere.

The Value of Apologies

When delivered with sincerity two of the most difficult sentences to speak are probably “I apologize” and “apology accepted” or another reasonable proxy of the pair. The first has one admitting to fault, where the second releases it. If only our lives were like the sitcoms where no matter the trouble husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and their children, or co-workers get all the loose ends tied up in a matter of sixty minutes or less. Everyone hugs and the camera fades out.

Unfortunately admitting to and forgiving fault isn’t something most of us are good at. But when this exchange doesn’t occur that can create a toxic cycle inside an organization. But, how does an organization reach a state of honesty?

Pride must be put aside. The issue is that humans are savagely self-protective, it’s an evolutionary reaction to a threatening world. No longer is the danger an apex predator, but our image among our peers. None the less, we fight for it tooth and nail. So, breaking through pride is to against our instinct. It will be difficult. Second, one needs to not take things personally. Everyone makes mistakes. And most mistakes are hardly so terrible as to warrant defining a person.

We have to unburden ourselves of these very human experiences. Helping our peers and mentees realize that everyone needs to go through this process for the greater good is an essential activity for any leader.

Rethinking Meetings Part 3

Another way to make meetings more effective is to make sure the leader isn’t doing all the talking. Meeting leaders tend to rate meetings as more effective than attendees; likewise, other research shows that those who talk most at meetings rate them more highly than others. A meeting should never be just one person talking—you may have heard the joke “this meeting could have been an email.” Well, if it is just one person talking is this entirely wrong?

If you think you are doing too much talking during a meeting, you probably are.

Meetings should be interactive, everyone in the room should be there for a reason and that should be to provide some kind of feedback or input. Meetings should have any spectators, only participants.

Speaking of activity, walking meetings are an interesting trend for 3-4 people sized meetings. They are a change of pace and may even allow participants to get into the outdoors.

Companies like LinkedIn and Johnson & Johnson have made walking meetings a part of their corporate culture. They get the blood moving and most people feel more energized and engaged because of the physical activity.

If you are at home you can try getting on a treadmill or other appropriate exercise machine, walking around your yard or neighborhood.

Remember that all of this applies to both face-to-face and virtual meetings. Give the same respect to people’s time which ever kind of meeting you are planning.

Rethinking Meetings Part 2

Why do we meet for 30 minutes or 60 minutes? Many scheduling software programs default to these increments and many of us like this even, familiar increments. But insisting on filling the entire time leads to wasted time or over thinking.

Another issue can be that for some they have multiple meetings in a row meaning they have no time for a break for lunch, using the bathroom and simply resting their mind.

There is no reason to start or end on the exact hour or half hour. Let the meeting end 23 minutes or 47 minutes in. Strive to end earlier. End the meeting when the work is over.

Being an active part of any meeting is important, so making sure it is truly a good use of each participant’s time is important. Keep the number of participants as small as possible. A lot of numbers of for the ideal number of participants in a brainstorming or “huddle” style meeting are thrown around but it seems between 7-15 people is ideal. The more people in the meeting, the more “charisma” the meeting leader will need to keep everyone active.

Many experts agree that agendas aren’t needed for a useful meeting, but that just having one doesn’t promise a good meeting either.

So, where does this leave us when it comes to agendas? It would seem that having a thoughtful, useful one is the best option. Make sure they help focus on the meeting on what needs accomplishing. Posing the items as questions is one way to make agendas more useful; questions are active thoughts that need solving and engage our minds in a different way than statements.

Rethinking Meetings Part 1

Meetings have been a part of human work since we were hunter-gatherers. However, the amount of time spent on workplace meetings has grown exponentially in the last half of the 20th century and increased even further in contemporary business.

Software firm Lucid Meetings there are about 55 million workplace meetings everyday in the United States. Anthony Jay, writing for the Harvard Business Review in 1976, estimated there were about 11 million such meetings a day. That is about 500% growth in workplace meetings in just 40 years.

The Microsoft Work Trend Index recently claimed that meeting time has more than doubled since the pandemic first hit.

Memes and jokes about useless meetings abound in pop culture and social media. Multi surveys confirm that many respondents find meetings non-productive or a waste of time; however, when asked to describe their ideal workday most respondents include meetings in the mix. Do people just enjoy the break? If meetings are useless, do they like them as break from their regular work or do people actually find them flawed but productive?

The answer is not to eliminate meetings entirely as obviously serve purposes like team building, getting group work done, brainstorming, coming to a consensus and are still a good way to communicate important information. But there are tons of ways we can improve how effective they are and people’s attitudes toward them.

The Difference Between Good and Bad Distractions

In a world obsessed with hyper-productivity and success it may be hard to believe that distractions could be a good thing.

Distractions are one of our primary coping mechanisms for dealing with physical pain. Not only that, but also mental pain such as anxiety. In children, pre-surgery anxiety is very common. In one study, three groups of children were studied for pre-surgery anxiety. There were three groups: one was given an anxiety medication; one group was given nothing; one group were given video games to play.

One study found the video game group to have the least amount of measurable anxiety. Another study found that adult patients given video games to play experienced 50% less pain during wound cleanings.

But clearly distractions are also bad at time.

In the workplace, in a group as the leader, is a particular person or group using a distraction as a means to avoid uncomfortable conversation, to avoid boring or challenging work, to disengage from useful problem solving? Maybe it’s OK for your employee to play Words with Friends for fifteen minutes to ease their anxiety about please an important client. Maybe some off-topic conversation at a creative meeting is just want the group needs to relax and be able to share the ideas they think might be good but are afraid of.