Monthly Archives: October 2017

Make Meetings Fun

Sometimes we think that having fun and being serious are opposite ends of a scale, but if you consider it carefully the opposite of fun is gloom, and the opposite of serious is frivolous.

The words that go with gloom (in a business sense) are boredom and oppression. Do you really want your meetings to be boring and oppressive?

You don’t want the meetings to be frivolous, where the definition is “not having any serious purpose or value” but far too many meetings are just that. Meetings must have a purpose!
Giving a meeting a purpose is straightforward in principle if a little more difficult in practice!

Create an agenda, and ensure that each meeting spends more time focused on the future rather than the past. The summary of the meeting should be the points agreed and the actions resulting from the meeting. The chairman’s job is to move the meeting on, not just from item to item but also from focus on the past to the future.

Making meetings fun and enjoyable also requires some effort. Break the ice – even with an established team – by a few light-hearted remarks at the start of the meeting. There’s always something – and you can use events in the attendees’ personal lives such as birthdays, upcoming holidays or even a liking for a biscuit!

Celebrate successes from the past. We feel good when we are recognised and lauded, so find something to praise.
Offer support for problems. There’s very little benefit to be had by “tearing a strip off” in a meeting. Public criticism of a team member should be the last resort, but that doesn’t mean you don’t hold them to account. Explore the situation in some detail and ask the question “What can we do to help?” or “What help do you need?” so that no one is in any doubt who holds the responsibility.

Next meeting, you will be celebrating the successful resolution of the problem. You’ll find the team working together to eliminate the problems before the meeting – so they really do become fun!

Subtle approaches

There are times when you see a colleague struggling, or perhaps just not making the grade. You may not be directly responsible for them, so in many ways, it is not your problem and they probably won’t ask for help.

There are also individuals who are closed, and not receptive to advice or guidance. They react very negatively if you try to tell them how to do something or suggest a better way.A phrase that you can use in both these circumstances is “If I were you I would…” It works by inserting a qualifier – you are making your suggestion conditional upon being the other party – which means it is not a direct instruction. It’s a suggestion for consideration.
In a similar vein, when I am approaching business owners on behalf of a potential acquirer, I find the direct approach can lead to high levels of rejection.The instinctive answer to “Would you like to sell your business?” appears to be “No”

If I ask a slightly different question “My client would like to explore a closer working relationship with you – is that something you would consider?” the answer is nearly always yes.That allows me to enter into a conversation, find out more about the company and make better decisions based on that additional information.
I’m reminded of the saying “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”

I am instinctively polite and would feel uncomfortable asking anyone to do anything without adding a “please” 
If you have the opportunity to use slightly more subtle language, try to do so.
It’s very rare that your meaning doesn’t come across loud and clear!

Is there a conversation you have been avoiding? 

Is there a conversation you have been avoiding?

If there is, the chances are that is the one you need to have.

Most of us don’t like confrontation and are very hesitant to say something that might start an argument or just cause offence, so often we put off having the conversation. It’s when you hear yourself saying “now is not the right time” repeatedly that you can begin to suspect you are avoiding the conversation you need to have.

That doesn’t mean you must dive in and have the conversation at a difficult time, just because you have finally made up your mind to get on with it! Choosing the right moment, when both you and the other party are relaxed and receptive is very important for the success of your conversation.

If you keep putting it off, the danger is that the problem you are planning to address will grow and fester, becoming a larger and larger issue. That can mean the resolution is both harder to achieve and more damaging to both the participants and the business.

So if you can’t keep putting it off, what’s the best approach?

If this is a performance issue with a member of the team, try this.

Set out in writing what you want to be different because of the conversation. Often that will help you identify the source of your concern, refining it to the core issue. 

Set out in writing the impact the undesirable behaviour is having on the rest of the team.
Those two notes will help you stay on message and in control of the meeting.

You will present them factually, unemotionally and with conviction. The recipient is more likely to respond in a similar manner, accepting the facts. You will often find that the behaviour is not a conscious choice, and they did not realise the impact they were having on the team.

What’s logic go to do with anything?

Do you expect your customers or your team to react logically?

You will often be disappointed if you do!

Fans of the Star Trek series will remember Leonard Nimoy playing the character Spock, who was half human and half Vulcan. The emotional human half was suppressed by the unemotional Vulcan half and Spock often found himself struggling to understand his human colleagues’ emotional reactions.

Your customers are not Vulcans or robots. How you make them feel is at least as important as how well you do your job / provide your service.

How you make them feel is going to be determined by their interaction with your team – so your team (who are also human, not Vulcan or robot) must appreciate that how they make the customer feel is crucial.

If your team are not happy and enthusiastic about your business they will struggle to make the customer feel loved and valued.

Have you ever been served in the local supermarket by the Saturday girl who quite clearly did not want to be at work – she’d rather be hanging out with her friends or still in bed?

Every time your customer or prospect connects to your business they form an impression of the business.

It’s not just when you are on your best behaviour, giving a fantastic sales presentation, or when they’ve come to see you at a trade show. It’s all the little contacts in between, from the receptionist through the customer support team to the sales team and the directors.

You can deliver the best product, the best possible service and get everything right, but if your customer doesn’t feel good about doing business with you it won’t matter.

Remembering the sayings “A man who never made a mistake never made anything” and “to err is human” aiming for a satisfied customer really won’t get you to the point where you can slip up, make a mistake, provide poor service, and be forgiven.

Turning your customers into raving fans not only creates easy sales wins – they will refer business – it also cushions you against any shortfall in service.