How to Keep Meetings Focused

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Some meetings seem to last forever without actually accomplishing anything important. In this fast-paced world, it’s essential to stay on track with meetings and avoid wasting everyone’s time. A successful meeting has focus and accomplishes specific goals. These tips will help you keep C-Suite meetings focused and keep participants engaged.

Start on the Right Foot

The start of a meeting can solidify its success or ensure its failure. Oprah starts every meeting she hosts with the same questions: “What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters?” She has a targeted approach to beginning a successful meeting. The key is focus and clarity. Participants need to understand the purpose of the meeting and what their role is. High performers enter meetings with the desire to have clarity on why the meeting is important because they want the ability to narrow in on what matters and ensure critical objectives are met.

Keep the Size of the Meeting Reasonable

It can be tempting to include everyone in meetings, but it’s much easier to keep a meeting focused when the meeting is small. Meetings should only involve the individuals who are essential for the meeting’s purpose. Employees don’t want to sit through meetings that don’t pertain to them. You will also achieve goals faster when there are fewer participants and minimized distractions.

Control Speeches and Tangents

Meetings commonly become sidetracked by long-winded commentary and tangents. As a manager, your role is to stymie diversions and steer the conversation back on track. While you want employees to take part in discussions, their input should focus on questions and solutions. If someone brings up a point that is important but not relevant to the purpose of the meeting, acknowledge the value of the comment but suggest they discuss it with you after the meeting. You want everyone to feel like their opinions matter, but the meeting should focus on clear objectives.

End the Meeting on a High Note

The end of a meeting should address next steps. Where do we go from here? How can we keep ourselves accountable? In addressing next steps, identify who will be responsible for each and set a definitive time frame. Everyone should leave a meeting on the same page and with clear expectations.

Many of us dread meetings because they often last longer than they need to and lack a clear purpose. You can keep meetings more focuses by establishing clear goals, communicating the purpose of the meeting to participants, and steering the conversation when needed.


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Be the Diamond

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“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John Maxwell

There are times in life, both personally and professionally, in which circumstances can change at such a rapid speed that our opinions, perspectives, and course of action can change by the day, if not by the hour. When faced with such circumstances, there are generally three groups of people:

  • Those who take reflective but action-oriented responses to do whatever can be done to mitigate the challenges and seize opportunities
  • Those who simply panic and overload themselves and others with reactions that may be reasonable but tend only to exacerbate the challenges
  • Those who are simply bystanders; the proverbial “deer in the headlights”

As leaders, we have an obligation to do all we can to put ourselves in the first group. When there is so much we cannot control, we can control is being the loudest voice in the room.

How can we capitalize on chaos and emerge stronger, both as a leader and as an organization?

Embrace the Gray

With all that seems to divide the world today, we might not be as far apart as it seems. The news feeds on extremes and is no longer just a 30-minute daily segment or a newspaper on your doorstep. Now social media is the source of news for many. With this shift, it also means now that news is a commodity. Media outlets fight for clicks and viewership. Headlines are now competing for your business, and extremes get more viewership.

Seeing things as a polarity to manage versus a right/wrong approach shifts our paradigm and allows all to better understand each other’s perspective. It is possible to hold two opposing views simultaneously in a world that needs optimization over perfection.

Imposter Syndrome

It’s only natural, when faced with a new crisis, to harbor a dirty little secret – that deep down inside, you have no idea what you are doing. Many high achievers can at times feel like complete frauds, as if their accomplishments are just the result of serendipitous luck. Although you’ve been told many times that one of the secrets to success is “fake it until you make it,” this can also lead to what many label as imposter syndrome: a feeling of inadequacy despite evidence that indicates that you’re skilled and quite successful.

Although you might be leading a team through uncharted waters and not sure of your footing, you are completely in control of where you choose to step. You decide your voice, your message to others, and your attitude. Recognize that perfectionism and imposter syndrome are often a related pair. Many high performing individuals set excessively high goals for themselves and tend to have a twinge of control-freak woven in. They think if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves. In times of uncertainty and change, it may feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, so distribute the weight. Find other leaders who are also leading through uncharted waters and learn from them. Create opportunities by delegating responsibilities, and don’t expect immediate perfection from others. Remember that you are better than you think you are, smarter than you think you are, and more worthy than you believe.

Ultimately, imposter syndrome might not be something from which you suffer, but it may be for those you lead. Look for signs around you just as much as you look for signs within.

Your Choice

Protect your mind. In times of unknown, whether it be an acquisition, new leadership, economic uncertainty, or global turmoil, people tend to experience greater anxiety when they feel like they don’t have access to the information that they need. On the other hand, a sense of panic can stem from being immersed 24/7 in reports that focus on inaccurate or overly negative information. “Why is this happening?” is a question of despair. “What can we do?” is a question of possibilities and hope.

The quest for certainty is a quest for comfort. Ultimately, it might be that the support we seek comes from a “who” rather than a “what.” People in our lives are what truly shape us. When times are good, our families, friends, work associates, and clients know us, but in times of adversity, we truly know them. Choose to be the kind of person you would want in your life when you face personal adversity. Choose empathy over judgment. Choose optimism over pessimism. Choose to give instead of take. Choose to be the person that makes others feel better after they interact with you. Choose to be with people who make you a better you.

Many people spend as much time with work associates as they do with even the closest family or friends. What if all of us made a concerted effort to be the best version of ourselves with each other? What if we all treated each other the way that s/he want to be treated? What if the “who” we are collectively provides much of the comfort we all seek? What if we then did our best to take this way of being to our family, friends, and community?

Times of change and adversity shape who you will become, but also expose who you are now. Diamonds are just chunks of coal that did well under pressure. In times of chaos, be the diamond.

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Interview Tips for Difficult Questions

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If you’re invited for a job interview, it’s important to prepare so that you are able to put your best foot forward. The interview is a great opportunity to show the employer that you have what it takes to succeed in the role. In addition to reviewing the eleven Interview Practice Questions we covered in a previous post, it’s important to consider some trickier questions that may come up. Below we’ll cover some interview tips for difficult questions that may arise so you can be fully prepared and be more likely to receive a job offer.

Legal Answers to Illegal Questions

Even though it may be illegal for an interviewer to ask a certain question, it’s not illegal for you to answer it. So, if you’re asked one of those hot button issues, think carefully before answering. Figure out whether it’s to your advantage to respond honestly or to hedge the issue.

Answering honestly might be to your advantage. For example, if you interview for a job at an elementary school and the interviewer wants to know if you have children, answering that you have two kids may be seen as a plus.

On the other hand, if you want to work as a traveling salesperson and the interviewer asks if you have kids it would probably be better not to talk about your kids at that point. If you don’t want to answer the question do not accuse the interviewer of having broken the law. Instead, take a minute to understand what’s behind the question. If she asked if you have kids, maybe she’s concerned that you’ll be pulled away from work a lot. In that case, you could answer, “I believe you’re concerned about my attendance on the job. Let me assure you that my personal life won’t interfere with my work.”

Questions You’re Afraid Of

Almost all of us have questions we’d rather not be asked. To avoid going into an interview with anxiety about the possibility of those questions emerging, do two things:

  1. Review your resume before you send it out to be sure it doesn’t highlight anything that would instigate conversation about anything you’d prefer to avoid.
  2. Make a list of the questions you’re afraid of and practice how you’ll answer them in a positive way.

A Word of Thanks

When the interview draws to an end, thank the interviewer by name, saying something like, “Ms. Jones, this interview has been really helpful and enjoyable. Thank you! Is it OK for me to call you tomorrow if I have more questions?” or “I’m very interested in this job. What is the next step in your hiring process?” Make sure you show enthusiasm.

And don’t forget to thank the administrative assistant and receptionist on your way out. And to be a real hit, use their names if you know them. It always helps to be friends with these people, since they are the ones who screen calls and messages.


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Best Practices for Managing Virtual Meetings

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Managing virtual meetings in the C-suite can come with some unexpected obstacles, especially if you are managing a team that isn’t used to working remotely. However, when done properly virtual meetings are an effective way for companies to encourage communication and collaboration. Here are some tips for managing virtual meetings.

Find the Right Platform

First, be sure to find the right platform that suits your needs to host your virtual meeting. Popular platforms include Skype, GoToMeeting, and Zoom. Consider the size of your team, cost, and the functionality that each platform provides. For example, some platforms allow for polls, screensharing, and captions. Depending on the needs of your company, you may choose to have more than one platform at your disposal, or you can find one platform that meets all your requirements.

Test the Technology in Advance

Before the start of each meeting, test all of your technology 15-30 minutes before the start of the meeting. If you have to spend the beginning of a meeting dealing with technical difficulties, your team members will likely feel frustrated and like their time has been wasted. Make sure the team all has the proper software installed and has fully functional microphones. Talk to your employees and make sure they understand how the platform works. You want everyone to feel comfortable with the technology during the meeting.

Provide Your Team with an Agenda

One way to ensure a virtual meeting is effective is to set clear expectations from the beginning. Send each participant a detailed agenda for the meeting. Everyone should know in advance what topics will be discussed and what the objective of the meeting is. This way everyone can come to the meeting prepared with talking points. When you have a set agenda, it becomes easier for team members to participate and the meeting will have more engagement.

Include an Icebreaker

Not everyone is going to be as comfortable in a virtual meeting as they would be in a face-to-face meeting. Using an icebreaker or other social activity can help ease people into the meeting’s agenda. In addition, many people are feeling alienated right now. Allowing a short period of time for some basic social interaction can help employees feel more connected.

Virtual meetings are becoming more and more common in the field of C-suite support. While it takes time to adjust to virtual meetings, communication and preparation can make a big difference. Setting clear expectations, making sure everyone is on the same page with technology, and encouraging social engagement can help virtual meetings run smoothly.


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