HYCS #13 – A Tale of Two Meetings

HYCS #13 – A Tale of Two Meetings

A meeting with a decision-maker who understands their role is where the great work happens.  Consultants do everything they can to have these kind of meetings.

Word Count: 1091

Reading Time: 4.2 minutes

Assignment time:  3-5 minutes concurrent with the meeting

Meeting 1:  No Decision-Maker

A consultant, let’s call her Tina, gets invited to a phone meeting with her client who has invited 3 of her staff to “give their perspective” on how to publicize the annual wellness fair. The meeting starts 5 minutes late with the client saying:

“Tina is here to help us with our flyer for the employees wellness fair.”

Jed from HR jumps in:  “I really like the colors in the last corporate PR piece.  Very vibrant.”

Cathy speaks up next:  “I love the puppy!  So warm and inviting.  I think we should use a puppy.

Last comes Melbert:  “I think we need to make sure this has a strong medical-expert feel as well.  If it’s too fluffy, no one will thing we’re serious about employee wellness.”

Cathy:  “I don’t think a puppy is fluffy…”

And, they are off and running!

Tina’s client says nothing.

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Tina can foresee endless rounds of “bring me another rock.” The game goes like this:  You bring a flyer layout to this Planning group and they pick it apart. You agree to bring back several new versions next time.  None of these are “quite right.” Like Sisyphus, you see your future stretching out before you, infinite and frustrating.  Like Sisyphus, you’ll never get it right because there is no target to hit.  You’ll keep rolling that rock up the hill only to watch it roll back down again.

When the destination is unclear, every road has its merits.  The journey never really begins.

A leaderless meeting is characterized by everyone giving you advice about how to do something you’ve not yet established as worth doing at all.  This cart-before the-horse, free-for-all is what tells you the project is in trouble. When a decision-maker is present, the WHAT precedes the HOW.

Because decision-makers write checks, either for time or money.

That’s why decision-makers pay close attention to WHAT they want to accomplish and the best way to accomplish it, just like you manage your budget to get the most for your money and time.  That’s what strategy is;  a laser focus on what is worth your time or money. How to accomplish it comes later.

If your meeting is full of advice about how to do something before you know what that something will accomplish, it’s a safe bet the decision-maker isn’t in the room.

Meeting #2 – The Decision-Maker is in the house

Leader:  “We need to promote this year’s wellness fair. Lucy sent out last year’s flyer Jeremy tell sme we need a new approach because attendance is so low. I’d like to hear your ideas.  Let’s go around the room one-by -one so Lucy can write them down.

Jeremy looks nervous:  “Er, boss?  I’m not sure what the wellness program is supposed to accomplish.”

Leader:  “Wellness for our employees.  It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

Jeremy:  “Of course. But, you know, what specifically does that mean?”

Leader:  “It means, our employees are healthier after the wellness fair than they were before…Oh.  I see your point.  Do you mean what metrics are we tracking?”

Jeremy:  “That would help me understand our focus.”

Leader: “Jasmine, do we have metrics?”

Jasmine: “Yes – attendance at the health fair.”

The leader looks at Jasmine and says, “That’s all?”

Jasmine nods.

Leader: “What are the attendance numbers?”

Jasmine:  “We average 5-10% of our employees each year.”

Leader:  “Do we know anything about our employees’ health?”

Jasmine:  “Not really.

Leader: “Can we find out?”

Tina speaks up:  “We can assess that quite easily.  We can also use evidence-based approaches that will make a difference on the health metrics most that most affect absenteeism and job performance.”

Leader:  ” I want Jeremy and Jasmine to work with Tina to write a proposal about how we can assess and actually improve our employees’ health.  I want activities, costs and outcomes we can expect that are evidence-based.  Show me what I can expect over the next 5-years at 3 levels of investment. What questions do you have about this?

Sally:  “How shall we publicize the upcoming health fair?”

Leader:  “Do what we did last year.  I don’t see the point of putting effort into something that doesn’t make a difference.  Unless someone has a better idea?”

Jeremy says, “I think we could do a better job of getting those flyers to our people and talking up the give-aways.  I’d need a budget of $1500.00.  Can I have it?

Leader: “Yes.  We can use the results of what you do to fine tune our approach once we better understand what we are trying to accomplish.”

Jasmine::  “What about a questionnaire that helps us understands what’s important to our employees?“

Leader: “That’s a good idea.  Rather than rush it, would you please make it a component of the proposal you’re giving me?  I’d like to see it at our next meeting in two weeks.  Does that give you enough time?”


+     +     +     +     +

The boss is the decision-maker in this conversation.  And Jeremy?  He’s the Wellness coordinator, and Tina’s client.  During their initial meeting, it became clear to her that Jeremy was asking all the right questions, but was not in a position to commit the organization to a different path.  She coached him to put this meeting together and ask the tough questions of his boss.  He agreed because he “Didn’t want to waste his time on another stupid health fair.”  Tina knew he’d be a good client because his utter resistance to working with her masked his desire to do work that made a difference.

Your Assignment

Track in writing when a meeting irritates or bores you during the meeting or conversation.  Do this in both one-on-one conversation and group meetings.

Here’s how:

1. Divide a piece of paper into three columns.  In the first column write down what happening in neutral language:  “John is halfway through his deck about the Z widget.”

2.  In the middle column, write down your response to what is happening.  Do not make this neutral. “I think my bottom must be asleep.  I’d kill for a nap.  I never realized how John slurs his words sometimes.  Is he drunk?”

3.  In the third column, Drop the Needle.  Write down what you could say about what is happening either to you or about what is happening without editing.

Learning to multi-track in your mind helps make you more present, authentic and powerful.  (That’s how it differs from multi-tasking.)  It’s how you can use every conversation to practice those powerful consulting statements.