7 Outrageous Ways to Get People to Meetings on Time

  by Mean Josephine 1.  Start your meetings exactly on time. Close the door at start time. Become known for it. 2. Never insult those present by saying, “Where is everybody? Is Sarah coming? Call Brad.” Start if you have only one other person present (I know, I know, that’s really hard).   3.  Publish a concise agenda with internal start-and-end times for each item, as well as the time you’ll adjourn.   4.  Cut your meeting allowance in half: schedule 30 minutes if you usually take an hour. See Parkinson’s Law.*   5. Place the "must-get-to" item last. This keeps you serious about sticking to your time budget.    6. Jump into your agenda after fewer than 20 seconds of small talk.    7.  End before the scheduled time, and brag: "Congratulations, we finished early!"   *Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the available time for its completion.

Employee of the Month? No, Employees of the Moment.

by Mike McCarthy An excited employee said, "I told my boss, ‘If I don’t get Employee of the Month this month, I’m going to quit,’ so he gave it to me. Yay!"  What’s wrong with this picture? Two things. First, we should never reinforce people for unproductive behaviors, negative talk, or threats (this will only get us more of the same).    Second, we should set short-term goals or specific actions that will allow the person to earn reinforcement, and to know concretely what to do to earn it. Instead of singling out one "employee of the month," give your small (non-monetary) comments of recognition frequently to "employees of the moment" for their productive work and their positive comments. Give your positive attention when positive actions are demonstrated or goals are achieved – and ONLY then.

Two Tootsie Rolls and a Mint

The phone rang at 7:30 A.M. Michelle, an anxious student, asked: "Should I come today for the qualifying exam? I only got two Tootsie Rolls and a mint from Rachael!" Worldwide Interactive Network Instructor Rachael Caldwell had used a simple but powerful feedback system to help her online students achieve high scores on their Career Readiness Certification tests. As they completed their online study, Rachael neatly printed each student’s name on a small white styrofoam cup, then loaded the cup with small candies for each level achieved each day. Each mint meant they had completed the minimum level of a category; each Tootsie Roll signified one level beyond the minimum requirement. The impression of those personally-packed candies stuck with Michelle and all of Rachael’s other students. Her mint-and-Tootsie Roll feedback system inspired some students to earn higher test scores. Of 19 students, 16 took their qualifying exams and were awarded Career Readiness Certificates, which they will proudly present to prospective employers, setting them a notch above other applicants when hiring decisions are made. Rx for a job: Earn six Tootsie Rolls and call me in the morning!  

When Meetings Go Bad

  Remember Gary Larson’s great cartoon: a jar of mayonnaise in a refrigerator wearing a burglar’s mask and pointing a gun at the other condiments? Its great caption "When mayonnaise goes bad" still makes me chuckle. I watched a meeting "go bad" as the leader and the participants’ positions on a controversial issue became farther and farther apart with each comment that was offered. When this meeting could have produced a "meeting of the minds," what was making it a sour as mayo "gone bad"? The leader had opened with an explanation of an unpopular policy which had been announced but not yet implemented. One by one, attendees succinctly and politely, voiced their respective concerns about the policy. Every comment was answered with "Here’s all the research we did to decide this," "Every other organization does it this way," and other "You just don’t understand" defenses. None of the participants felt as if their ideas were being heard, just met with a counter-punch. Finally, one person stated what he saw happening ("You won’t even consider our ideas. Let’s work it out together rather than you just telling us how life will be). The leader’s answer: "I am listening. I have a … Continue reading

Tender Mender for a Fender Bender

   Wifey ran into a light post and crunched the fender of her big ol’ sedan. More than the ugly fender or cost and hassle of repair, she was worried about the reaction she might get  from Hubby. She started imagining what she wished he would say instead of what she feared he would say.   A brilliant idea struck when she backed into her garage (hiding the fender): “I’ll write down the exact words I want to hear from Hubby, catch him before he sees the fender, and give him my words as a “script” to read to me.” She did it.   Watching for Hubby’s arrival home, she went outside to meet him.   “Honey,” she said, “I have something to show you. But before I do, I want you to promise that the first words out of your mouth will be the words I’ve written on this paper.”   Skeptically, Hubby agreed. Wifey made him hold the paper with both hands as she walked him back to see the fender. He gulped. She said “You promised." Dutifully, Hubby read the words aloud: “Sweetheart, I’m so glad you weren’t hurt. What can I do to help you?”   Then, realizing what had just happened to him, … Continue reading

Gifts That Keep On Giving – Symbolic Awards That Tell a Story

  By Michael McCarthy   Once upon a time, Performance Improvement Consultant Russell Justice wisely said: "The best positive reinforcement is anything that gives us a story to tell."   People go home from work with stories to tell every day. Most of the stories are not very positive. We want to give people good stories to tell.  Good reinforcement “creates” a story to tell.    People say, “You won’t believe what the boss did today,” “Guess what Joe said,” or “Let me tell you what we did.”  We want them talking about the fun they had, and the excitement of accomplishment.    At the appreciation dinner for the Nassau Habitat for Humanity in Fernandina, Florida, construction manager Patrick McCarthy found unique ways to give positive recognition to hard-working Habitat volunteers.   Using anecdotes and incidents from their work days, he created clever items that symbolized events, and running jokes among the “regulars” on the crew. Many volunteers were golfers, so Patrick modified golf clubs to create chuckles all around.   The volunteers from the framing crew each received a golf club with a hammer- head on the end.  Presenting these, Patrick deadpanned: “The only way Fred can swing his arm is with a … Continue reading

We Affect Other People With Almost Everything We Do

        When I was 11,  I cut the grass in my family’s yard all by myself for the first time. Tired and sweaty, I was so proud. A family friend drove into the driveway just as I was finishing. His first words out of the car were “You missed a spot behind the shrubs.” I was crushed. Why hadn’t he noticed the rest of the four acres that I had completed correctly with so much sweat and effort? I suppose his eye was trained to look for the imperfect spot. I never wanted to cut the grass again.          Most of us know the power of other people’s approval or disapproval in motivating us to keep trying. Or to feel like throwing in the towel. A smile and a comment showing that someone values our efforts will keep us going for a long time.          Joanna tells about a week when her supervisor was out of town; she had been working through lunches and until 7:00 P.M. every night to meet department deadlines. She was feeling burned out, she said, when Wayne, a co-worker, came and stood for a minute at her cubicle door one evening, watching her work. “You work hard,” … Continue reading

From “Burned” to “Juiced”

   A manufacturer had hired 24 employees from a company which had laid them off. Most had been with that company for a long time and had trained newer co-workers (who weren’t laid off). These 24 people were still feeling “burned” from their experience when their new boss asked them to cross-train each other. The goal was to become more flexible with short-turnaround customer orders. The workers found every reason in the book not to teach co-workers what they knew:    “I don’t have time.”    “I can do it better than him.”    “She’ll mess it up and I’ll have to fix it later.”    Later, during a workshop, they discussed the pros and cons of cross-training (to the company’s health and to their own job security). They completed several “teach someone a task you’re good at” activities during the workshop and received positive comments from co-workers about the skills they shared   They made these activities a more interesting and fun experience by creating a poster to track the number of tasks they taught each other, each jotting down the task next to the learners’ and teachers’ names.   Once each week, they had a five-minute huddle around the poster and reviewed new … Continue reading

Start the New Year “Bright”

Start your department’s new year off with a book club. Learn something new and fun, and make your workplace more positive in the process. May I suggest You Made My Day: Creating Co-worker Recognition & Relationships, by Michael McCarthy and Janis Allen, available on www.janisallen.com – just click on "bookstore."  Here’s an exerpt from the book:      Recognition and relationships are intertwined concepts that are difficult to separate. We find it similar to William Butler Yeats’ observation, "How do you tell the dancer from the dance?"      We often can’t tell the relationship from the recognition. A relationship is composed of the feelings created by past actions and words between two people. Recognition is showing how you value another person’s work.      Recognition (giving and receiving) is difficult or impossible when competitiveness, lack of trust, or insensitivity are part of the way people relate. The New Year is a great time to transform those relationships into more positive ones! Below are some ideas for organizing a group "read." 1.  Set a frequent (twice per month works well) schedule for discussing an achievable number of pages to read. Two chapters per two weeks works for most everyone. Ask everyone in your group to place the dates and … Continue reading

Simon Says Beware

  Jan, the owner of Simon the Jack Russell Terrier, trained Simon to touch a bell with his paw when he wanted to go outside.   One evening, Simon waited till she sat down to dinner, then rang the bell. When Jan left her plate of warm, delicious food to open the door, Simon ran past her, jumped onto her chair, and gobbled down her food.   Jan had intended "going outside" as the positive consequence for Simon’s ringing the bell. But smart Simon found a much more delicious consequence for the behavior of bell-ringing: her savory supper.   Does anyone in your life have YOU trained?   It’s happened to me.   Simone was responsible for assembling and shipping materials for my training classes. Each time I gave her my order, she’d say, "You’ll have to come over here and bring me the inserts," or some such. Pretty soon, I was spending more time preparing the shipments than she was. Eventually, I ended up preparing my own materials and taking them with me on the plane.   I had thought Simone would do a certain task when I rang the bell; actually, I did a certain task when she rang the bell. … Continue reading