Blog (page 2)

Have you had enough of pointless meetings?

We’ve all experienced pointless meetings. You arrive on time only to wait for the meeting to start 10 minutes late. There wasn’t an agenda so you’re not really sure what you’re there for. You should have asked but you were too busy attending another meeting to check. It’s not clear who’s running the meeting as the loudest person seems to get all the air space. Several people in the meeting are multi-tasking or perhaps private messaging each other about why they’re there. They’re not really present though and are preoccupied by their phones and laptops which is distracting for the people who are contributing. You don’t say much because you feel unsure of what is expected from you.  Nothing is really decided, and the meeting wraps up late. You’ve accumulated some actions that you won’t have time to complete because you’re off to another meeting that you’re already late for because this lousy meeting overran. You know you’ll have to complete your actions outside of working hours (again) because the rest of the working week is filled with more meetings.

Sound familiar?

Too many meetings and poorly organised meetings are not just a waste of your time, they can cause stress and frustration about your own work and tasks, as well as negative feelings about colleagues. They can also have a negative impact on moral, motivation and productivity across a whole organisation.

How many times have you felt in the flow with your work, and that you’re making great progress, perhaps you’re even ahead of time and then a meeting request gets put in the diary and interrupts your progress. The meeting wasn’t great, you weren’t sure why you had to be there, and it rumbled on for ages. After the meeting you feel less motivated. You’ve lost track of where you were and the momentum you had earlier is gone. You don’t feel as driven or as committed to finishing the task as you did before you attended the meeting.

Ineffective meetings are exhausting and can interrupt productivity. They can also create negative energy which can stay with employees after the meeting. Pointless meetings waste huge amounts of time, energy and money. *A survey of 6,500 people from the USA, UK, and Germany found that among the 19 million meetings that were observed, the ineffective meetings cost UK businesses an estimated £41 billion.

On the other hand, effective meetings are important. They inspire and drive people to do better. When well-managed, meetings can be an effective way to debate and discuss, collaborate and co-operate, motivate and inspire and accelerate progress.

If you’re tired of pointless meetings here’s 4 tips to help you save time and to make sure your meetings are positive and productive.

1. Be clear on the purpose of the meeting

If it’s your meeting, be really clear on what the meeting is for and make sure the people you invite know too. Set an agenda. Make sure attendees are clear on why they’re being invited and what’s expected of them. If you’re inviting them ‘for information only’ consider if their time would be better spent reading the information after the meeting rather than attending. And if you’re invited to a meeting and you’re not clear on the purpose and your role, then it’s your responsibility to ask the organiser.

You should never go to a meeting or make a telephone call without a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve.Steve Jobs

2. Only invite the people who need to be there

If you’re organising a meeting, really consider who you invite and what their role is. I’ve observed some organisations with a meeting culture which means that everyone gets invited to everything. This can be because of a lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities, and sometimes it’s caused by lack of confidence or fear of failure. Whatever the reason it’s a massive waste of time, energy and resource to invite more people than are required to a meeting.

3. Be ruthless about the meetings you attend

Research shows that managers spend at least 50% of their time in meetings and four hours a week preparing for status updates, not leaving much time to actually do the work. This has increased in the last year, according the Harvard Business School, employees have been attending more virtual meetings than in-person since we’ve been working remotely. Your time is precious, and it’s a finite resource. It’s your responsibility to use it wisely. Refer back to points 1 and 2 and if you’re unclear on your role in a meeting ask the organiser. If you are not required or there’s a more efficient way of getting the information, for example reading the meeting notes, politely ask the question about whether it’s the best use of your time to be there.

4. As a meeting participant, you have a responsibility

If you’ve ever been distracted in a meeting by the person arriving late, leaving early, getting on with their work or answering emails you’ll know how disruptive it can be. Often people attempt to get on with work because they resent being in the meeting or don’t understand why they need to be there. From now on I hope you’ll only be attending meetings that you need to be at, and you’ll understand your role. If you’re attending a meeting, as a participant, you have a responsibility to support the meeting organiser to help the meeting be successful. In addition to the basics like arriving on time and not multi-tasking, ask yourself during the meeting, ‘How can I help this meeting to work well?’ Your time and input are valuable, if you are attending a meeting make it count. Be present. Contribute.

Thank you to Hayley Watts for your expertise and inspiration for writing this blog. If you’re serious about fixing meetings get yourself a copy of Hayley’s latest book ‘How to Fix Meetings’ here.

I’m delighted that Hayley is our guest expert at the Lucidity Network next month for a live webinar. If you’d like to join us it’s easy. Sign up to the Lucidity Network here.  


Do you have a sense of purpose?

Do you have a sense of purpose? Do you wake up in the morning and feel that you’re doing what you’re ‘meant’ to be doing? That might mean in your job or career, or for some people purpose is less about work and more about family and friends. For others it might be a more spiritual purpose, a way of being or an expression, and for many it’s a combination of all these aspects of life.

Purpose is unique for everyone; what you identify as yours will be different from other people’s. What’s moreyour purpose will likely evolve throughout your life in response to the changing priorities and fluctuations of your own experiences.

For some of us, our purpose is obvious and clear. Some people always knew they wanted to be an artist/nurse/scientist/parent/chef. However, most people are still working it out, and it’s always going to be work in progress. Purpose isn’t always obvious. We may discover our true calling over time by trial and error or a happy accident. For the majority of people, in the fast pace and pressures of everyday life, it’s difficult to really stop and think about what our purpose is.

‘Finding your purpose’ is more than just a cliché, an existential crisis or a Hollywood plotline. For decades, psychologists have studied how humans desire and develop a sense of purpose over their lifetimes. Our sense of purpose appears to have evolved so that humans can accomplish big things together. It helps both individuals and the species to survive.

Our sense of purpose can be our connection to something bigger, something that will allow us to truly make a difference. It can be a tool for building confidence, making decisions, shaping goals and offering a sense of direction. There’s also research that shows having a sense of purpose can help us create meaning, which can lead to a happier life.

We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are not.  The important things give our lives meaning and happiness. So, when we’re looking for purpose, what we’re really asking is,What can I do with my time that’s important?’

If you’re reading this and are having affirming thoughts like ‘Oh yes, I know why I’m here and where I want to spend my time and energy’, then fabulous. Read no further. However if you’re feeling like you’re being swept along by life and you’d like to be driving rather than a passenger, then here are three tips to help you begin to uncover your purpose.

Why do you want to find your purpose?

It isn’t necessarily easy, and like anything that might involve change and take some time and effort, it can help to be clear on why it’s important to you. Otherwise, it’s easy to stop at the first hurdle, run out of energy and revert back to your current ways of being.

Write down why it’s important to you that you find your purpose. For example, is it that you want more from your life and career, to be happier, healthier, wake up in the morning excited for what you’re going to do that day?

What are you good at?

A good place to start in helping you to uncover your purpose is to ask yourself some questions around your strengths, your achievements and what really makes you, you. Ask yourself the following questions as honestly as you can:

  • What sets me apart?
  • What skills do I have?
  • What am I doing well?
  • What do I enjoy?

Once you’ve done this, review what you have written. What answers do you get? What passion or purpose are you leaning towards?

Ask others

Saying what we’re good at can be difficult. It can help to get some objectivity by asking others for their opinions. A quick and powerful exercise is to ask five people for five words that they immediately think of when they think of you. It can feel scary, and I guarantee the exercise will reveal some helpful insights and indicators about what you’re good at.

‘You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream, you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.’  Diana Ross

There’s three quick tips to get you started. Finding your purpose isn’t a tick box exercise; it’s an ongoing journey. Keep stopping to pause and reflect. Your thoughts will likely evolve and change. What’s important is your own awareness and focus on what you’re interested in and what makes you happy.

Inside my private membership, we also covered this topic with our invited expert Judith Sabah, a motivationalist and breakthrough coach and she explained:

  • How connecting with your purpose can change your life
  • Why finding your purpose is a journey, not a tick box exercise
  • Practical tips to discover your purpose.

The replay of this session, as well as the accompanying training kit (workbook + additional resources), can be found on the members’ site. If you’re interested in exploring ways to find your purpose, this could a great opportunity for you to try out the Lucidity Network. As soon as you join, you’ll get instant access to this one as well as over 30 training kits covering topics like managing uncertainty, overcoming procrastination and boosting your resilience and wellbeing at work. Why not give it a try!


Do you feel like you’re winging it?

I remember when I was first promoted from being part of a team to being a manager of a team. I spent my whole time feeling like I was winging it.

I was super pleased though. For what seemed like a long time, being a ‘manager’ was the next career move. It felt like an important step up. A career milestone.

I was proud of my new business cards. I liked having manager in my job title. I felt like I’d made real progress.

Then reality kicked in.

I had no idea what was involved in managing people. I didn’t realise how much my previous manager had protected me and my colleagues from organisational politics and pressures from other departments.

I went on a management training course.

The training was great, however it didn’t prepare me for the less obvious and perhaps more challenging aspects of being a new manager that can’t be learned in a training session. I was promoted from within a team, so I was managing some of my old colleagues (some of whom applied for the [my] managers roll and didn’t get it).  Even though everyone was great and there was no obvious hard feelings it still felt difficult to adjust to this new dynamic. Drinks after work changed – now I was expected to buy the first round and then go home so the rest of the team could bond. It was no longer OK to be the last person standing on a night out.

It can be hard to ask for help

Whether you’re promoted from within an organisation or you start a new role in a new organisation, the same anxiety can take hold. The uneasy feeling that you’re winging it, that you don’t really know what you’re doing and that if you’re not careful you’ll get found out.

It’s hard to ask for help because you’re a manager now and you’re supposed to know stuff.

Also you want to step into your role and prove that you can do it. That’s why you don’t ask your manager for help for fear or appearing incompetent, inadequate or making them think they’ve made the wrong decision in appointing you. Because doubt is creeping in and you’re secretly starting to believe that they’ve made the wrong decision.

You don’t feel safe to ask your new peer group, the other managers, for help. You’re still figuring out the order of things, who you trust and who talks to who. It’s hard to ask them for help because you feel like you want to be accepted as one of them. You want them to respect you and your experience but you feel that you haven’t earned it yet, so you can’t ask them for too much help. You don’t want to be seen as the ‘new manager’ (Even though that’s not how they see you – it’s only how you see you).

You can’t ask your team (the people you manage) for help because you feel like they look to you for answers and you should have them. Plus who knew that managing people could take up take up so much time and energy? There’s hardly any time to do anything else what with one to ones, meetings about objectives and performance, forms to fill in and organisational deadlines to meet. What about the actual work, the stuff you’re good at, the things you love?

As we climb further up the conventional career ladder we often get further away from the work we love because we’re managing other people to do it.

Back to winging it

If that’s not enough all of a sudden I had to present information at meetings, talk about budgets and people actually listened, and with that comes great responsibility. What if I got something wrong?

I just wanted to enjoy my job and be good at it. I felt that in the time I was learning to step up to be a manager that I was floundering, being a fake and that I was going to get found out. Even with excellent management training I still felt like I was lost and making it up, my confidence took a nosedive and I started to doubt myself.

Does this sound familiar?

Now I work with clients in different points in their careers, and I’ve noticed that there’s some real grey areas for organisations in the development of their people.

There’s two gaps that I see time and time again; the first is when someone steps into a management role and manages people for the first time. The second is when someone takes the step from management to leadership and becomes part of a senior management team.

When people first step into a management role they often go through a management training programme but nine times out of ten they don’t have support networks they need to put the theory into practise and continue to learn and develop. Self doubt creeps in and the great management opportunity turns into an anxious nightmare. Even when people are well networked, even when they know a lot of people, the majority are still not very good at asking their networks for help. It either feels too daunting or they don’t want to be seen as incompetent or are fearful of being found out.

More senior mangers and leaders in my experience tend to see the value in networks and have more established ones, yet still find it difficult to ask for help and utilise the networks that they’ve worked so hard to build.

Whatever stage we are in our career we all need to ask for help and to help other people. We all need a cheering squad, critical friends, people to bounce ideas round with and people around us who challenge us to be the best version of ourselves.

These are the things that traditional management training doesn’t (or perhaps can’t) cover. The subtle challenges that keep you awake at night, the learning by experience and the skills that get called ‘soft’ which are essential to master to have a happy and productive working life.

These gaps are the reasons that I run the Lucidity Network. It’s a community of people to ask for help as well as coaching and training (including those critical soft skills) to help you step up in your career and enjoy the experience. For more information go here, or book a time for an informal chat on how joining the Lucidity Network can help you progress in your working life.

Why your silence is important

When you’re in conversation do you enjoy moments of silence? Or do you find it uncomfortable and jump in to fill the space?

Silence leaves room for thinking and reflection. It can give the other person time to consider their reply. It can help to build trust, confidence and (somewhat counterintuitively) rapport. It can also be helpful for creativity and problem solving as leaving space can help us dig deeper and come up with our own creative solutions rather than rushing for the first obvious idea.

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of chatting on a Lucidity Network webinar with Katie Colombus, assistant director of communications at Samaritans and author of How to Listen’ . One of our discussion points was the value of silence. Here’s my key take-aways from the webinar;

  • If, as a listener you fill the silence and jump in with solutions instead of listening and asking questions that help the person come to a solution, you are disempowering them and implying that they can’t find the solution themselves. So even when it comes from a place of wanting to help, you’re actually doing the opposite. Leaving silence is important in empowering people to find their own solutions.
  • Rather than jumping in to ‘fix’ something, leave silence. Let the person think and reflect. You might then ask some open questions (a question that can’t be answered with a yes or a no) to encourage a conversation. For example, ‘How did you feel about that?’ or ‘Tell me what you thought of that?’ or ‘What did that mean for the situation?’
  • If you find it difficult to leave silence, have a go at setting yourself silence targets. For example, at your next meeting you might set yourself the target of not filling any silences, if you’re a manager, at your next 1:1 with members of your team, set a target to only ask open questions and don’t ‘fix’ anything.
  • Start to notice when you want to jump in and do something else instead, for example, count to 5, or take several deep breaths, or my personal favourite (thank you Vanessa Longley) is to pop a Rolo in your mouth (other sweets allowed) and don’t speak until you’ve finished it.

I’d love to hear your thought and tips on listening and silence.

If you’d like to watch the reply of the ‘How to be brilliant at listening’ webinar you can watch it at the Lucidity Network.

The Lucidity Network is a membership community and is for you if you want to take charge of your own learning and development and be happy and more productive in your working life. When you join you get access to practical content, including webinars and training packs, brilliant people who are experts in topics that will help you find your success. We’ve training materials on over 30 topics in the learning vault including; listening skills, how to be productive, strategic thinking, storytelling, learning from failure, having difficult conversations and managing up. All the details on how to join are here.

Are you fine?

What’s the response you hear most often when you ask the question. ‘How are you?’

I’ve noticed that there are three primary answers.

  1. Fine
  2. Busy
  3. Really Busy

None of these are adequate answers. Perhaps it’s not really a question that expects, or has time for a detailed response.

Are you fine?

It’s an important question to know the answer to though, especially if you manage a team and especially now as we go from lockdown and remote working that we’ve got used to – to something different.

When we’re faced with uncertainty human beings feel threatened. We want to feel certain and safe. Don’t underestimate how emerging from lockdown will impact everyone in your team, and it is likely to impact them all differently. That’s why it’s really important to understand how people are doing beyond ‘fine’ and varying degrees of busy.

If you don’t know how your colleagues are, it’s hard to help them. It’s also harder to know how people are really doing if you can’t meet in real life. It’s harder to pick up on non-verbal cues; the way someone is sitting, their energy and their overall demeanour on a screen. It can be easier to hide if you’re not OK too.

That’s why I want to share with you one simple question that will help you as a manager understand more about how your colleagues are, and therefore give you a better opportunity to support them.

At the Lucidity Network we support people with learning and development including resilience and wellbeing. Our in-house HR expert Rachel Atkinson, founder at Red Feather Consulting regularly shares her top tips.

Change the question

Instead of asking ‘How are you’? Rachel suggests asking How are you feeling on a scale of 1-5?’  With 1 that you’re feeling ghastly and 5 that you’re feeling fabulous.

  • This makes it hard for the person to answer ‘fine’ or ‘busy’ which effectively closes down a conversation.
  • When someone says their number, you can then ask why that is, and if they’re anything less than a 5, you can enquire about what you might be able to do to nudge them closer to a 5.
  • This question opens up conversations about how a person is feeling and what they might need from you to support them.
  • It can help people tell you they’re not great in a simple way. Saying ‘I’m a 1 today’ can somehow feel easier for many people than saying ‘I’m at burnout’.
  • It helps the person responding consider how they are really feeling, rather than the auto pilot ‘fine’ or ‘busy’.
  • It works in one to ones, in team meetings or meetings involving different teams and departments.
  • It works online – as a facilitator, asking people to put where they are on the scale in the chat box can help you judge the room, the pace and the style required to get the outcomes you want.

What do you think? Give it a go and let us know how you get on.

Thank you Rachel for the inspirational tips. If you’d like to join us at the Lucidity Network and benefit from Rachel’s expertise then there’s more information on how to join us here.