and Do Something
Are your weeks and months filled with so many meetings you “don’t have time to do your job?” Do you sit in meetings that go on and on and seem to have no point?
Are you in meetings where participants or the meeting leader covers something that could have been handed out as a pre-meeting reading assignment and the meeting time could have been used for discussion and action planning?
If you answered “Yes” to these questions, this article provides some useful tips on how to improve the quality and productivity of meetings.
A quick web search turned up some interesting (and frightening) findings from a number of studies.
2000 executives surveyed said they believe that 25-50 percent of the time people spend in meetings is wasted. (Scary thought when “time is money.”) Senior execu- tives reported in a 2010 survey if their organizations banned meetings for at least one day a week their employees would be more productive. What could happen for your business if the “no meeting day” was designated as “go out and visit your clients day”?
What could happen if every time you received a meeting request or planned a meeting you’d ask yourself the following questions?
- Will this meeting help me meet my goals?
- Will this meeting help others meet their goals?
- Is attending the meeting (or holding the meeting) the best use of my time and the time of those who are expected to attend?
If the answer is “no,” make some constructive suggestions on how the meetings can be more productive; if you are the meeting planner, spend a little more time in planning to ensure that your meetings are productive.
The most productive meeting leaders employ a number of “best practice” techniques to ensure that meetings are productive. Their preplanning includes:
- Identifying a clearly-stated purpose. This is actually written on the agenda.
- The written agenda is prepared in advance of the meeting and it contains the topics to be covered.
- Participants receive the agenda in advance and come prepared. This may include reading material that may be up for discussion at the meeting.
- Each agenda topic has a pre-determined time allocation for discussion.
This is called the PAL approach. P=Purpose, A=Agenda, L=Limit (as in time limit) for each topic.
Sample Staff Meeting Plan
Purpose: Updates on pending and recent department & organization changes
4:00 P.M. Review Office Relocation Plan
4:15 New Product Feedback
4:25 Benefit Change Update (Pre-Read On Bank Intranet)
4:35 Client Appreciation Event Planning
4:45 Team Updates
4:55 Evaluate Meeting
Pre-determining time limits for topics helps to keep everyone on track.
As the meeting facilitator be sure to:
- Start the meeting on time, regardless of people who are late.
- Do not review the contents of the meeting with the people who are late for the part they missed.
- Reduce the length of meetings to one hour maximum, and preferably less—try 30 minutes, even try 15 or 10 minutes.
- End the meeting on the agreed-upon time, even if the agenda is not finished.
- Invite fewer people to the meeting—productivity goes down with increasing numbers of participants.
- Allow the right for employees to decline their attendance without having to justify them-selves and without penalties.
- Don’t let people join the meeting who are late by more than 15 minutes.
- Don’t allow individuals to hijack or dominate meetings by frequent and endless conversation. It’s the responsibility of the meeting leader to control this.
- End meetings early. People will be more positive about participating as a result.
- No laptops or phones are allowed to be active in meetings. Allowing people to be interrupted or diverting their attention lowers the value of the meeting.
- Don’t tolerate meeting participants working on other things during the meeting. Give them permission to leave.
- The meeting leader should enforce only one person speaking at a time, and to the point.
- At the beginning of the meeting, ensure that the desired outcome(s) are stated clearly.
- Table any discussion that is not relevant to the agenda.
Sharing these meeting tips with your staff and asking the group to do an honest evaluation of where improvement is needed will make an immediate difference in the quality and productivity of your meetings.
Trust me- it will be difficult to find someone who isn’t interested in helping improve meetings.
The final agenda item should be a quick evaluation of the meeting to identify the improvements in the process and target additional improvement needs.
Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.
-John Kenneth Galbreth, American Economist
Closing a Sale
by Amy White, First Vice President Chemical Bank Wealth Management
Closing a sale. Seems like that should be the easy point in the sales process, but many times our own insecurities get in the way.
While many institutions have moved to a “sales and service” culture, we still need reminders of how this “sales process” is supposed to work. We all have our inner voices talking to us – I don’t want to be pushy, the client doesn’t seem ready to make a decision – when discussing the status of our pipelines. We prepare for our meetings with new prospects by developing a list of topics, services or processes that we want to discuss – without thinking if the client wants (or needs) to hear about them. Let’s take a look at what your sales process should look like:
First, initial meetings with the client should revolve around asking questions to find out their needs, problems, issues, and opinions. If you are receiving a referral or have been asked to join a meeting with another banker, you should have this same type of meeting with your referral source. Ask the banker what they know about the prospect’s goals, needs and issues. While you will probably need to ask some additional questions of the prospect in the meeting, your questions should be more in line with existing issues of which you have been made aware. Ask those open-ended questions to drill down to the real issue, the real problem for which they are seeking help and guidance.
Next, continue to talk with the client or prospect to gain agreement on a few critical issues. What are the most important issues – or what issues/decisions need to be made first? What are the implications of those issues for them personally? Once you have agreement on the most critical issues…..
The final step is to talk about how you, your team and your institution can address those issues. Explain our processes – and ONLY those processes that deal with the agreed upon issues. Explain how you can help alleviate a pain point, answer questions, provide peace of mind – all centered around the agreed upon issues you’ve uncovered.
Then, once you’ve explained how you can solve, alleviate or answer, the next step should be easy and clear to take. ASK FOR THE BUSINESS!
Amy White, J.D. is First Vice President, Trust Officer and Site Manager for Chemical Bank Wealth Management’s St. Joseph, MI office. Chemical Bank Wealth Management was established in 1964 and
has over $2.3 billion in assets under management. Chemical Bank Wealth Management is the full-service trust department of Chemical Bank, the largest bank headquartered in Michigan.
What Dr. Seuss
Teaches About Sales
Lessons from Green Eggs and Ham
In Green Eggs and Ham, the character Sam-I-Am offers his prospect fourteen different ways to eat his green eggs and ham… Including in a box, with a mouse, on a train, in a car…
Don’t assume your prospect isn’t interested. When Sam-I-Am begins asking his prospect if he likes green eggs and ham, his prospect replies, “I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. I do not like green eggs and ham.”
By the end of the book, the prospect finally tries green eggs and ham and discovers that he does like them. Your prospect may initially not be interested because he or she doesn’t have enough information or has a false perception. Be sure to give your prospects enough information (as well as variety) to make an informed decision. Digging a little deeper by asking questions will help you learn more. Ms. Prospect, help me understand what it is about (green eggs and ham/mobile banking/a financial consultation with our investment advisor) that doesn’t appeal to you? An open-ended question will encourage more conversation and enable you to learn what the specific objection or misunderstanding is. In this way you are prepared to address the issue.
Make different offers.
Sam-I-Am gives fourteen different offers before the prospect finally tries the green eggs and ham. Make different offers in order to find the one that may appeal to your prospect.
Offer additional purchase options. Because Sam-I-Am gave so many options in trying to sell his main offer (green eggs and ham), at the end, his new “customer” decided he not only wanted the green eggs and ham, but that he would want them in all the various options previously offered. (The amazing value and versatility of the product/service you are offering.) For instance, he “would eat them in a boat.” As you make additional offers, consider highlighting the benefits—what it will do for the customer. You may also highlight additional products to help your consumer become familiar with all you offer.
Special thanks to Shelli Pint, AVP BankIowa, Office Manager, Waterloo, Iowa for sharing Sales Lessons from Dr. Seuss. Shelli uses this and other creative approaches to “spice up” her sales huddles/meetings. There lots of “food for thought” in Green Eggs and Ham.
8 Bad Supervisory Practices
by Liz Bowermaster Director of Training Services Pohl Consulting and Training, Inc.
It’s not easy to be a supervisor. There’s a great deal of responsibility and frequently little or no training other than the “school of hard knocks.” Most supervisors will say that the most challenging aspect of their job is the people part and certainly most of us who supervise others will agree.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not bashing supervisors. My intent is to encourage supervisory best practices and provide support to those who have taken on the challenging, an often frustrating task of building a team that’s highly energized, productive and produces great results.
If in reading through this list you recognize yourself, making some changes to more productive supervisory behaviors will benefit you and your team.
Not cutting out the dead wood—otherwise known as failing to address poor performers. Everyone knows who they are and failure to address the problem brings down the entire team—and for that matter the organization. Don’t ignore the problem. Even if it is an inherited problem from your predecessor, deal with it.
No regular staff meetings—A few productive minutes on a regularly scheduled basis can bring great benefits in terms of helping the team feel more like a team, feel like they are “in the know”, trouble-shoot issues and problems, celebrate success, and clarify expectations, etc. Effective staff meetings showcase quality leadership.
I’m too busy to train or coach! —Why not just post a notice that says, “you’re on your own, suckers!” Training and coaching are the key activities for developing your employees. Yes it takes time and energy but there is a pay-off in greater productivity and your employees are likely to stay longer. This is especially true of the younger generations now entering the workforce. They are hungry to learn and grow and if you are not offering those opportunities they’ll pack their bags and move on as quickly as they see another opportunity.
Mom Always Liked You Best—Yes, you may have staff members that you like better than others, and there’s no quicker way to destroy a work environment that favoritism. Consistently giving more of your time and special assignments to one employee can cause real problems.
Everyone should have one-on-one time with you and special assignments should be doled out equally.
That’s Not What I Expected—Zap –Failing to clearly communicate expectations about how tasks and projects are to be done and later criticizing when things didn’t meet your expectations is bad form.
I get it, communication is hard but you’re the boss and it is up to you to ensure that there’s clarity among your staff in what’s expected. Typically this requires some substantial face to face communication. Do NOT rely on email to communicate and build productive relationships with your staff. (Perhaps email communication is at the heart of your communication breakdowns. Sure it is fast and there’s a record of your communication, but it doesn’t lend itself to a good interchange of ideas and questions. You can’t see the body language that tells you that the employee may not “get it” and there needs to be just a bit more discussion or instruction. ) People are NOT mind readers. Use your words, draw pictures, do whatever it takes to be clear up front. The more you communicate the better it will get.
Recognition? They Don’t Need No Stinking Recognition—whether by default or by choice, supervisors frequently overlook the power of recognizing solid performance. “Why should I recognize them for doing what they are paid to do?” (That’s a management belief that was prevalent in the 1950’s!)
The most effective supervisors acknowledge that recognition is a communication tool that reinforces the organization’s core values and important contributions of their employees in the workplace and keeps employees focused on performing the critical tasks that lead to the most important results.
Don’t get hung up thinking that you can’t give recognition unless the employee is performing at an outstanding level or because they are excelling in one aspect of their job but lagging behind in other areas. Be very specific about the performance you are recognizing. “You did an excellent job on that last report. You highlighted all the key points and backed it up with good data. Nice job!”
Yell, Embarrass or Belittle Employees- Ouch!—Let’s call it like it is: this is bullying, pure and simple. Knock it off! Employees must be treated with dignity and respect. Yelling, embarrassing or belittling employees doesn’t cut it.
If you are reading this article and your supervisor yells, embarrasses or belittles you, your first step is to have a one-one-one with your supervisor and say something like, “I understand that you may be upset with something that I have done. I’m open to receiving useful feedback. I do expect that you will treat me with dignity and respect and not yell, embarrass or belittle me again.” If the supervisor’s behavior does not change, you should utilize your organization’s open-door policy and speak with Human Resources.
Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions but We’re All Skipping Breakfast—The more effective you are at giving frequent, useful feedback, the better you’ll be at keeping your employees on track. No one does well in a “feedback vacuum.” Ongoing feedback enables employees to feel confident that they are doing what’s expected and/or it gives them the opportunity to make “mid-course” corrections. Regularly scheduled one-on-ones allow you to provide useful feedback, iron out little problems and move your employees to even more productive levels of performance.
Feedback should work both ways. The best supervisors ask their employees to give them feedback as well. Questions like, “Is there anything I can do that will be more helpful to you?” “What changes could I make in the way that I communicate with you that would help you?” or “What do you need more or less of from me?” will help open the door to better two-way communication and a higher level of self-awareness for you.
Sure, there are things your employees need to do differently, and there may be things that you can improve, too. Take a hard look at your approach and encourage useful feedback about your supervisory behaviors from your team. Developing employees and watching them be successful is just one of the rewards of being a supervisor.
Of course there are other supervisory traps to avoid and we’ll cover more another time.
The Last Word
with LOYD POHL
What’s really going on with my sales results?
Several clichés come to mind about numbers and counting and liars, but what I suggest you should do is take a look “under the hood” at your sales results.
One aspect of sales management is pattern analysis. What can I determine from the numbers about what is working and what may be improved?
Examples: A banker who had a fairly good track record in sales started faltering in her results and then had a really bad quarter. We looked at the referral flow and the calling the quarters before and the activities during the quarter. We determined that she was losing deals at the end of the process. She was getting the same number opportunities and was making the calls, but her problem was at the close. She had abandoned a formal presentation process because she had been having success closing deals without it, but then she ran into a series of competitive situations and was under-impressing the prospects.
A sidebar: Take a look at your sales results. Identify the portion of new business that is “new name” sales (not sales to current clients). Then identify the portion of those sales that are “competitive” (your sales people were actually competing with another vendor). If you have the data, do the same analysis with “failed sales.” The results of this exercise will be illuminating.
Another example of pattern analysis: A banker relatively new to a sales role in the organization was really struggling to close business – worse, she wasn’t even building a legitimate pipeline. We started with the referral flow: She was actually getting a pretty good flow of referrals that were of no worse quality than anyone else’s. Then we started analyzing calling activities. Their call tracking system was rather rudimentary so it took some manual analysis of hard copy reports, but we found the answer in the numbers. She wasn’t getting second calls. She would get the referral and make the first call but rarely got back to do the in-depth
discovery to move the process forward. Ok, that was the answer – what was the cause? That analysis required another sales management discipline. Let me describe that discipline with a question: How do you really know what your sales people are doing, saying or acting in the sales process without actually seeing them in action?
So, her coach started sitting in on first calls (called coaching calls). After the first three, I got a call from the manager. The answer was painfully obvious: The sales person actually thought that the more she talked the better the call was going to go. The manager said that in a 25 minute call, there was one question asked at the beginning: “How are you today?” After that it was a monologue.
What is really going on with your sales results? Do you know? Are good results an excuse? If you don’t know why your sales people are successful (or not), how can you really manage Sales?