How To Run A Successful Meeting

How To Run A Successful Meeting

We’ve all been through it; the meeting that goes on and on. Instead of listening, you resort to playing with your phone or daydreaming the time away, all the while wondering why you are even in attendance.

According to, meetings are ranked as the number one office productivity killer, and they are increasingly filling up a good portion of our days. While the need for running a meeting will never go away, the art of running an effective meeting is a skill we can all learn more about. There are effective ways to run a meeting that will leave employees feeling energized and excited about work, instead of yearning for a break instead. Here are a few tips:

What is your purpose?

Before you ever calendar a meeting and send out the invites, ask yourself one question: what do I hope to accomplish? What are my ultimate objectives? If you can’t clearly define the purpose for the meeting, the results you hope to achieve, and the process you’ll take to get there, spend some time refining each of these items before you hit enter. A purpose provides direction, and helps keep things on track.

Carefully weigh who is invited

It’s easy to call a meeting and invite everyone on the team. But does everyone truly need to be there? Take the time to think about who truly needs to be there, and who will be impacted most by what the meeting is about. If the subject isn’t relevant to a team member, or they will have little impact that will carry weight in the final decision, they will view their attendance as a waste of time. It’s better to allow these team members to do other, more productive tasks.

Set a specific schedule

Open ended meetings tend to drone on and on, with no end in sight. Create an agenda that outlines the specific topics of the meeting, and how much time will be dedicated to each topic. Use that timeline as you make your way through the meeting. You can even use this to be specific in scheduling your meeting, telling attendees how long it will be, and providing them with outlined topics so they can be more prepared for the discussion.

Create an equal playing field

If you’ve carefully constructed the people in attendance, it’s important to hear what each one has to say. Never allow one person to monopolize the time, providing all the thoughts or answers. Instead, call out each person and hear what they have to say. If you take this approach in all your meetings, the expectations will be there at the start of each one, giving you more brainstorming potential and greater interaction between the team members.

Ban technology

The new reality is everyone carries their smartphones and iPads with them everywhere. While it allows people to get more done, it’s also the easiest way to get sidetracked. Instead of focusing on the topic at hand, a person can easily be consumed by an email or a text message. If you keep meetings short and direct, keep technology out of the conference room, and keep all eyes and thoughts front and center.

Take action

It’s common for people to walk away from a meeting with very different interpretations of the final outcome. As a part of the process, clearly outline the final outcomes and strategies, and make assignments as necessary. A simple followup email can keep everyone on track, knowing exactly the work that needs to be completed.

Meetings can be a valuable and productive part of doing business, if you take the time to make them that way.

Managing Your Online Personas

Managing Your Online Personas

Being online means growing and sharing all that you do under the watchful eye of the public. It isn’t just your business that is impacted; every single person in your organization can have an influence on how people view what you do.

Imagine an employee constantly whining about having to work for your company on Facebook. Over and over, they talk about the drudgery of the job, how unfair management is, how little they are paid. That can impact a company in a big way. But it also influences any future opportunity for the person as well.

We all make judgments based on what we see and hear. If a human resource director can easily find a few negative comments about a previous employer, or witness first hand through video about your wild weekend nights, why wouldn’t they use that as a basis for employing you, or in the case of a customer, choosing to invest their hard earned money with you?

While you may have thought somewhat about your company’s online persona, have you considered how your own personal persona plays into your branding? And equally important, how your employees’ personas play into it? Here are a few important tips to move your business forward:

Social media is a necessity, not an option

Social media is no longer just for entertainers or big businesses vying for airspace. Social media is a necessity for anyone trying to build a business. Whether you are simply trying to build a network, or are working to close a sale, there is no question that a person will Google you to find out all they can about who you are and what you do. Are you trustworthy? Do you have a good reputation? How do you handle the negatives as well as the positives in the online world? That is why it’s important to keep all of your news, awards, acknowledgments, activities and events up to date throughout your online profiles and sites.

It’s more than marketing

Have you ever found a competitors newsfeed or website where all they do is sell? Not very exciting. And in most cases, their prospects and customers feel the same way. That’s because people today want more than marketing; they want to build a relationship with those they choose to do business with. What’s the story behind your company? What made your company what it is today? What do you give back to your community? It’s important to post videos, photographs and links to give you a more personal feel, and help people see beyond the business side of what you do. People buy from people; if they can see it, they’ll probably buy from you.

Learn and grow

By all accounts, social media is still a very new phenomena. And while many businesses haven’t considered how to market through social, and may still be experimenting with it themselves, there are plenty of great examples out there. Like a few of your favorites on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Then take note of the posts and campaigns you like best. Use these to emulate within your own campaigns, and continue to build over time.

Develop a social media policy

Do you speak with your employees about online safety? Do you have written guidance on how you’ll handle the good and the bad in the online world? Social media is not something you can choose to leave to chance. It happens whether you talk about it or not. It may be time to hire someone either internally or externally to help you understand all the power social media has, and to help both you and your employees learn how to manage their personas now and into the future.

Social media today is as much of a daily business as answering phone calls and sending out emails. Remember, you’re not wasting your time with a post or a tweet – if you realize the potential it has on your future.

Are Your Employees Responsible For A Data Breach?

Data breaches have become a common topic in the news. While we tend to think of data breaches as being caused by hackers in far away lands, studies consistently show that isn’t true. Internal threats are equally dangerous to customer data, whether they are caused by malicious behavior or by human error.

Are Your Employees Responsible For A Data Breach?When it comes to employees choosing to access data with the intent of malicious behavior, it’s usually for one of two reasons: they are looking for financial gain or they are seeking revenge. Because they are actively choosing to access data with the sole intent of causing damage, they will also be looking for the weakest points of entry. The more layers of security you have in place – such as firewalls, antivirus software, antispyware, antiphishing software – the more you can protect what they can gain access to.

The more common internal threat comes from human error ignorant carelessness. These behaviors often expose the company’s “hidden” vulnerabilities. Often they are caused by savvy employees looking to do their jobs more efficiently, and in the process make the company’s data more vulnerable. These well intentioned employees:

  • Bypass security because it’s time-consuming and restrictive
  • Sidestep security because of the inability to perform work
  • Create workarounds to improve their individual efficiencies

· Are often not aware of the company’s security policies, and in many cases haven’t received the proper training to understand the vulnerabilities

Many companies have actually rewarded employees that discover work-arounds that expose security flaws in order to bring them to light and fix them.

The most important thing companies can do is to put the right security measures in place, and follow up by providing proper employee training. The more critical data an employee has access to, the more important training becomes. Those persons in accounting, human resources, legal, personnel, account management, as well as various levels of management may have access to a higher level of data flow than others within the company. This is where your biggest vulnerabilities lie.

It’s a fine balance between security and productivity for the day to day workflow.

The goal is to limit who has access to what data, as well as to determine why a person needs the data he/she has requested. Tools and procedures to consider implementing include:

  • System wide encryption
  • Inspection access controls
  • Password management
  • Authentication
  • Device recognition
  • Data disposal
  • Transparency

The battle to fight data breaches starts from the inside. While it’s important to secure all data from threats both inside and outside of your organization, it’s equally important to do so in a way that won’t hinder your employees’ progress. There is a fine line to balance all of your efforts. Want to talk more? I’m happy to share my ideas.

How To Establish A Successful Bring Your Own Device Policy

How To Establish A Successful Bring Your Own Device Policy

By the end of 2015, it is predicted that well over 2 billion smartphones and 1 billion tablets will be used on a regular basis throughout the world. And if you look around your office, chances are the majority of your employees have at least one of these devices of their own sitting on their desks or tucked away in their pockets.

Connectivity is alive and well all across America. We want to stay in touch with our spouses and our kids. We want to check in with our personal email accounts to make plans for the weekend. We have lives outside of the office, and we’re not afraid to connect the two together while we’re sitting at our desks.How To Establish A Successful Bring Your Own Device Policy

Yet with that much connectivity, where are the lines drawn? What if an employee loads a corporate email or contact system on to their own device? What if they find as much use for their tablets with work platforms as they do with their favorite e-reader?

Do you have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in place?

If not, there are a few things you should consider as you develop a policy for what’s acceptable … and what’s not.

What devices are permitted?
It’s no longer a world of one or two choices with smart technology. Between iOS, Android, phones and tablets, there are many options for a consumer to choose from. They all have different operating systems, different applications … and different risks. If you will allow employees to use their own devices for work related applications, which devices and systems will you support? Be sure to have a clear list of what an employee can use on company time, and how best to get the support they need when questions arise.

Establish a security policy for all devices
If an employee chooses to use a personal device for work related tasks, make sure they understand that all devices used must follow security guidelines. That includes lock screens and passwords to access important data. It also means updating the device with the latest technology, and possibly downloading specific security systems to ensure data safety.

A whole industry has developed around securing and enforcing policies on mobile devices.  The technology is commonly referred to as Mobile Device Management (MDM), and there are many pros/cons to each of the MDM platforms, as well as significant price variations.

Define your service policy
As an employee begins loading company applications and programs to their personal devices, it’s a natural progression for problems to occur. When things don’t download properly, or they have trouble accessing company data, where do they go for support? Be clear in your service policy where boundaries are set, what you will cover, and what will remain a personal challenge. The last thing you need is to have your help desk inundated with personal tech problems.

Clearly define who owns what
In the beginning, it’s easy to keep work and personal related apps separate. But as months or even years go by, the lines tend to blur. The two intermix, and before long an employee is using company apps to control everything in their lives. Company calendars list both personal and work related events, and emails consistently begin to cross the line. And that’s only the beginning.

But what happens when an employee quits? What happens to the apps and data at that point? Who is in charge of wiping the data clean? And what happens when an employee isn’t happy when personal items like photos, music and personal apps disappear in the wiping process? Make sure your BYOD policy covers every detail and makes it clear the process that will occur during the final days of employment. It may also be good to remind employees periodically so they can prepare as part of the process.

How To Build Healthy Customer Relationships

How To Build Healthy Customer Relationships

Think back to the last time you found yourself in a situation where you were developing a relationship with a new friend or possibly even a love interest. A lot of things went through your mind as the relationship grew. On some level, you probably asked yourself questions such as:

What will we gain by deepening this relationship?How To Build Healthy Customer Relationships
What are the expectations if we move forward?

While the outcomes may be different, a relationship is a relationship. If you are in business, and you deal on any level with customers, the same questions apply.

Customers don’t do business with a company, they do business with the people. They spend their money because they have a personal relationship with the people inside the company. They won’t do business without a connection. We all have expectations. And if those aren’t being met by the people already in our lives, we’ll head out and look for them elsewhere.

What can you do to build healthier relationships with your customers?

Acknowledge me
Think about the business relationships you like best. You want to be a person, not a number. You want quick action, and never have to fight for what you need. Simple actions go a long ways. Improve your phone systems so your customers can reach a live person quickly. Talk with your customers as if they are friends rather than a number. Support them in a way that they feel recognized, instead of just another step towards your bottom line.

Communicate with me
People prefer different channels when communicating with a business. Some like phoning in, some like visiting a website. Some prefer to stop by, some people prefer to automate as much as they can. Because there isn’t a right method of communication for every customer you have, it’s important to develop strong lines of communications in several ways. Work to perfect the methods that are most beneficial to you and to your customers.

Educate me
In today’s world, you can’t hide things from your customers. With a little bit of research, they will find out all they need to know online by Googling it, or asking a friend on Facebook or Twitter what they know. That means to develop a strong relationship, being transparent and authentic will get you a long way. The more information you share about your products and services, the more connection your customer will have with the way you do business. And that can help develop relationships for the long term.

Protect me
Have you ever had a bad experience with a company, and had them turn their back and ignore the problem at hand? We all have been there. As a customer, we realize that not everything in life will turn out as perfectly as we had planned. But when a company goes the extra mile to make things right after a fall, it can improve the relationship immensely.

Thank me
Appreciate your customers for all they do. After all, without them you wouldn’t be in business. Simple thank you’s can go a long way in improving a relationship, and also help you build a stronger referral base over time. Customers refer friends when they’re happy with what you do. And in many cases, a simple thank you and a little appreciation can set the stage perfectly.