I have said it before, and I will say it again: Two things kills productivity. M & Ms – Managers and Meetings. I have sat through countless meetings with managers who all want to “discuss” the latest ideas, projects, or strategies. Then left those meetings feeling worse than before we started.
Sound familiar? What about the absolutely absurd amount of emails that you are cc’d on because no one seems to know who to talk to or what to do? And to not let anyone feel left out. Drives me mental! So how do you prevent these distractions from happening, while still being nice to those around you? I am the kind of guy who likes to get things done.
Why does it seem as though these days, I have endless amounts of email threads that people feel I need to be a part of? And that if I don’t respond in some way, I feel like a bad person? Well this year, I have stopped responding and I am slowly gaining my sanity back and simplifying my life!
Why do we feel the need to cc?
Maybe it is because I am Canadian, but one of the reasons I think everyone is on email lists, is because we are trying to be polite and not make people feel like they are being left out. But when I get an email with 37 other people on it, asking for “everyone to share their thoughts on the idea…” I lose my mind.
Communication, especially digital, has evolved faster than we have been able to adapt. Because of this, we feel overwhelmed by all the places we are supposed to be; email, Facebook, text, Twitter, etc. We feel like we need to respond to everyone, for fear of offending them if we don’t.
And we think that when we multi-task, we are being productive. We are’nt. Read my other post on why multitasking is a myth.
But this compulsion to not offend has created this secondary issue which is:
“If I cc others on this, then it is off my plate and now becomes their responsibility.”
That is really the reason. Once we hit send on an email, it transfers the work to someone else. We get to say, “didn’t you get my email?” or “I sent you an email on that…”
Yah, that and the four other ones that I am included on with different groups of the same people.
How can we stop these discussions, and get more done?
To be honest, it will take some work, and for you to lead by example. And you will need to let people know your style.
One thing I do is tell everyone that emails me that if they need something done, email me directly. If it is a complicated request, phone me.
When it comes to larger group projects, I HATE the dreaded, “what does everyone think of this?” email. These cause unnecessary back and forths. Ideally, a leader should be identified who can outline the needs, break them down into manageable chunks, and ask for individual support. They need to think more of strategy rather than tactic.
If the project DOES require a group think tank, then set up a meeting for the best people to discuss the idea. in person or virtual, doesn’t matter. But prior to that meeting, have a clear agenda, and structure, with someone who actually knows how to facilitate the discussion.
At the end of the meeting, there should always be key take-aways, deliverables, and people should be clear on their individual next steps. I have seen too many meetings that just end with nothing after. That is why nothing gets done!
So meet one on one, or in small groups and actually get things done. Make sure that by the end of your meeting, each person knows what their individual next step is. No confusion.
Get your projects to a YES or NO
One of the lessons I learned many years ago, was that if you want to see a proposal get approved, you have to stop asking for people’s opinions during the development of the idea. Everyone has opinions, and very quickly projects get derailed. It drives me bonkers when a bunch of people sit around discussing something that most of them aren’t going to help out on anyways.
Now, I ensure that there is a need for a project on a high level, do the work on it, and get it to a point where it is either YES or NO.
Think of every project like a business plan.
- Does it make sense? (ie is it a complete thought?)
- Is there a market for it?
- Do we have the right people in place and available to complete it?
- Do the numbers support the decision?
- Have we explored the risks?
- Can we financially justify the decision and see an opportunity?
- Is this feasible given the time, resources, and people?
Then…get it in front of the right person who you actually need to speak to. the decision maker. My favorite quote always on my desk:
If you present an idea that is much more complete, and outline who and what you will need to complete it, then you have a much better chance of getting something done. Then it just becomes a case of did the individuals involved do their part that they agreed to.
“Never let anyone tell you no, who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
When we set goals, it is much easier to break those goals down into processes, and further into a schedule of activities. Then, work with individuals on what their roles will be and how they are part of the bigger goal. Help them build a schedule to ensure the project is do-able and they are capable.
Whether it is your next project at work, a date idea for your partner, or a new idea for a client, make sure you think your idea all the way through to the YES or NO phase. You can still have a discussion at that point, but the hard work has been done and people will love you for it. Then it is just about doing the work.