Meetings That Matter

In This Issue:

Dear friends:

When I mention the word “meetings” what is your first reaction? Do you suddenly feel sleepy or do you want to run for the nearest exit? Or are you enthusiastic and intrigued, looking forward to the thrill of creative group problem solving, fantastic brainstorming, and a team of people working with trust and healthy conflict? I visit and work in many different companies and organizations and notice that most people’s feelings about meetings are more like my first statement.

I love meetings. I realize that having lively, productive meetings is not easy, but also know that it is possible, and extremely important for the health of teams and for organizations.

I particularly enjoy working with teams to transform the feel and culture of meetings, and in the process often change the culture of the company. Here are just a few things that I’ve found to be useful:
– Have a clear sense of what a successful meeting looks like. A good question to ask at the beginning of a meeting is – when we end this meeting, what do we want to have accomplished?

– Know what type of meeting you are having. Are you sharing information, brainstorming ideas, problem solving, planning, making decisions, or teambuilding? This may sound obvious, but is often overlooked. Each type of meeting needs to be treated quite differently.

– I like to begin meetings by finding ways to bring everyone’s voice into the room, as well as bringing some silence into the room. This can be done by having people speak in pairs for a few minutes, or with a quick check in. At times, 30 seconds of silence at the beginning of a meeting can act to set the “reset” button, to clear the space for more connection.

– Understand that an unstated item on nearly every meeting agenda is trust, leadership, and teambuilding. Trust comes from high integrity, accountability, and admitting mistakes. Leadership requires presence, listening, and good planning. Teambuilding requires conveying a shared vision of success.

Wishing you much success, productivity, and fun in your meetings, and outside of meetings…

If this is an area where you can use some help, please contact me at ZBA Associates.

Warmest regards,


LESS: Accomplishing More By Doing Less

Antidotes to busyness, and tools and practices for living a more calm, meaningful, and productive life.

“But ultimately “success” in our work world and in our life does not rest with the external rewards or achievements. What matters most is how much love and goodness our existence has added to the planet, how effectively we have engaged with the people we cherish most, and how much we have been able to locate our own deep composure right in the midst of the messiness of life.”

– excerpt from Less

In Defense of Distraction
Twitter, Adderall, lifehacking, mindful jogging, power browsing, Obama’s Blakberry, and the benefits of overstimulation

Here are a few paragraphs from a recent article from New York Magazine by Sam Anderson:

Focus is a paradox—it has distraction built into it. The two are symbiotic; they’re the systole and diastole of consciousness. Attention comes from the Latin “to stretch out” or “reach toward,” distraction from “to pull apart.” We need both. In their extreme forms, focus and attention may even circle back around and bleed into one other. Meyer says there’s a subset of Buddhists who believe that the most advanced monks become essentially “world-class multitaskers”—that all those years of meditation might actually speed up their mental processes enough to handle the kind of information overload the rest of us find crippling.

The truly wise mind will harness, rather than abandon, the power of distraction.

Which brings me, finally, to the next generation of attenders, the so-called “net-gen” or “digital natives,” kids who’ve grown up with the Internet and other time-slicing technologies. There’s been lots of hand-wringing about all the skills they might lack, mainly the ability to concentrate on a complex task from beginning to end, but surely they can already do things their elders can’t—like conduct 34 conversations simultaneously across six different media, or pay attention to switching between attentional targets in a way that’s been considered impossible. More than any other organ, the brain is designed to change based on experience, a feature called neuroplasticity. London taxi drivers, for instance, have enlarged hippocampi (the brain region for memory and spatial processing)—a neural reward for paying attention to the tangle of the city’s streets. As we become more skilled at the 21st-century task Meyer calls “flitting,” the wiring of the brain will inevitably change to deal more efficiently with more information. The neuroscientist Gary Small speculates that the human brain might be changing faster today than it has since the prehistoric discovery of tools. Research suggests we’re already picking up new skills: better peripheral vision, the ability to sift information rapidly. We recently elected the first-ever BlackBerry president, able to flit between sixteen national crises while focusing at a world-class level. Kids growing up now might have an associative genius we don’t—a sense of the way ten projects all dovetail into something totally new. They might be able to engage in seeming contradictions: mindful web-surfing, mindful Twittering. Maybe, in flights of irresponsible responsibility, they’ll even manage to attain the paradoxical, Zenlike state of focused distraction.

To see the complete article, click here.

You Are Brilliant And The Earth Is Hiring – A Talk by Paul Hawken

I enjoyed and appreciated a commencement address by Paul Hawken to the Class of 2009, University of Portland, May 3, 2009. Here are a few paragraphs:

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.

I’ve posted the entire talk on my blog.

click here to go to my blog.

Executive Coaching and Outsourced Talent Management

Call on ZBA Associates LLC for your Executive Coaching and Teambuilding needs. We help business leaders redefine and achieve success by integrating leadership and communication skills with mindfulness practices. 415 389-6228;

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