Shani Harmon: Barriers, Signaling, Untapped Productivity | Work 20XX #05

Jeff Frick
June 7, 2022
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Bad meetings are the bane of the modern working world. The back-to-back, uninterrupted energy crushers have only gotten worse over the last two years. We’re asked to be “always on” and ready to jump on the next notification (i.e. email, message, IM, DM, text, etc.). This type of work culture is burning people out to the point we gave it a name: “The Great Resignation.”

There’s a better way.

Welcome to Work 20XX. A show focused on work and the future of work, as the world of 2019 fades further into the distance. I wanted to move from beyond meeting bashing to sharing best practices. And while some organizations and consumers of expensive executive time do invest in this most important skill, most don’t, and assume that somehow, people will get it. We’re still collectively battling “We’ve always done it this way.”

Welcome Shani Harmon, Co-Founder & CEO of ‘Stop Meeting Like This.’ Shani shares the best practices, tips, and tricks that many of our managers seem to miss, including when NOT to have a meeting (i.e. weekly status meetings).

And while we already know many of the tasks to improve the probability of success (e.g. agenda, objectives, clear roles for each participant), Shani shines a light on many of the gravitational forces, (e.g. institutional, cultural, social, and psychological) that keep us from being more effective, including fear of missing out (FOMO), office politics, and lack of trust due to ineffective communication cultures, channels, and systems.

Hopefully, this combination of simple instruction, and focus on the real barriers to implementation, will help you and your team learn and adopt the mindset and techniques to start gradually removing barriers.

You’ll end up with more effective meetings, more effective people, higher quality work, and less burnout. And you won’t have to ask your people to turn cameras on.  

Without further delay, enjoy this conversation with Shani Harmon.

Episode Transcript

>> Hey, welcome back everybody. Jeff  everybody. Jeff Frick here coming to you from the home office for another episode of Work  20XX on the future of work, but as we like to say here, it's  here, it's not about the future of work, it's work and it's happening now.  We're really excited to have this next guest. Well, we've  Well, we've been talking about meetings and meetings are not necessarily a great thing to  thing to get most work done because most people who haven't had the training, they  training, they don't know what their best practices are. So  are. So rather than tell you don't do it anymore, I thought, " thought, "Why don't we go get somebody who can tell us what we should be doing?" So  really excited to be welcoming in through the magic of WebEx and the internet all  internet all the way from Chicago, Illinois. She's Shani Harmon.  She is the co-founder and CEO of Stop Meeting Like This. So Shani great to see you. 

>> Nice to be here, Jeff. Thanks for the invitation. 

>> Oh, absolutely. So first off, I just noticed on LinkedIn, happy birthday.  Stop Meeting Like This turns nine next month in June. So  June. So happy birthday to the company. That's great.>> Thank  

great.>> Thank you very much. We're very proud of that. 

>> Well, I'm sure. I'm really curious with that kind of historical context. Wow, what  Wow, what a different world it was when you kind of started on this mission to where we  where we ended up a couple years ago to where we are now.  I wonder if you can kind of reflect with a little bit of historical perspective how  perspective how the landscape has changed or maybe the reception to your message. 

>> Absolutely. Well, and  Well, and we've got into this particular specialty because we noticed  we noticed that clients would say to us, as  us, as organizational development consultants,  that we used their time very well and that the meetings that we ran were efficient  were efficient and effective and kind of fun.  We got things done and it was terrible when we weren't part of the process.  the process.  We wondered why everyone would accept that as the sort of level of  level of engagement in their day to day work experience.  What we started to find is that across the board,  people have very low standards for how their time is used in meetings.  So our first kind of campaign was just let's reset that,  let's expect more out of how our time is used in organizations, and  organizations, and can't we sort of focus on that. What would happen is that people would say, "Can  say, "Can you train us to have better meetings?" We would say, "We  say, "We can and it probably won't work." The reason it won't work is because  you know, you know you should have an agenda, you should start on time, you should  time, you should send a recap, maybe keep the number of participants fairly small,  but no one does it.  The most accessible analogy is it's like nutrition.  

At this point, the food pyramid is correct.  We know exactly and we have devices telling us all the time what we should be doing  be doing to keep ourselves in optimal health. Most people don't do it.  So trying to change the mindset about how we use our time, how  time, how we use our energy and to believe that meetings could be something that we look  we look forward to instead of something that we dread,  that kills our energy and day, that was our first mission.  But then what happened is obviously the world changed overnight.  We used to campaign to get people to turn their camera on in  meetings where someone was remote and they're, "Absolutely not. No,  it's too hard. I  hard. I don't want to look at a camera." Then obviously the pandemic changed all of  that overnight and it introduced some new opportunities, but  opportunities, but a lot of new challenges as well. Now, we're  Now, we're at the worst possible moment. This  moment. This transition back into the offices where some people will be  will be remote permanently,  some people will spend their time in the office sometimes, at home sometimes,  puts us in a hybrid environment which has many, many pitfalls of its own. 

>> Right, right. So  So there's so much to unpack and we're going to get to a lot of it and I'm excited.  I'm excited. But let's start out really with just the basics. I mean, the  mean, the word that I have captured the most from this COVID thing is  intentionality.  It really kind of shined a light on this assumption before that we just assume things  assume things were the way they were. We assume when people are in an office, they're  office, they're going to interact and engage. We  engage. We assume that people be meeting best practices and are going to make a really useful  really useful return on that investment of time when you count up all the people in the room  the room and how much they make per hour. It's crazy. So  crazy. So I think this intentionality is so important.  So let's talk about just for the basics before we get into why they don't do it or  it or not, let's at least give them the instructions. So  instructions. So when should you not have a meeting that traditionally people do have meeting?  What are the types of activities that hello, this is not a good fit? 

>> The number one is an inform.  So telling people information in a group setting.  Our audio attention span, not very long.  Many of us prefer to consume information independently,  particularly if you're a fast reader,  I could have completely absorbed that in 15 minutes,  but I had to sit for 60 minutes and listen to you march me through it, right?  It's partially because we don't trust information exchange  information exchange that we don't have hands on.  So that's why there are so many update and inform meetings.   Likewise, the kind of weekly team meeting,  what it often becomes is a series of one on ones with a very  a very large audience, because I only listen when I'm talking,  I don't listen when anyone else is talking. So  talking. So I miss all those opportunities to integrate and connect the dots or see, oh, we  oh, we are duplicating effort, we should work together on this.  So those are two of the very most common reasons  not to meet. 

>> Right. Which it's interesting, right? Because  right? Because that's probably a legacy of a time before there was email. I  email. I was reading or listening to a podcast about the role of middle managers and they used  and they used to have a pretty clear role in the communication conduit from the top to  top to the bottom. But now they've been surpassed, right? Because  right? Because now the top likes to communicate directly to the bottom through things like  things like all hands or weekly updates or whatever, not so much a meeting, but  meeting, but more of a kind of an informal or a communication.   Then there's all these other channels of communication that have kind of got around  got around them, and  and yet people still hold onto that legacy status update meeting because it's always  it's always been there. Well, what should they do instead? How  instead? How should they think about that communication channel and do it a better way? better way? 

>> We're big advocates for asynchronous platforms and there's a bevy to choose  to choose from,  but it's a place where you have a shared dashboard that says, "Okay, here's  Okay, here's where we were. Here's where we are now. Challenges we encountered,  help we might need," and have a practice of updating it on a regular basis.  regular basis.  If the transition from the staff meeting to working entirely asynchronously is too  is too hard, and it is often too hard, then kind of do it together.  So let's spend the first 15 minutes of this meeting  working independently to update our portion of the status and then let's just  let's just highlight things that need to be discussed or I want to call your attention to,  attention to, as opposed to the it's my turn, I must give my reports,  whether it actually has any action items or implications for anyone else.   Again, there's  Again, there's a million platforms that people can also use to task manage  task manage and sort of see work in progress and what the status is.  So using those so that it neither clutters your inbox  nor requires a meeting is the ideal situation in the times we're in. 

>> Right, right. It's funny, I had Darren Murph on from GitLab, the  GitLab, the very first one of these things and his line from that interview was, " was, "A human resources officer asked me how to have better meetings," and he said, "Make  said, "Make them harder to have." It really goes to your point.  If you actually do all the things on your list, have an agenda,  everybody has a clear role, meet everybody by name,  have clear action items, have clear followup. I mean,  you basically lay out the roadmap. This is not a mystery.  If you do those things,  the chances of a successful meeting are pretty high in terms of a measurable output.   measurable output.  But people just don't have the time. Ah,  it's just so frustrating. I mean, you  mean, you must go bananas when you basically give them the roadmap and yet you know people  know people are contact switching right up to the last moment,  you know they're not doing the preparation. What  preparation. What do you think about when you hear somebody like Amazon,  they carve out formal time at the beginning of the meeting to give them time to prep  to prep so that everybody is on equal footing when they start the conversation?  Interesting tact. 

>> I think that's a genius solution and we have co-opted it  and make it part of the advice that we give. But really, it's  really, it's because the entire collaborative system is out of sync.  So what should happen for effective collaboration these days is that you have  you have a good balance between working alone, working  alone, working in turns and working together and working together as meetings.  But we have a very strong default in that direction. Obviously, it's  Obviously, it's only gotten worse during the pandemic. I mean, the  mean, the number of meetings per day has gone up tremendously because it's our only mechanism  only mechanism for connecting with others.  But white space,  that kind of working alone,  is so critical because when do I have time to do a light design for  design for a meeting or create a succinct pre-read,  is that's the only way people will actually read it,  or think about what questions am I really trying to get answered versus, oh, I  oh, I need to do a project, let's  project, let's just get a bunch of people in a room and we'll kick it off,  which is sloppy collaboration,  but we get away with it all the time,  or asynchronous collaboration is when we work in turns but we have really good handoffs.  good handoffs. So Jeff, I have created the first draft.  

Here's the three questions I have.  Can you take a look at them and get back to me by the end of the day tomorrow?   That's a clear handoff and request.  If you get a good balance of those things,  then you're able to do the pieces of independent work that make that  make that whole system work. But we starve ourselves of working time.  We don't schedule it on their calendars. We don't respect it when we do.  So we squeeze that stuff into the early morning,  at night after the kids have gone to bed and it's our last priority.  But if you ask yourself, "How do I create value in my organization?  What am I really here to do?" I will guarantee that your value creating activity is  activity is not answer emails. 

>> Right, right.No one's hired to do that.That's funny,  

>> Right, right.No one's hired to do that.That's funny,  

>> Right, right.No one's hired to do that.That's funny, right? You have to get  up early or stay up late to do >> <inaudible> >> the >> whole >> day.>> Right. >> And >> you >> wonder >> why >> everyone's >> burned >> out. 

>> <inaudible> >> the >> whole >> day.>> Right. >> And >> you >> wonder >> why >> everyone's >> burned >> out.your work because you're just  

>> <inaudible> >> the >> whole >> day.>> Right. >> And >> you >> wonder >> why >> everyone's >> burned >> out. 

>> <inaudible>  will steal from Amazon again because I know them well and the parallels are interesting,  are interesting, right? They call it the one pizza or two pizza party,  two pizza meeting. If you can't feed everybody in two pizzas, you  pizzas, you have too many people in the room. I can't remember how you say it, a  it, a very similar thing, right? Which  right? Which is it's easier to do some of these behaviors and activities if you're doing  you're doing it within a scale that's manageable.  Of course you can't get feedback from everyone if you have 77 people in the meeting.  the meeting. I mean, again, simple concepts, tough to execute day to day, but  day, but really you're giving them the roadmap of how to do this effectively. 

>> Right. But  

>> Right. But there are so many dynamics that are holding these old habits in place.  So for the meetings are too large issue,  it's fear of missing out. We always say, "Let's  say, "Let's try to shift to joy of missing out." So go from FOMO to JOMO.  Because wouldn't it be better to have some time to actually do your work?  But people say, "Oh, it's  Oh, it's a good learning opportunity." Or  they're going to need to know the output of this conversation so they should be there.  be there. That  That is just an indicator that you don't have reliable mechanisms for communicating  for communicating the key discussion points, the  points, the decisions and the next steps from meetings.   So it's a true need. I  need. I need the information about what happened in this meeting and I don't believe that  believe that there's another way for me to get it. It also signals importance. I mean, there  mean, there are cultures where if you're invited to the meeting, it  meeting, it means you're somebody. 

>> Right, right.>> So  

>> So then everybody clamors to get invited to the meeting because it's a sign of their  of their significance,  never mind we've just made the meeting terrible because it's just...  We do the simple math of how long is the meeting divided by the number of people who  people who are invited and that's the amount of air time available to everybody.  So you're like, " like, "If I only have three and a half minutes of air time possible," and by the way,  the leader's going to speak for the bulk of the time anyway, " anyway, "What contribution am I making by attending this meeting?" 

>> Right.  You're bringing up this really interesting kind of interplay between trust and communication  and communication and then kind of channels of communication. Going  communication. Going to save this for a little bit later, but you keep coming back to it.  These are all really communication issues, huge communication issues. One,  I don't trust that we have the systems in place that if I don't show up at the meeting,  the meeting, I'm not going to get the information legitimately,  besides the political stuff, right?  That's  right?  That's a legitimate concern for a lot of people because a lot of companies don't,  companies don't, as you said, have  said, have the documentation and the reporting to make sure that it was clear what the meeting  the meeting was about and it was clear what the outcome was. So if I don't go,  I can't feel confident that I can check in.  But as our communication channels have exploded,  and you talk a lot about email and managing email and using email as a way to  kind of manage your calendar, and then having a second side channel, like  channel, like a DM or an IM.  I wonder if you can speak to this proliferation of communication channels, but  channels, but without the intentionality to manage them. What happens? You get a text, you  text, you get an email,  you get a IM and you get a phone call from the boss all in the same issue  at the same time with really no kind of systematic way to know  to know whether this is something I need to react to right away or something that I can wait  that I can wait and finish my focused work. 

>> Yeah. There's  

>> Yeah. There's nothing better than getting a text two minutes after you got an email saying,  email saying, "Did you see my email?" Right? Which  Right? Which suggests it's a terrible manager signal because it actually suggests that I  that I expect you to be monitoring email at all times,  which is just an incredible way to distract yourself all day, right?  So we would advocate if you're doing focused work, you've  work, you've got to walk away from email.  We think organizations need a better roadmap for what technology for  technology for what purpose. So what is an IM or DM really for?  What rises to the level of a text? So many organizations, and  organizations, and especially fast growing, I  growing, I understand the kind of dynamic rhythm of them,  but they use text as such a common  communication channel,  but it's actually activating the stress response because it's sort of like, " like, "It's an emergency, it's  emergency, it's an emergency." I counsel leaders a lot like, " like, "You're actually not firefighters or paramedics,  but you are creating this emergency mindset where people are terrified to leave  to leave their devices behind." So we talk about the erosion of the work-life  work-life boundary, and obviously technology is at the heart of all of that, but  that, but it's also the practices that organizations adopt.   

So it's like picking the medium that meets the moment  is critical.  So emails should be for things that they have sort of the medium  the medium shelf life. I want to be able to go back to it,  but a lot of companies have sort of a 30 day purge process.  So you need to know how long you need it.  Versus infrastructure like a SharePoint or a BaseCamp or some technology  some technology that's your document storage where you put things that are durable  and that you want people to be able to access over time.  Whereas the IM is kind of the just in time.  I really strongly urge the text is really, really,  if it's urgent, that's the last resort. Now,  that's my personal preference. It actually doesn't matter what the answers are, it's  are, it's that we all have a shared understanding of the answers. 

>> I think there's another guide there actually. You  actually. You don't have a guide on that one? I think that's your next guide. I mean, literally,  mean, literally, and getting back to Darren of GitLab,  they're super specific as to you communicate this type of activity on this type of  type of channel and certain things, as you say, they  say, they flush because they don't want permanent stuff on that channel so they kind of  kind of manage it with rules versus trying to manage it with telling people stuff. So  stuff. So it's such a hard thing.   The other thing is you talk about burnout. Well, there's  Well, there's nothing like burnout like being on a high stress waiting for the fire alarm  fire alarm to go off all day. I mean, even  mean, even the fire guys get a break in between waiting for the alarms to go off. So  off. So it's not sustainable to manage that kind of communication  flow. So  do you have a preferred kind of hierarchy? You  hierarchy? You said text is the highest kind of emergency is the way you guys treat it. 

>> That's how we treat it. So for example,  when we're out of office, we put an out of office and it typically says, "Here's  says, "Here's who you can contact. In the event of a real emergency,  you can text me." But we've sort of set a standard of what is a real emergency, right?  emergency, right? It's something that it's a client facing issue that we simply  do not know how to solve without your engagement, Shani, or  Shani, or whatever that might be. Again, it's  Again, it's kind of publishing those rules.  People like Darren who take it really seriously, I mean, it's  mean, it's part of their business model, so  model, so you can see why he would care about that so much.>> Right,  

much.>> Right, right. >> But  

>> But they're at this most senior leadership levels,  there are people who care how we collaborate because they recognize that  knowledge worker efficiency is incredibly important to the bottom line of organizations,  of organizations, right? They're in a war for talent.  They think they need to hire a hundred people.  But what if you could just make the hundreds of people that you already have  25% more efficient, 10% more efficient,  and their work hours stay the same or go down.  There's an incredible untapped source of  productivity,  efficiency and engagement that we're just letting it  languish because we don't know how to activate it. 

>> So many things I want to go there.  You used efficiency and productivity in the same sentence.  I think what I've been discovering this whole thing is nobody wants to be efficient  be efficient and nobody actually should be efficient. You  efficient. You should focus on productivity. So it's a different measure. So  measure. So say in a facility's point of view,  you don't measure efficiency in terms of how many bodies per square foot,  but if you can start measuring productivity of those bodies,  it's a completely different way to think about the space and how you invest in  the types of activities and supporting materials and technologies to make those people  those people be more productive. Because  productive. Because nobody can afford to be a cost center anymore. Nobody  anymore. Nobody can afford to be a cost center. To your point, worrying  point, worrying about efficiency of desks and furniture versus the productivity  the productivity of those people that sit in there. Ryan Anderson from MillerKnoll, it's  MillerKnoll, it's funny that we designed the whole thing to run the pipes for the computers and  computers and we just stuck the people where the chairs happen to go. I  go. I mean what a crazy way to think about things. 

>> I would just say Jeff, I was using efficiency in a slightly different way,  which is the idea that the way that we work has an efficiency bias  in it.  So we don't start from scratch if there is a similar  a similar project or document that already exist, right? We  right? We reuse things in very smart ways.  We don't waste people's time.  We don't send unclear emails because we know that an unclear email leads to  leads to back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, or  forth, or it leads to misdirected action.  So it's about efficiency within the collaborative processes so that we don't waste  don't waste time within those so that people can be productive.  So efficiency is a foundation to productivity. 

>> Right.  I love that because it's just I think most bosses have no idea  the shit storm they can create with an unclear email,  and an email just by default because of its very nature is a crappy  communication tool anyway.  You throw in some insecure reader catching nuances that  necessarily aren't even there, it's a horrible way. But I want  way. But I want to talk about another thing which is signaling in off hours.  I'm the worst of this only because I work strange hours. I  hours. I get up ridiculously early. It's just what I do.   I sometimes don't think through the impact of sending something when it's just...  just...  I do it because it's on my mind and I thought of it and I want to send it.  The reception when potentially somebody's phone buzzes at the other end  other end and they're not maybe as good as I of making sure it's not near their bed.  But signaling, you  signaling, you talk about is so important that senior leadership signals to everybody that these  that these are behaviors that we're not only telling you to do,  but we're actually going to do ourselves which is actually more important than telling  than telling you that we're going to do it, including  it, including things like going home at the end of the day and taking vacations.  taking vacations. I wonder if you can speak to the importance of executive signaling. 

>> It's so critical because whether or not they want it to be true,  be true,  executive leaders cast a huge shadow in their organization.  As you were saying earlier,  the simple I wonder if or we should think about this can  generate projects that can go on for years.  The leader doesn't even know that they started something with a simple question. So  question. So they have to be really intentional and conscious about their own behaviors because  behaviors because it has a huge impact.   So we published an article in Harvard Business Review using data  using data from Microsoft that shows that if managers send emails  send emails on Sunday,  their employees are much more likely too as well, right? Because  right? Because nobody wants to wake up to the Monday morning barrage of emails from their  from their boss where they opted to stay off of their device for the weekend  the weekend and then sort of pay the consequence of being behind the moment that they  that they start their day on Monday.  To your point,  we all have different work preferences and you can say as a leader, " leader, "You know what, I like to catch up on Sunday. I  

Sunday. I don't expect you to respond." It doesn't work because it's sort of like you say  you say that, but what you really mean is, "If I was dedicated like you are,  I would work on Sunday too."  You don't even have to go as far as set a delivery date,  which we all know you can do.  Put them in a draft folder and send it at 9 AM or 10 AM on Monday.  You've just had a very productive Monday morning for all the things that you wrote  you wrote on Sunday.  But you didn't create any of those anxiety responses in your team or sort of set that  set that expectation.   The other leader signal that we've really fought against is multitasking  in meetings.  Because the signal that that sends is I am so important,  I cannot be in one place at a time. Who  would not want to be so important? So if I see my leader doing it,  then it actually says this is the accepted and desired behavior here.  So when we're trying to wean organizations off of the disease  the disease of multitasking, because Jeff, it's not a real thing.  We don't have multiple processors. We have one so we're- 

>> Multiple distractions. 

>> Exactly. So we're just task switching. Every time we do that,  it takes cognitive power out and we do not have an infinite amount of cognitive power,  cognitive power, right? So we try to get leaders to put their devices away.  If you're in a conversation, be in the conversation. Give  conversation. Give people the gift of your full attention.  The likelihood is you could probably wrap that meeting up in 20 minutes if  everybody actually just was in the problem we're trying to solve or in the discussion.  the discussion. But instead, everybody's half in, but  in, but they're half in in different moments.  That's only gotten worse in an all remote environment because we think we're being  we're being sly. 

>> Right, right. Well, let me ask you about a couple protocol things on meetings.  One is kind of the back channel,  not so much in the context of back channel and multitasking. That's bad. But  bad. But I don't know,  I thought I saw maybe two different versions of the back channel.  Kind of a direct IM in the context of a meeting. One is it's bad, right? Because  right? Because people are doing other things. But on the other hand, I  hand, I thought I saw somewhere maybe doing research that there is a time and a place maybe  place maybe where you want to use a back channel to encourage someone's participation. I  participation. I was a little confused so I wonder if you can...  Then the other one is cameras, right? We hear both sides on the cameras. On  cameras. On one side, it's everybody turn your camera on. On the other hand, it's  hand, it's a lot of pressure to have your camera on all the time because you didn't  have time to take a shower before the 8 AM meeting this morning.  So I wonder if you could share kind of meeting etiquette  in this world, what works best, what's does not.>> Well,  

not.>> Well, let's start with the camera issue. I  issue. I have a very strong point of view,  and a lot of organizations do not agree with this point of view, which  view, which is you're at work,  being physically there is kind of what is expected, right?  We participate much more effectively.  We build relationship by being on camera.  We've started to give ourselves pretty high pass on what I'm wearing,  what my hair looks like. It doesn't matter anymore.  So there's really no excuse not to be on camera unless you're dropping your kids  your kids off at school, et cetera, et cetera. But  cetera. But then why is the meeting scheduled at this time, right? So  right? So if you think about, if we had fewer meetings,  we could put them at times where we are fully in it for work  and then save those other times where we're only half available to do the things  the things we're only half available for.  So part of that is just not minding your own calendar or sort of paying attention  paying attention to the conflicts that you have or saying like, " like, "Well, if I didn't have time to shower and I needed to be in the office at 8:00,  I'd be in the office at 8:00. So why is a remote call <inaudible> protocol?>> ">> Well,  

protocol?>> ">> Well, the part that I'm hearing protocol even more is if it's a meeting that I'm engaged  I'm engaged in, of course I'm going to be there and on time.  I'm going to have the camera. Because  the camera. Because it's an important meeting for me and I'm a participant and I have something  have something to contribute. It just makes me think, of course, nobody wants  of course, nobody wants their camera on when it's an hour long status meeting that I have nothing  have nothing to say. That's the one I don't really need to prepare anything for. So  for. So why should I need to be engaged? It's interesting.>> Then  

interesting.>> Then why are <inaudible> you wasting your >> time >> being >> here?>> It's >> almost >> like >> it's >> an  

your >> time >> being >> here?>> It's >> almost >> like >> it's >> an of ineffectiveness, right? 

>> Right. We think, "Well, we'll  Well, we'll just listen for something that's relevant to me." But that means that you're  that you're only half attending to whatever other tasks that you're doing, right? 

>> Right.>> If  

>> Right.>> If that's making breakfast for your kids, it's probably fine.  But if it's actually thinking about something or answering an  email thoughtfully,  your brain will focus on that thing and so you're not listening.  So you're just kind of doing a disservice on both sides of the coin. Just  coin. Just say no. Just don't go.>> Right,  

go.>> Right, right.>> Then  

right.>> Then to the back channel question,  I think chat can be a very effective way to get introverts  get introverts to engage in a conversation, or  conversation, or if you need lots of input but you don't have a lot of time, hey, everyone  hey, everyone put their initial thought on the best option in chat and then we'll kind  we'll kind of see where we are. So we're basically taking kind of a straw poll. You  poll. You can always use hand raise or other  tools that are embedded in the platforms. Those are great.   You can also use direct chat to say, "Hey, we  Hey, we only have 10 minutes left and we're on the first objective.  Just wanted to call that out to you as the meeting host so you can decide how to handle  to handle it." So there are lots of ways that you can  improve the quality of the meeting as a participant, not the leader,  but just with simple kind of interventions like that.  Or you can direct chat someone to say, "Jeff,  I know you have a point of view about this. I'm  this. I'm curious as to why you haven't spoken up yet." 

>> Right, right.>> Just  

>> Just kind of without verbally saying, "Hey, Jeff, what  Jeff, what do you think?" Because maybe there's five reasons you don't want to talk about  talk about this right now.  What's not a great back channel is the snarky Slacks on the side  where you're sort of commentating about what's going on in the meeting.  Because it's A,  polluting your own mind about how you're receiving what's happening in that conversation  that conversation and you're distracting yourself and you're spreading negativity.  All those things where they're habits that were acceptable in old organizational  old organizational life. They're just not anymore.  I think we've all gotten a greater mindfulness about  how organizations and human psychology and behavior all  interact with each other,  which just causes us to need to be more thoughtful about how to engage.>> Right,  

engage.>> Right, right. As you're talking about it, it's  it, it's almost more like it's a symptom of a bad meeting etiquette and super inefficiency  super inefficiency that we've built this crazy bad meeting cultures most places,  which are inefficient and long and boring and most people don't need to be there and  need to be there and I got other stuff to do. So it's almost like, again, to your point, I  point, I love, if  if I'm engaged and I'm an important participant in the decisions that are being made  being made at this group of people that are called a meeting, I'm going to be there. I'm not going to be snarky.  be there. I'm not going to be snarky.  It's only when I probably shouldn't be there in the first place.  Okay. Shani, so  Okay. Shani, so let's talk about some of these other fresh start guides,  which I also think is pretty interesting. You  interesting. You guys have a special guide for aim for a happy day,  start your day happy and smiling. I love that.  But there's some really simple things, and  things, and I go back to the show on social media, social dilemma,  which one of my great takeaways from that is if you use the tool, it's great. When  

great. When the tool starts using you, that's when it gets not so great. Yeah.   The essence of this is kind of intentional control of the tools, stay  tools, stay control of your life. So I want to go through some of these basic things.  One, stop the meeting madness. So even as you say,  enjoy maybe missing a few if you're not in control. Decline a couple.  You don't necessarily have to go to them all.  Ghost your email.  I had a whole segment once talking about email and this crazy monster that is  that is email. Again, I think  Again, I think it's worth a little bit deeper discussion in terms of how to help people manage  people manage this beast that's no longer on just their work computer,  but it's in their pocket or their purse and it's there 24/7. 

>> Email is really challenging for all of us,  of us, right?  The average executive gets 123 emails a day and that's a number that is growing,  is growing, right? So  right? So that's a tremendous workload for people if A,  you feel that your job is to read and respond to all of those things.  But what tends to happen is people either become absentees to their own  their own email inboxes.  So leaders who become unreliable readers and responders to email,  to email, that's  email, that's a problem in and of itself because then people lack mechanisms for moving work  moving work forward. So the leader becomes a bottleneck. On the other end, if  end, if the leader actually chooses to engage in all their email, they're  email, they're not going to have time to do anything else,  or they're going to be up all night sort of doing that. So  

that. So what is a healthy relationship to email?  It starts with A, sort of being able to screen and sort,  so knowing...  You can set up plenty of rules that are like if it's from this newsletter I'm subscribing  I'm subscribing to, or it's my daily what's going on in the stock market,  send it to a folder. When you have that spare time, you're  time, you're sitting at an airport lobby and you want to kind of review those things, you  things, you know where they are, but they're not actually in your inbox.  Ask people to help you sort. So we use subject line headers. So  headers. So it's just basically a bracketed subject line at the beginning, inform,  input, action, that helps signal. I mean, we  mean, we have so much information coming at us all day.  It just helps signal what is the necessary move for you as the recipient.  Then all the best practices says that you should only  process email in batches, that you should not graze email all day.  Because grazing is distraction and->> They  

and->> They call it grazing, grazing email all day?>> Yes.  

day?>> Yes. Grazing email all day. So  So your inbox is somebody else's kind of to-do list outbox,  list outbox, right? So oftentimes they're sending you work to do.  I suspect you already have work to do so we would suggest that you read email  read email really three times a day. So somewhere around mid-morning,  not first thing in the morning and I'll tell you why,  mid-afternoon and then at the very end of the day. 

>> How many hours during those windows? 

>> 45 minutes. 

>> 45 minutes, that's it.30 minutes, 45 minutes.You could  

minutes, that's it.30 minutes, 45 minutes.You could  

minutes, that's it.30 minutes, 45 minutes.You could do it. 

>> Because basically if you start your day in email,  we've all done this, right? You get trapped.>> You're  

trapped.>> You're preaching to the choir. You're preaching to the choir right here. 

>> It's a cognitive load. There's no order to it, right? It's  right? It's the order it came in.  But some of it matters a lot more than others.  So being able to sort based on, oh, senders.  You can also do it so that if it's an email from your boss,  it flags or puts high importance on it as it comes in. There's  in. There's so many ways that the tools are trying to help us. It's overwhelming. 

>> Right, right.>> Right? 

>> Right?Right.But if you  

>> Right?Right.But if you  

>> Right?Right.But if you know what you're trying to do,  you can find the mechanism within your platforms to do it versus getting lost  getting lost in all the bells and whistles that the platforms have. 

>> Right, right. I remember years ago,  just doing some work with Atlassian and they had a thing inside, right? No  right? No internal email, everything was a Jira ticket or on Confluence or whatever, right?  whatever, right? Again, they had their own systems that they built. It's their company. It's  company. It's their business. But I wonder if you can speak to the growth of,  I don't know, percentage  percentage of messages or percentage of time on these kind of platforms now, these  now, these work platforms,  where there is an opportunity to at least get a lot of the internal  communications off email and into whether it's a room around a particular  a particular topic or a DM or a group DM or something.  Have you seen those continue to rise in terms of a percentage?  Then are people willing to let something else loose?  I'm comfortable with my 45 minutes three times a day on email because most of my internal  my internal stuff I'm getting done in these other platforms. 

>> Well, yes, I think forward thinking organizations are moving to,  particularly for collaboration on specific projects and specific documents.  Isn't it better if all the communication about that thing lives in one place?>> Right, >> right. 

place?>> Right, >> right.>> So  

>> So I'm not trying to sort of search through and figure out I know somebody sent me  sent me something about this, but I have no idea where it is.  So wherever you can migrate the working product  to the platforms, A, that  A, that takes a tremendous load off email and you can really leverage the capabilities  the capabilities of documents' transparency, right? Again,  another reason that we have meetings is because we are afraid of missing something.  missing something.  So when you have transparency of the workflow on a platform,  I know what's happening, I know who made the last edit, I  edit, I know what the different cross functional perspectives are on a particular topic.  particular topic. So  topic. So it's a wonderful mind map of what is going on with that piece of  work. So much better than email.  

But some of the other slim down email tricks that you can use are no reply alls,  just reply to the person that needs to know.  No thank you or got it or good job.  Not that we don't want to have appreciation,  but what if you just went with the bias of I assume you have it and you'll tell me  tell me if you don't versus you have to send me an email to tell me that you do.  It brings down email load tremendously just those small changes. 

>> Right, right. So I want to steal a line, I think I got it off your website,  which is fascinating that meetings, you guys focus on meetings, is  meetings, is the number one lever for productivity,  performance and employee experience, which I'm going to extend to engagement, which  engagement, which I'm going to extend to innovation and speed. I mean, I  mean, I just wonder if you can speak to some of the returns and some of the experiences  the experiences when you have clients that actually take a minute to be  a little bit more intentional and thoughtful and invest in the processes  the processes to do a better job, what the impacts are, what  are, what are some of the things that you see when people go through these transformations.  these transformations. Then  transformations. Then I guess the second question would be at what level is it done? Is  done? Is it done by  a manager that has had enough and wants to invest in making this better? Is  better? Is it a divisional thing? How does it usually kind of unfold in your engagement? 

>> Yeah. I mean, it typically unfolds around a pain point,  someone who has kind of had enough, or can't we do better,  or we've done a lot of work with software organizations inside  organizations inside companies, because  companies, because they're one of the few knowledge worker functions that is measured,  is measured, like you can really kind of quantify their output.  So much of knowledge work,  it's hard to quantify marketing's daily output.  So that makes it harder for them to sort of justify the investment of time and energy  and energy that it takes to kind of shift these practices.   But you've got visionary leaders who kind of see where it could be.  You have alumni of organizations like Amazon that really have mastered  these kinds of things, or you just have believers.  

Those are the ones who are willing to kind of go after this difficult to capture,  to capture, but incredibly valuable productivity gain. I  think that if you go back to decision making,  and there's a lot of evidence that decision making A, what is an organization, it's  organization, it's kind of a decision making machine.  That's certainly what the leadership team is.  The quality of decisions make a huge impact on the performance of that organization.  that organization. Where do we make decisions? Well, we  Well, we make them in dialogue with each other which is meetings.   So if you think about, if  about, if you correlate the quality of our decisions with the quality of our meetings,  there's a case for change that actually really matters.  There's a lot of science that says  the more options that we consider,  the more diverse perspectives that we bring to bear on a decision,  the higher quality those decisions are.  

But what we tend to do is bring people together. Hierarchy takes over. Bad  over. Bad meeting habits take over. So the decision making doesn't get better, it  better, it just has a bigger audience because it's still a couple of people who are making  are making all the decisions.  Some of that, there's leader hubris involved in that.  So leaders may say they want inclusion and more voices,  more voices, and you have to ask yourself, " yourself, "Do you really?" Or do you feel like I earned the right to be at the top of this organization?  this organization?  I don't want to share decision making authority  with others which is their prerogative given where they are.  they are. It's just not good for business.  It's also not aligned with the times.  

There's a huge generational differences in what we expect and we are right in the  in the middle of that moment.  Workers 20 years from this will not tolerate this at all.  Workers who are 20 years ahead of the middle are pretty comfortable with the way that  way that things have been,  but this is our chance to change what work means  and it could be so much better. 

>> Right, right, right. Can be so much better.  Just to reinforce that, this can't happen, right? This  right? This is a cultural situation that you can have. I mean, I go back, my  back, my first job in tech was at Intel.  We went into those rooms and they had those little signs, but I got to tell you,  people respected those signs. I was fascinated. For instance, you  instance, you have a lot of stuff talking about people that derail the meeting. Well, they  Well, they have a rule, it's called rat hole. Anyone can just say rat hole,  stop talking, next topic.  I saw it happen with junior people with more senior people. They have a rule,  meeting ends at 10 to the hour. It's like a school bell.   It used be funny to stand out in the halls and watch all the doors open at the same  the same time, everybody goes, gets a coffee, takes a pee.  Then at the top of the hour, all the doors close again.  

It's funny for them, right? It comes from their manufacturing discipline. I  discipline. I felt like I was a chip being optimized. But it works for them.  You can create a culture that's much more efficiency and get away from some of these  of these bad habits. But you've been at this forever. We're out of time. I  time. I want to give you the last word. What have we not covered?  Give people some simple tips.  Paint a vision of the future of what they're going to get when they're a little  bit more intentional about meeting and stop meeting the way they've been meeting. been meeting. 

>> Well, I think the question for leaders to ask themselves is, "Am  is, "Am I getting the full collaborative potential out of this organization?  What would it mean to our performance if I could?" Because that's  Because that's the decision moment of should I invest in sort of changing the way that  way that we work. So the way that we work is smarter, it's easier.  Our mission is to prove it can be joyful and productive.  Those things are not in contradiction at all.  But we sort of pretend that they are. So seeing meetings differently,  seeing them as something that matters, and it's not just meetings, obviously  meetings, obviously it's the whole collaborative landscape,  but really investing time and looking at that and asking yourself if  yourself if it's serving you. The changes,  they're not easy to sustain over time, but  time, but they're not hard to make in the short term.  

So that's one of the benefits of this is that there's so much value to just be grabbed  be grabbed right now.  If you're focused on inclusion and that's a priority for you,  we over focus on representation and we under focus on what is a day to day experience  day experience that people have in our organization, particularly  organization, particularly if they represent a diverse perspective. Well, where  Well, where do they have that experience? They have it in meetings.  Is their voice valued? Is it sought after?  How do we actually leverage the diversity that we have, whether  have, whether it's cognitive or otherwise? So those two things, diversity,  things, diversity, equity and inclusion and collaborative effectiveness,  they're part and parcel of the same thing.  We just haven't been viewing it that way.  I think shifting the lens that people use on it could really change the way people  way people think about collaboration.>> That's >> great. >> That's >> great.  

collaboration.>> That's >> great. >> That's >> great. That's a great summary. Because like you said,  how many resources have you bought, paid for, hired  for, hired and trained that are sitting in the building that you're not taking full advantage  full advantage of? From utilization point of view, if  view, if you want to measure it that way, whatever. I had a post a while back,  Greg Jones said, "People are only 64% engaged," with his number. I don't know where he got that  number. I don't know where he got that number. But  number. But we all know most people aren't fully engaged and you can tell if they are  and you can tell if they aren't and you know what a hige asset  right underneath your hands.  Well, this has been super, Shani. I  Shani. I really appreciate your time. I've been excited about this for a long time. I  time. I still think it's one of the coolest names of any business and congratulations  on your birthday. Nine years, that's legit. 

>> Thanks very much, Jeff. 

>> Absolutely.Pleasure to be here. 

>> Absolutely.Pleasure to be here.>> Well,  

>> Well, for everybody, go to their website. There's these great resources. We  resources. We didn't even get into the inclusion in real life. That's  life. That's got a bunch of really simple straightforward stuff like greet everybody by  everybody by name. What a concept. How difficult is that to do?  But a lot of tremendous resources. So thank you again, Shani.  It's really been a pleasure. 

>> Great. See you soon. 

>> All right. She's Shani, I'm Jeff. You're watching Work 20XX with Jeff Fick. We'll  Fick. We'll see you next time. Thanks for watching and re. 

>> Excellent. Let me stop my records.

Links and References 

Shani Harmon, Co-Founder & CEO, Stop Meeting Like This

LinkedIn - 

Stop Meeting like This -

Twitter -

The Stop Meeting Like this Workwise Guides

Inclusion in Real Life Guide - 

Fresh Start Guide - 

Hybrid Work Guide - 

Power Down Perfectionism Guide - 

Vacation Guide - 

Prior Work 20XX Segments Referenced 

Darren Murph, GitLab, Work 20XX, Ep01

Meg Bear, SAP SuccessFactors, Work 20XX Ep02

Ryan Anderson, MillerKnoll, Work 20XX, Ep03 

Dave Montez, PayPal, Work 20XX, Ep04 

Amazon’s Meeting Culture 

15 Lessons from Andy Jassy, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Jeff Frick, LinkedIn, Feb 2021

Amazon 2 pizza meeting rule - ‘Jeff Bezos’ ‘two pizza rule’ can help you hold more productive meetingsCourtney Connley, Make It, CNBC, April 30, 2018 

Four ways Amazon optimizes meetings,

How The First 15 minutes of Amazon’s Leadership Meetings Spark Great Ideas and Better Conversations, Carmine Gallo, Sr Contributor, Forbes, June 2019 


Disclaimer and Discloser 

This Episode of ‘Work 20XX’ was brought to you by Webex by Cisco 

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Jeff Frick
Founder and Principal,
Menlo Creek Media

Jeff Frick has helped literally tens of thousands of executives share their stories. In his latest show, Work 20XX, Jeff is sharpening the focus on the future of work, and all that it entails.