How to Eliminate Time-Wasting Meetings


For most businesses, meetings are an essential component for getting things done. At the same time, poorly led and organised meetings are a time-consuming swamp that bedevils business leaders at every turn. They go on too long, they’re held for all the wrong reasons, they end with no action to move forward, etc.

And, as Daniel Marcus, CEO of Magnetic Software notes, “when teams are calling meetings to prep and plan for future meetings, something needs to give.”

We’re not talking about getting rid of meetings altogether, just the ones that waste everyone’s time and lack any viable ROI. Here are tips for improving the quality of your meetings and boosting productivity throughout the organisation:

Draw up an agenda and stick to it. Every meeting should include a point-by-point agenda for what will be discussed. This agenda should be distributed to all those planning to attend, together with any materials people need to review in advance. Ideally, specific time-limits should be attached to each agenda item, and participants should clearly understand that other, irrelevant topics will not be addressed at this meeting.

Don’t invite anyone who doesn’t have a good reason to attend the meeting. All too often, employees are asked to attend meetings without the meeting planner considering whether or not their presence is genuinely necessary. The result? Too many people sitting in a conference room wondering what they’re doing there and walking out afterwards with no answer to that question and nothing but lost time to show for it.

Think through who needs to be at a meeting and ruthlessly restrict attendance to those necessary few. Distinguish between required and optional participants, Marcus says, “so that optional participant will only attend if they have an active interest in what’s on the agenda.”

Lose the PowerPoint presentation. Virtually anything that can be displayed on PowerPoint during a meeting can (and probably should) be distributed to individuals via email or other online collaborative resources for review on their own. While a great resource for transmitting information, PowerPoint can eat up entire meetings that might be more profitably devoted to analysing a particular challenge and assigning action steps for a concrete resolution.

And while we’re at it, consider imposing strict rules prohibiting the use of mobile devices during meetings. When employees are texting, checking emails or other keeping their eyes fixed on their phones, they’re not participating in or contributing to the meeting itself.

Take an active leadership role (or assign the role to someone else). No meeting should ever be rudderless. If a CEO or business owner calls a meeting, he or she must take an active leadership role that adheres closely to the agenda, allows no digressions, and pursues a conclusion that leaves all participants with a greater understanding of the issue under discussion—and what steps must be taken to address it, post-meeting. As an option, a meeting leaders can be designated to assume this role, perhaps in coordination with someone who keeps close track of the time for each agenda item and makes notes on related topics to be addressed at some other time. It’s very important to set an observable standard for promoting meetings that are always efficient and informative.

Explore alternatives to conventional meetings. If your culture encourages meetings that go on too long and lack a fruitful conclusion, consider different alternatives. One such option is holding a 15-minute “meeting of the day” where employees and/or managers quickly review their current work duties—bringing everyone else on the team up to speed—and then go back to their jobs. Again, a note-taker can transcribe key points and share them via an all-staff email later the same day.

Annual Meeting Schedules: If your executive meeting looks the same week in week out jumping from the short-term crisis to the long-term big picture to minutae of the moment, your schedule is probably inappropriate.  I have been guilty of it myself.  Your meeting schedule needs to have separate formats for longer-term planning and review of progress. Your regular meetings need to sparsely schedule deep dive sessions or focus session on one critical aspect that needs the attention of the senior team and thoughtful preparation by the section leader. .If you believe your meetings could be improved, imagine how a group of fellow business owners would benefit from sharing such wisdom and experience. Its a topic that our TAB coaches discuss from time to time both in their individual coaching sessions and with their TAB Board. Having great quality meetings is also a key component of our Alignment Factor Programme which helps Business Owner to have much better-aligned teams and bottom line results.



7 Great Tips for Boosting Teamwork Productivity


In today’s competitive marketplace, the benefits of individual achievement—while always important—pale in comparison to what can be achieved through high-performing teamwork. If you’ve put in the time, strategy and effort to hire the right people for your positions, then it only makes good sense to encourage collaboration for both short-term and long-range projects.

Effective teamwork can significantly accelerate completion of key initiatives, while also acting as a powerful employee retention tool. Employees thrive in a culture where both teamwork and individual initiative are valued and are less inclined to consider other opportunities for employment.

However, if your teamwork efforts are falling short, consider these action steps:

1. Select a leader. A group of employees without a leader is like a rudderless boat. Every team needs someone to take charge, address any conflicts that arise and set the tone and pace for the work to come.

2. Emphasise collaboration and open discussion. The whole point of teamwork is for individuals to bond and share their knowledge and expertise. Your job (or a manager’s job) is to provide all the technical resources necessary to achieve this goal, including:

  • A shared digital workspace, where team members can find documents and other information needed to move forward on a project
  • Easy access to the digital workplace, whether team members are in the office, on the road, in their homes, etc.
  • Opportunities to communicate informally, via chat, video, email, group forums, and so on

3. Delegate intelligently. Different employees bring different skills and qualities to the table. For a team to become more productive, it makes sense to delegate key responsibilities to those individuals best equipped to take on the tasks at hand. Assign these tasks with clearly outlined roles and responsibilities, while making sure everyone feels they’re contributing equally to the project.

4. Empower the team to make decisions. As a project or initiative moves forward, a time will come when key decisions must be made. Problems can arise when the team leader lacks the authority to make such decisions, and must instead defer to senior management and/or the CEO or business owner. Not only does this slow progress, it undermines the team’s confidence in its own ability to handle responsibilities.

As much as possible, empower the team to decide what actions to take (while, of course, keeping all relevant parties informed), so the process is more efficient and effective.

5. Keep your own involvement to a minimum. Teamwork suffers when there’s too much micromanaging from above. Resist the impulse to hold frequent meetings to stay updated on the team’s progress, or to email team members on an overly frequent basis. Give the team more time and space to focus on what you’ve asked them to do. Brief, once-a-week updates are probably all you need in order to stay on track with what the team is doing.

6. Make sure remote workers are part of the team. In some cases, a remotely located employee may offer specific benefits to a team project. It’s critically important to keep this individual (or individuals) in the loop and to make every effort to solicit their input during brainstorming sessions.

Chats and emails are fine, but “you learn more about people when you can watch their mannerisms and facial expressions.” With video conferencing tools, team members can “really connect with the members of their teams living in different parts of the world.”

7. Recognise and reward. Finally, be sure to recognise the achievements gained through teamwork and reward the individuals involved. Public acknowledgement of what the team has achieved offers a strong incentive to do more of the same, and helps promote a company culture that values both individual and team contributions—and wants to retain the talented employees who make it all happen.


3 Time Management Tips for Busy Entrepreneurs

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According to The Alternative Board’s recent business pulse survey, 85% of business owners are working 40+ hours per week, but only 70% want to be. In fact, the average business owner is working 7.7 hours a week more than they’d like.

Even though entrepreneurs are already squeezing blood from a stone, they still want more. By freeing up their schedules they could devote more time to marketing, strategic planning, and creating new opportunities for their business – the premier way most entrepreneurs wish they could be spending time at work.

So how can busy business owners reallocate their time for improved productivity and work-life balance? TAB’s survey results offer 3 time management tips you can put to use immediately:

  1. Delegate More

    time management tipsWhile 76% of business owners rank their time management skills above average, an equal amount would like to explicitly reduce tasks that they don’t feel they need to be personally doing.It’s understandable why most entrepreneurs don’t delegate enough — after all, most business owners like being in control. In many cases, it’s why they got started with entrepreneurship in the first place. While taking ownership is a very profitable trait, it can also be a huge pitfall.“The number one mistake startup owners make is refusing to let go of control,” says TAB UK Operations Director Jo Clarkson. “A great way to overcome this setback is by reflecting on your end game and what you want the journey to be like. For example, if you’re really clear that the business needs to provide enough wealth for your family to achieve financial security in 5 years, and you want the journey to give you the freedom to take a 3 week vacation each summer –  and winter you’d better get over that hurdle of letting go, and delegate!”
  2. Plan and Prioritise40% of business owners surveyed admitted to having an ineffective annual operating plan or none at all — something that directly leads to lost productivity. When you don’t know what is really urgent and what isn’t, you end up treating everything as an emergency.A good way to avoid “tyranny of the urgent” is to prioritise your day. When TAB Member Jesse Viola, President of APM Shipping Services LLC, realised he was spending too much time putting out fires over the phone every morning, he turned to his TAB Board for advice. His fellow business owners suggested he turn off his business line until 11 am each day. “Organising my day this way helps me accomplish the bigger picture items I want to get done first,” says Viola. “From there, I can work on the fires with more motivation and better attention to the cash flow priority.”
  3. Rethink Your Email Strategytime management tips

    The number one item business owners are losing time on is email. According to the survey results, business owners are spending 30.9% of their time on email – more than calls (14.2%), direct interaction with employees (24.6%), direct interaction with customers (21%), and direct interaction with vendors (9.4%). As TAB’s April 2015 socially-driven business survey demonstrated the importance of community engagement, business owners are smart to cut down their time on email and increase their direct interaction with their community (i.e. employees, customers, and vendors).Cheri Giglia, Managing Director, Supporting Strategies North Shore Lo, recommends setting up a to-be-processed folder in your inbox. When reviewing your inbox, move messages that require further action to that folder. That way, you don’t waste time reading emails multiple times. You can access them later without having to clutter or search inbox.”Follow the advice of the HP founders who were masters of time management. One of their tips was to touch each piece of paper a single time. The same can be applied to email. When you allocate time to reading email, make a commitment to responding to the email at that time.”  Personally, I use three methods to cut down time on email.

    1. Use of my PA to open and classify all important email by urgency in purple and important in red. Invitations are in yellow.
    2. Only look at email at certain times of the day, early morning, midday and evening.
    3. Use Streak as an attachment to the Gsuite email platform. You can tell who has opened an email sent. You can move it through a process pipeline. You can send it later. This is particularly useful for emails which are part of a process. e.g. hiring, client acquisition etc. Anything with a process that can be defined. Just move it from one bucket to the next and have all your canned responses prepared so that you don’t have to recompose everytime you write an email.

If business owners had more time, they would spend it on marketing (32%), strategic planning (24%), product/service development (15%), and strategic partnerships (11%) – all profitable activities that can push their business forward. Better time management not only translates to better long-term strategy, but more time for family, friends, and personal pursuits.

Whether your personal vision of success is increased profits, expanding your reach, or simply more free time, prioritizing your hours is the first step in reaching your goals. Working with a board of fellow business owners can help you identify areas where you are losing time and how to refocus your energy for increased productivity. If you feel you are using your time at work inefficiently, get in touch with a local board for proven time management strategies.


Outbound Marketing Isn’t Dead: Telemarketing, Believe It Or Not

Vector icons set call center avatars in a flat style

Telemarketing is probably the least loved outbound marketing activity amongst both business owners and consumers. Most business owners baulk at the idea of telemarketing—it just seems so outdated. True, the days of being interrupted by a sales call during your family dinner are largely done, and I think we can all agree that this is a good thing. However, telemarketing is still a viable outbound marketing tactic for many brands, especially for B2B marketing.

Oftentimes, telemarketing is used for appointment setting, rather than direct sales as in days of old. You can either do your own cold calling, delegate it to an employee, or outsource the activity to a professional telemarketing firm. It is a great idea to coordinate your telemarketing activities with a direct mail campaign to help “warm up” the cold calls and increase brand recall.

Telemarketing Best Practices:

  1. Target your list. Just like any marketing tactic, the more target you become in your audience and messaging, the greater your success ratio is going to be. Think about targeting your list by geographic location, business type, business size, and so on. What other demographics does your business consider important to qualify prospects?
  2. Standardise your script. Have a standard script or detailed outline create whether you are doing telemarketing internally or outsourcing it. You can change the script to test which messages produce higher conversions, but by standardising the script you are able to test messaging logically. You should also have a script ready for leaving voicemail.
  3. Keep it positive. Have a smile on your face and enthusiasm in your voice. Your positive personality will translate through, increasing the probability of engaging in a positive conversation with the person on the other end.
  4. Track it. Telemarketing is definitely a numbers game, so take a bit of time to determine how many prospects you realistically need to generate one sale. To accomplish this, track how many appointments your sales team needs to generate one sale. Then determine how many calls were made to create that number of appointments. From there you can determine how many leads were needed to complete that number of calls (taking into consideration that one prospect may have been called more than once before reaching them). This may take a bit of time and practice to determine your metrics, but as you develop your telemarketing campaigns, you will gain a better understanding of the number of prospects will convert into sales.

Though this unloved outbound marketing activity seems archaic, consider integrating it into your other marketing activities and track the results. Though telemarketing is far more popular among business-to-business brands, it is also still quite popular with consumer products. Telemarketing firms often specialize in either B2B or B2C calling, so do your research and be prepared to discuss your specific needs.

How do you feel about telemarketing for your business? What advice would you give to other business owners considering using telemarketing as a communication channel in their outbound marketing campaigns?


Get a Handle on Emails to Boost Productivity

Depending on who you talk to, the use of email is one of the greatest advances in business communications or the worst thing to affect productivity in the past several decades. Every CEO and business owner knows what it’s like to open his or her inbox to a deluge of emails—many of which aren’t worth their precious time.

If you’re a business leader who’s truly committed to effective time management, it’s essential to get a grip on this issue or risk losing even more time and effort when these resources are in such rare supply. Here are suggestions for tackling email overload and freeing up your time for more critically important business objectives:

Get a protocol in place. According to productivity experts, email overload is symptomatic of a larger organisation problem—the absence of clear-cut protocols. “If your organisation has ambiguous decision-making processes and people don’t get what they need from their colleagues, they’ll flood the system with email and meeting requests,” notes Amy Gallo at Harvard Business Review. This results in a potentially crippling backlog, “which leads to even more email and meeting requests from frustrated co-workers trying to follow up.”

The key is establishing guidelines for everyone in the organisation (including you!). Suggested protocols can include:

  • Limit the sending of emails to people who have a genuine action item
  • Determine when it’s necessary to copy co-workers and when it’s not appropriate.
  • Pause before you hit “Send” and asking yourself, is there a more efficient way to get my questions answered (i.e., calling on the phone sending an instant message).

Invite employees to offer their own suggestions on how to curb email overload and then implement the most effective suggestions into a company-wide email policy.

Control the flow of your own email output. Are you guilty of sending too many emails to people in your company on a daily basis? This can be particularly troublesome if the key policy or organisational issues are being discussed via email, necessarily requiring a great deal of back-and-forth discussion. (In such circumstances, email is a notably inefficient resource.) Make more selective use of the “Reply All” tool (and request that others reduce the number of “For Your Information” emails they send you every day).

It’s a simple principle: The fewer emails you send out, the fewer will come back to clog your inbox.

Unsubscribe! Speaking of your inbox, how many irrelevant emails do you get from sites you subscribed to in the distant past? Whether it’s a sales newsletter, promotional messages about exclusive vacation offers or notices from online publications you no longer read, take every opportunity to click on “Unsubscribe” when these messages appear. It generally only takes a few minutes to complete this process—and saves you untold amounts of time and distraction when they no longer pop up in your inbox, demanding your attention.

Make use of email productivity apps and collaboration tools. There are plenty of apps designed to help users organise and control what appears in their inboxes. Enlist the help of an assistant or someone in IT to install the right app to reduce the flow of unwanted (or non-urgent) emails you see on a daily basis.

Also, if your team is presently using email as a collaboration tool for ongoing projects, opting instead for more advanced collaborative resources (Google Documents is a good start, but there are many other tools out there, such as Asana or Trello – We use Asana in TAB Ireland). This way, people can conveniently access the information they need from co-workers on a shared site, rather than communicate incessantly via email (and often copy managers or others). This alone can significantly cut down on the flow of emails throughout your company.

Communications is always a top business priority, but by setting guidelines and adopting the use of superior technology, it doesn’t have to consume nearly as much time and energy as in the past. Email remains a great tool, as long as you stay in control of it, rather than the other way around.