When Someone Calls Your Baby Ugly

ugly_baby_by_dleish-d53u50lHave you ever been presenting an idea which you think is great and revolutionary only to have everyone in the room mock it?  This phenomenon is known as having your baby called ugly.  You feel terrible and begin to doubt yourself.  Depending on how long you have worked on the idea, you feel like you wasted tons of time and are probably going to get fired.

If you work on the product development end of your company, you are numb to this type of rejection.  It is part of your job description- right up there with drinking too much coffee and eating too much sugar.  But for the rest of us that are sensitive to what people think about you, what can we do to move on?

1.       Separate Fact from Opinion.  Many times, even in a very visceral response, there are some good facts in the criticism.  Take the time to hear the message, not necessarily the words being spoken.  You can learn a lot about the deficiencies of the idea this way.

2.       Ask Probing Questions.  Take the time to ask people questions that remove emotion from the equation.  If someone does not like the color of a package, ask whether a different color may be better.  If you ask why you do not like green, it is likely to illicit an emotional response.

3.       Look at Your Idea with Fresh Eyes.  Now that you have received negative feedback, look and see where the idea can be improved.  If it is a new process, review each step and see where the breakdowns are- and fix them.

4.       Do Not Get Defensive.  Your natural instinct is to fight back.  This is almost always the wrong response.  Impassioned pleas work well in the movies, but not so much at work.  Take in the criticism and defend your position, but not to the point where you are going to crying discussing it.

5.       Scrap the Idea, If Needed.  Sometimes your ideas are not going to work.  Whether it is a toy that the kids don’t like or a form that no one will fill out.  Cut your losses and go back to the drawing board.  If 10% of your ideas stick, you are a prolific innovator.

Now throw all of this advice out if you truly have a groundbreaking idea.  If your company or clients don’t appreciate it, find an audience that will.

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Preparing for a Meeting- a Lost Art

bored-employees-in-presentationBy the time you reach your forties, you will have attended literally thousands of meetings.  According to Effectivemeetings.com through a white paper by MCI, the average worker attends 61.8 meetings per month and 50% of the meeting time is considered wasted.  That means you are potentially wasting a work week per month in meetings that are not accomplishing anything important.

One of the reasons in my opinion that so much time is wasted is because there are too many meetings to attend and most meetings are not being well prepared for by either the organizer or the attendee. This lack of preparation leads to disjointed meeting flows, distracting sidebar discussions, and unmet expectations.

Here are some simple ways to prepare for a meeting that is faster and more effective:

  1. Set and publish an agenda (and read it if you’re an attendee).  This helps the organizer organize his/her thoughts on topics to be covered.  It also enables attendees to see what is or isn’t being covered and can come prepared for the meeting with pertinent input.
  2. Set hard time limits for your meetings in offbeat intervals.  Scheduling a twenty-minute meeting gives everyone the expectation that the meeting needs to be crisp.  It also allows the professional meeting going to have a few minutes before their next one.
  3. Invite essential attendees only.  While it is great to be inclusive, having people who are not directly affected by the meeting topics yields for disinterested participants.  Disinterested participants tend to be distracting and cause the meeting to veer off course as they get the topics their interested in interjected into the meeting.
  4. Start on time.  If most of the attendees can make the appointed time, start the meeting.  The late arrivers will catch up and will also make an effort to be punctual the next time.  Also, do not let the late arriver hijack your meeting by apologizing, making excuses, etc.  Guess what?  No one cares.  Be on time.
  5. Send out minutes in action oriented formats.  Do not send a recap of the meeting, instead send what needs to be done coming out of the meeting.  This makes each subsequent meeting more productive and the agenda easier to write.

Make sure you take your meeting organization and attendance seriously.  It will help you be more productive both in and out of your meetings.

Disinterested = Distracting = Disrespectful

unmotivated-employees-in-meeting_pop_18933Have you ever presented and found somebody in the audience to be so disinterested in your presentation that it distracted you? Conversely, have you ever been so uninterested in a topic that you found yourself fidgeting?

How did you feel in both of those situations? Chances are it was the same- frustrated. You were frustrated for different reasons. In the former, it was because you could not give the presentation in the manner that you wanted to because one person derailed your energy and focus. In the later situation, you were frustrated that there were a million other things you could be doing instead of listening to that particular presenter.

This frustration leads to disrespect. And once there is a lack of respect between team members, the team never performs at an optimum level until it gets ironed out. So how do you keep yourself from being distracted/the distractor in a meeting?

  1. Presenters need to stay focused on the people who are engaged. While it is true that you should try to make eye contact with every person in the room, ignoring the disinterested ones will help you stay focused.
  2. Presenters need to stay upbeat. Your energy and enthusiasm cannot be compromised as it ends up ruining your presentation. A byproduct of your excitement may be getting that person on board with your topic.
  3. Audience members need to focus on their notepad. It is amazing how many lists you can generate that help organize your thoughts when you are in a presentation that is not interesting to you.
  4. Audience members need to “look through” the presenter. Again, you can be in deep thought while the presenter is in their mode, just give them the courtesy of looking at them.
  5. Audience members need to bury their phones. Reading emails, sending texts, and other phone activities distract not just the presenter but also other audience members.

Being engaged during a presentation that you are disinterested in is a skill that everyone needs to develop. It avoids you being labeled as disrespectful and avoids unnecessary conflict. You also need to learn to present through adversity- a bored audience member should never derail you.