Dear CMO:

We are defined by the demands on our time. Our self-worth has become invariably connected to the number of emails and cell phone calls we receive, as long as they’re in public. Once, we collected coup; now we have vibrating Blackberries and knowing looks as we pick up incoming calls. “Sorry… I have to take this…” we say, with a shrug. The person on the phone has somehow become more important than the person in front of us. Our Outlook calendars are no better. “I’d love to get together, but I’m slammed today – I’m triple booked…”

I’ve noticed that people who get too many emails and are in too many meetings get nothing done. They attend, they participate, they comment, they weigh in, they critique, but they don’t actually do.

It seems like it would be in the corporation’s best interests to keep senior management out of endless meetings, while putting junior people in more so they could learn from their superiors and peers. In other words, shouldn’t you be involved in less bureaucracy the higher you go? It doesn’t work that way, does it?

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Key Takeaways:

> Meetings are not necessarily collaborative events. They rarely result in the human agenda moving forwards. Approach them with trepidation and avoid them when you can.

> Collaborative events don’t have to be “meetings” – they can be instant messages, phone calls, or doorway conversations. The more spontaneous they are, the better (your results may vary, of course, but I find this to be often the case).

> Time can be your most valuable asset, so spend it wisely. Sounds like a cliché, so it must be true.

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When was the last time you had a day with no scheduled meetings at all? I’ve used the system to by benefit by simply booking myself solid all day with the clear intention that I wasn’t going to get sucked into endless meetings. The amount of work, of creativity, and of quality thinking skyrockets when we do this. We don’t have to ignore people when we block ourselves out – in fact, this type of spontaneous collaboration is usually far more productive than the alternative – we simply allow ourselves to work for the sake of function, not form.


Copyright © 2007 Stephen Denny