45-Minute Meetings and Reflection on the Crisis in Syria

Today I learned:

 45-Minute Meetings: Last night I listened to a new podcast put out by Manager-Tools.com on 45 minute meetings.

There were a number of good reminders, such as:

–      circulate an agenda in advance

–      start and end on time

–      maintain an eye on the clock and a militant hand on the agenda

The advice, while good, was for the most part not new (and they admitted as much in the podcast). The simple concept of 45 minutes is an interesting one though.

The basic premise is this:  Meeting best-practices aside, whatever you can do in 1-hour, you can probably accomplish in 45 minutes. Essentially it is just a MS Outlook default setting that causes us to book most meetings for an hour, and when we truly put thought into the time required we will typically realize less is more. I decided to give this a run today, and re-booked a meeting I had scheduled with 8 people from across the company for 45 minutes instead of an hour.

The result? Success.

Would we have ended that fast anyway? Possibly, but there is risk in taking that approach. Conversations tend to fill the time available to hold them.  Today, I made the timeline very clear at the start, and the end result is that 8 people saved 15 minutes. Put another way, the company gained 2 hours additional time for other matters. Not a bad start.

All-in-all, more valuable insight from the guys at Manager-Tools.com. Highly recommend.

The Crisis in Syria: I read an article in the Economist this morning about recent events in Syria, and it occurred to me it had been awhile since I had spoken with a friend of mine originally from the area.  I decided to see how he is doing.

He told me his parents and siblings are living in a “war zone.” Shops and businesses are generally closed, opening only  periodically and briefly to help get citizens critical supplies.  The only time his family has left the house in the last 7 days was when they were smoked out due to fumes from a pipeline which exploded in the area. The internet and phones lines are intermittent, and while he is speaking with them daily, it is often after dozens of attempts to get through.

I asked what he thinks the outcome will be and he said lessons from other countries in the region will not be translated directly to Syria’s President – “when you believe you are a god, you dismiss similar events, as you can not believe they relate to you.” In the end, he feels the tide is slowly turning and the outcome will be no different than in other places, such as Libya.  One man hidden in an ever shrinking strong-hold, surrounded by an ever shrinking army of supporters.

Personally it is having a huge impact on him.  At this point he said “ I can’t sleep. I get up at 2am every night to watch the news of what is happening during the daylight hours there.” Most telling though, his final comment: “Despite all that, in the 16 years since I left Syria, this is the first time I wish I was home.” He would rather leave a quiet life in Canada to enter a war zone, just to be near his family.

Day to day problems at home don’t seem too bad…

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Is the Messenger killing us? Plus, Anchoring your Calendar

Today I learned:

1. The Messenger might be killing us: I was watching the news last night and eventually just had to turn it off.  I get it. The world sucks. It’s a dangerous place.

Or is it?

Watching another round of updates on the calamity in the world made me wonder why we see so few stories about the good things in life. With a bit of exploring, today I learned Karl Aquino from the Sauder School of Business at UBC – where I completed my MBA – completed some research on this and found that instead of freaking us all out the media could actually make the world a better place just by reporting good news.

The funny thing is that this is intuitive.  The Power of Positive Thinking. The Secret. The Leader Who Had No Title. All books that in one way or another subscribe to the general idea you can be a better person, and lead a more fulfilling life just by filling your mind with positive thoughts and adopting an optimistic, forward-looking perspective. It is not a stretch then to suggest that if we were all working together, helping fill each others minds with positive thoughts, then we might all be better off.  The media could certainly help with an initiative like that.

Yes, I know. I am living in a dream world.

Feel good stories don’t sell.

Or do they?

Imagine an hour of news without drugs, murder, accidents or the nightly Hollywood train wreck.  An hour where Mike McCardell gets the lead.  That’s an hour I would look forward too.  That would have also kept me tuned in last night, lending a couple more eyeballs to the commercials that are funding the broadcast.

2. Anchoring: One more lesson from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. (I am finished the book now, so I promise I will stop!)

A new addition to my weekly calendar: Anchoring. As in taking the time to “anchor” into my week the most important things in life – kids, family, personal and physical development, fun – the things that don’t get booked and that we assume will occur spontaneously or we will just fit in.

The concept works for me, because I spent the 28 months of my part-time MBA  program meticulously scheduling every moment of my day, just to fit everything in. I have gotten away from it recently, only really scheduling personal activities that seemed important like haircuts, doctor visits, and days off . A subtle shift in what I deem as important, and therefore what I book into my week, should make this new activity helpful and in turn make the behaviour stick.