My meetings are so long! What can I do to make sure they don't drag?

By Anh Tran 
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST
anhtran@pace-od.com

Meetings have become an essential part of our working life. Love it or not, meetings help us to generate new ideas, make decisions, share information and assign tasks. I personally like meetings where I can listen to and learn from diverse views, and where members have the freedom to express their voices and ideas. 

There are good days when my meetings are short, sweet, concise and each of us is clear of what we are supposed to do. But there are also bad days when meetings drag to become unproductive and energy-sapping. If you have eight hours in a typical working day, an hour-long meeting would consume an eighth of your working day. Imagine you have five meetings during the day, that leaves you with just three hours to do your other work. If the meeting involves members from different functions, levels of productivity would suffer more. 

So the question is, what can you do to avoid having a meeting that drags? I believe that as a team member, you can suggest the following in order to have effective meetings that you enjoy:

Watch the agenda

Ensure that you have a clear agenda that is made known to others before the meeting. This will help clear up all possible confusion before hand. Each item on the meeting agenda should be limited to a fixed duration based on the importance and urgency of the subject matter. Typically, the meeting chairperson is the one who decides on the time allocated for each segment. 

It is also important to have a time keeper for the meeting. Time can fly by fast, especially when you are in the ‘flow’. It is a good practice to assign one member to be a time keeper and remind everyone that the time permitted is running out. Once everyone is aware of the time, drawing the meeting to a close gets faster.

Stating the fact, not making a point

Sometimes meetings can lead to heated discussions where strong voices clash. We could let our ego get in the way instead of coming to a consensus. Personally, I always try to adopt the four dialogic practices when transmitting one message: Listen, Suspend, Respect, Voice. 

Listen: Listen to what is unsaid 

Respect: Honour the other party’s viewpoints

Suspend: Stop your own flow of thought to consider what others have shared

Voice: Express your own conviction with courage 

Closing the meeting 

By the end of the meeting, you should have crafted a concrete ‘Actions to Take’ section with a person-in-charge assigned for every action. Set a timeline for those actions and set a date for the next meeting!

I hope you start to enjoy meetings where you can interact with others and understand more about how other teams function. All this eventually leads to a deeper knowledge of your organisation! 

Do share with us your thoughts on how to conduct effective meetings that do not take more time than they require at connect@pace-od.com! 

Work-Life Balance: Myth or Reality?

By Vivienne Liu
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST
vivienne@pace-od.com

Before we dive into discussing whether work-life balance is achievable in the working world, I think it would be helpful to first define the concept. Like many people, I previously had the misconception that having a work-life balance meant having enough hours outside of work to enjoy life—implying that work is the ultimate enemy of life’s enjoyment. 

However, a quick search on Google tells me that I was completely wrong. Among other definitions, I particularly like how worklifebalance.com puts it—meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in each of the four life quadrants: work, family, friends, and self.

Looking at it this way, work and life aren’t enemies fighting for my time anymore. Among other things, work is a part of life; and more importantly, it’s meant to be enjoyed. Keeping this in mind, I would like to share some tips to work towards the seemingly impossible yet most coveted work-life balance:

Focus on what energises you.

If we were honest with ourselves, no one loves every single part of their job. There are tasks we absolutely love and can’t wait to get our hands on, and there are those things that we keep on postponing or pushing down on our to-do lists. The key to stop seeing work as the necessary daily grind—a chore or merely a source of income for survival—is to keep your eyes on what energises you. Take some time to think through the most meaningful parts of your job and list down the things you absolutely enjoy doing as part of your work. When things get tough (or when you need to get the things you dread done), pull out this list and remind yourself of the other amazing things you’ll get to do after this dreaded task.      

Know thyself. 

It's important that we know ourselves and our priorities. We all have the same quadrants of life (work, family, friends, and self), but the value we assign to each quadrant might differ vastly. While some of us find investing in self development most fulfilling, others might regard spending time with family as most satisfying; yet, others find fulfilment in work accomplishments or social life. No matter the values you place on each quadrant, the most important thing is that you know your priorities and make it a point to align the things you do with your priorities. If your top priority is family, make sure you plan your week such that you get to spend time with your loved ones. This is will not only minimise your feelings of being deprived of what you want but also energise you through work. 

Give your 100 percent all the time. 

While prioritising things according to the value we place on each quadrant of life is of utmost importance, we must not use it as an excuse to neglect the other quadrants. Just because I value my self quadrant more than my work quadrant doesn’t mean I have the license to put less effort into my work. Remember, it is about achievement and enjoyment in each of the four quadrants. This requires us to be fully present, giving our all in everything we do. As the ancient wisdom of the Bible says, “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10).” Only when we take ownership and give our very best in the things we do can we fully experience and enjoy them. 

Do you have other tips to share when it comes to work-life balance? Please comment or write in to me at connect@pace-od.com

How do I have difficult conversations with my boss?

How do I have difficult conversations with my boss?

By Bryan Chuang
OD CATALYST
bryanchuang@pace-od.com

As an employee myself, I find it very challenging to hold difficult conversations with my boss. Given a choice, I’ll shun away from these conversations as I believe it’ll be emotionally taxing on both parties, and I don’t wish to sour the harmonious relationship that I have with my superior. However, over the years, I’ve come to realise that when faced with particular issues or situations, having difficult conversations is inevitable. In fact, I’m not alone in this. Peers around me also find it arduous to carry out difficult conversations with their bosses, and maybe you might feel the same way.

I’ve discovered a few practical handles, which I found useful for holding difficult conversations with my boss, and I would like to leverage on this opportunity to share them with you. 

Gain positivity

As we label the conversation as ‘difficult’, we’re more likely to experience negative emotions such as fear and nervousness. We’ll enter into the conversation with these emotions, which will definitely affect its quality. Hence, see the conversation as an opportunity to voice our concerns, explore next steps, and even develop ourselves personally and professionally.      

Get objectives straight

As we approach our boss for a difficult conversation, we need to establish clarity in terms of what we are looking to achieve out of that particular conversation. As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind,” only when we have clear objectives, will we then be able to steer it towards the desired direction and outcome.  

Get real

The truth will set us free. Be 100% truthful and authentic in the course of the entire conversation. This may well be the most challenging handle. We may be afraid that by being authentic, it will backfire. Our boss might turn their back on us as we speak what is true. Yes, it does take us a lot of courage to be real and authentic. But this is what having difficult conversations is all about. We need to present the truthful side to our boss, so that it’ll be a productive conversation that truly addresses the issue that we’re raising. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we let our tongue loose to everything that comes to our mind. We need to be truthful and tactful at the same time.        

Give respect

Respect begets respect. As we show respect towards our bosses throughout the entire conversation, it shows that we value them as individuals and we allow their voice and opinion to co-exist with ours. Actively listen to your boss and try to see from his or her perspective. This will definitely contribute to preserving your boss-employee relationship. 

 

I hope that the above handles would help you gain the competence, and in turn, the confidence and commitment to hold difficult conversations with your boss. Yes, having difficult conversations with our bosses is challenging. But if we’re able to handle and manage the entire conversation well, it’ll greatly benefit us, our boss and our work team - what matters most will be addressed, ways to advance will be identified, professional relationships will be deepened and breakthrough performance will be achieved.

Do you have other tips to share when it comes to having difficult conversations with your boss? Please comment or write in to me at connect@pace-od.com