Posted by Rich DiGirolamo on February 3rd, 2009 | No Comments
If you’re old enough and your parents had guts, balls or chutzpah, you remember “The Look.” The Look meant you did something wrong and you had either cut it out right now………..Or Else. It was appropriately used when we were taken to a public place – restaurant, house of worship, or shopping.
Or Else meant discipline. It didn’t mean time out. It didn’t mean you were sent to your room to think about what you did; a room where you had computers, 100” flat screen TV’s, MP3 players, your cell phone and enough toys for a small village in a third world country. Discipline often involved hands, belts, slippers, or even a broom. Now I am not supporting physical discipline but I do know in the past I have mentioned my view on this ridiculous thing called “Time Out.”
So there we are, in the food court of the Convention Center. Ellen and I are looking for a place to sit, eat, and catch up a bit. We meet at this event every year to play a bit as well as strategize about our businesses. We join a young woman at a table for six. She invites us to sit down as it will only be her and her mother. Mom is nowhere in sight. But without even knowing what she looked like we hear this train barreling down the tracks, approaching the table.
“This is awful. They have no food I like. I don’t want to sit down here with all this noise. The food choices were terrible. The lines are so long. The cashier is so slow. (She is now at the table.) They don’t give you any napkins. Where am I going to sit? (We left seats on either side of her daughter and one across; quick aside, notice it is across; not acrossed.) Ellen is horrified; I am biting my tongue not to laugh. Oh, by the way; for my current and former New Yorkers, she’s got one of those high-pitched Nasally New York Voices – (think Janice from Friends). Her daughter points her in the direction of the condiment station where she can find her napkins. And then it happens; as she turns away the daughter gives her “The Look.” I burst out laughing. It was wrong but all I could do at that point.
There was absolutely nothing right going on in this woman’s life on that day. Mother-Daughter time meant nothing to her. I wished I could have introduced her to people in that room who had lost their mother; or worse yet, their daughter. Slapping her back to reality would have been my pleasure. Or maybe a little reminder, that unlike those kids in the third world country, at least she could afford food.
And then I got thinking about some dynamics of meetings and teams; which is why I was there. I am currently working on a new product to make painful meetings a bit more valuable and fun
(watch your inbox for the launch); but this was the perfect example of how often times we invite the wrong people to a meeting. In my research about successful meetings one of the most common complaints is that things do not get done because the wrong people are in attendance. The wrong people bring bad ideas. The wrong people bring no ideas. The wrong people bring their agenda. The wrong people are not capable of looking at all sides of a discussion and then making a decision that is right, not just in their best interest. The wrong people will use a phrase like “Not to play Devil’s Advocate” on a regular basis. Drop the Advocate is what I am thinking; because you are the Devil! The wrong people suck the life out of a room. They always find something wrong with the project, the product, the idea, the class, the hotel, the restaurant, etc. Think about it at your next meeting experience. So how do you identify who the wrong people are? They are usually the topic of discussion at the meeting which occurs right after the meeting – you know the one.
Do you we realize we invite the wrong people to meetings, we put the wrong people in positions, we have conversations with the wrong people, we try to train the wrong people. I can go on and on. We invite people out of courtesy. News Flash! – They don’t want to be there either; hence the possible sucking out of life. So who are the right people? I propose three simple questions when you are asked to attend the next meeting:
- Why are you being invited to this meeting? (What is the expectation being placed on you?)
- What will you contribute of value to this meeting? (Not can you, but will you)
- Is there a better person that should attend in your place?
Let those three questions be the basis for staying on or getting yourself off that invite list. And if you’re planning the meeting, ask yourself these questions:
- Look at your list and ask why you’re inviting each person?
- What is the contribution you expect from each person; tell them beforehand
- Do you really have the right people on that list?
So mom and daughter get up from the table to leave. We smiled at the daughter with one of those “we feel your pain” looks. Mortified, she smiles back and gave us “The Other Look” – the rolling eyes one. I hope mom accomplishes whatever her daughter expected by bringing her to this event.