In this episode:
- What can you do when your boss will only communicate with you through angry text messages?
- How can you leverage meeting minutes to get more from the meetings you attend? And should you?
- What will it take to improve your intuition?
Tom: Now, your boss is embarrassed because, A, he looked stupid in front of a client, and, B, he looked stupid in front of his boss. Nobody wants that, so his natural reaction is to try and find a way to get out of that situation. So what do you do? Well, first thing I’m gonna do is find a thousand reasons that it’s not my fault, right? And before you go and make that list of the thousand reasons your boss is absolutely, undeniably, unquestionably wrong, if you’ve already done that, don’t email that to the CEO and your boss. It’s not gonna help you. Seriously.
Male: [00:00:38] “Becoming a Geek Leader,” season 3, episode 10.
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[00:01:49] Welcome to the “Becoming a Geek Leader” podcast. My name is Tom Cooper. As a geek, I’m on a mission to figure out better ways to lead others at work and at home. Through the “Becoming a Geek Leader” podcast, I’m sharing what I’m learning so I can help make you more effective at leading people, too. Ready?
[00:02:11] In today’s episode, I’m talking about a tool that can help your projects be significantly more productive. I’ll teach you the five steps that are gonna let you multiply your project results. I’m also addressing a question from Giovita [SP] about a boss who’s managing by text messages, and I’m also sharing John Maxwell’s law of intuition. And we’ve got a lot of stuff to cover. Let’s get started.
Male: [00:02:35] In the “Mentoring” segment, Tom tackles tough issues based on his years of experience.
Tom: [00:02:45] Okay, in the “Mentoring” segment today, I’m talking about meeting minutes. Now, I know that that sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry, but I’m telling you there’s a lot of value here. Leveraging meeting minutes is something you’re gonna be able to tackle when you’re at level 2 of the four levels of thinking as a geek leader.
Male: [00:03:03] Level 2, team member. Level 2 is where you work well with others, and together, you all succeed.
Tom: [00:03:13] And I know when it comes to meeting minutes, an awful lot of people think this is like watching paint dry or some other mind numbing thing, but I will tell you that I’m actually passionate about it. Why in the world would I be passionate about something as boring as being a meeting secretary? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned while being a part of a formal meeting setting it is that decision-making is rare, and capturing decisions made is critical. Whoever writes the meeting minutes is the one writing history. Whoever writes the history controls the record.
[00:03:47] Now, as I’m getting started here, I wanna say something very clearly and very directly. If you’re responsible for keeping meeting minutes, do not lie. Never lie. Lying is a sure path to destroying your reputation, and you just shouldn’t do it, period. Don’t lie. Now, with that out of the way, being truthful doesn’t mean that you can’t choose to document things in a way that suits your interests. Now, let’s say you’re in a meeting where a lot of things are discussed and not very many decisions are actually being made. You got into a ton of rabbit trails and off-topic discussions. There was even a rant by one person on their favorite complaint that had absolutely nothing to do with the meeting, and you walk out of the room and you think, “Man, what a complete waste of time. We only talked about two of the seven things that I wanted to talk about.”
[00:04:35] Now, does that sound familiar? We can address meeting management in a future podcast, but let’s talk about what did happen during that meeting. So for item 1, let’s say you had unanimous agreement about next steps. Everybody kind of nodded their head, “Yup, we should definitely do that.” For item 2, there were two objections raised, and both, you know, can be fixed. But you didn’t get complete agreement. Everybody but two people agreed. Then you got to item 3 on your agenda, and that’s when you brought up the topic that just destroyed the meeting. Nobody could agree. And not only that, but people got fired up. People got angry and upset and frustrated. And after that, there was no agreement on anything, and the agenda was completely destroyed in the process.
[00:05:18] What do you do if you’re responsible for your meeting minutes for that kind of meeting? Well, first, you need to write the meeting minutes. You got to write them up. And you got agreement on one item, write that first item you got agreement on, and that needs to be documented. For item 2, you were able to document that while there were issues raised by Lisa and Julio, there was a general agreement about the direction that you needed to move, and you note that you’ve taken action item to follow up with Lisa and Julio individually to see if you can get their buy-in. It’s as simple as that.
[00:05:51] Now, here’s the thing. With item 3, you got that far, and it’s clear the team does not have a go-forward plan today. In fact, item 3 definitely is gonna need a special meeting on its own. It might even be too big. You might have to break item 3 down into multiple pieces in order to get places where you can find agreement from others. So you take an action item to schedule a follow up meeting dedicated to item 3 in the near future. Now, there’s no way to spin it other than to say, “You’ve got work to do after this meeting.” No question. But you documented what did happen and you framed it in a positive way. Now, framing it in a positive way is important. The conqueror Napoleon said leaders are dealers in hope, and you’re a leader here. It’s your job to deal in hope to the team and for your boss as well.
[00:06:41] So just as a quick recap, there are five steps to getting huge value from creating the meeting minutes. First, actually write the minutes. Write them down, and you positively document all the things that can be seen as positive from the meeting. Whatever it is that could be seen as positive, you find a positive way to express it. Two, you document the decisions that were made. So you write the minutes. You document the decisions. Three, you document areas where more work is needed. Fourth, you identify who is gonna take the action and when, if possible, when it’s gonna happen as well. So you write the minutes. You document decisions made. You document areas where more work is needed. You identify who is gonna take action and hopefully when. And then fifth, you send out the meeting minutes.
[00:07:28] Now, when you email the Word document out or the link to the document out, you say, “Here are the minutes from the meeting. Please let me know if I made any mistakes or if I’ve forgotten anything.” Now, I can tell you from experience that you will almost never hear back from anybody, but that’s okay because what’s happened now is if there’s a question about what did we decide during the meeting, you go back to the meeting minutes and that’s the official record. Now, you might think, “I’m not the meeting organizer. There’s no way I can keep the meeting minutes. It’s not my role.” But if you’re not the meeting organizer, you can still take the minutes. All you have to do is offer. You go to the organizer and you say, “I think we’d benefit from having meeting minutes. Would it be okay with you if I acted as scribe and I created them? I’ll be glad to send them to you so you can send them out.” Look, as long as you do a decent job and you’re helping that meeting leader accomplish their goals, they will welcome your help.
[00:08:26] Now, there’s too much for me to cover in a single “Mentoring” segment of the podcast, but if you’re interested in more, you can check out my free lesson on simply effective meetings, where I talk about meeting management, meeting minutes, and more. If you go over to brighthillgroup.com/helpinggeeks, that’s brighthillgroup.com/helpinggeeks, you can get immediate access to a free course on meetings that includes minutes and strategies to improve participation and templates for meeting agendas and for meeting minutes also. Creating meeting minutes is a powerful way to help you make progress on your projects, and that’s today’s “Mentoring” segment.
Male: [00:09:05] In the “Coach’s Mailbox” segment, Tom answers a direct question from a listener. Want Tom to answer your question? Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com.
Tom: [00:09:26] What do you do when your boss is not handling things well? Now, this question is something you can deal with when you’re at level 2 of the four levels of thinking as a geek leader. In today’s “Coach’s Mailbox” segment, I’ve got an email from Giovita. Giovita writes, “Tom, I’m hoping you can help me. My boss is making me crazy. He was at an offsite meeting with senior leaders and a client. All of a sudden, he starts sending me angry text messages basically blaming me for a problem. The CEO had called our department out in front of the client for screwing up. As I looked into the problem, I learned that what he was upset about didn’t actually happen at all the way he thought it did. We didn’t screw up, and he was upset about nothing. His angry text messages made me and the team scramble over a complete fire drill waste of time. What can I say to my boss?”
[00:10:19] Well, Giovita, that’s a tough situation. And we don’t know exactly what happened, but I’ve been in your situation before, and I’ve also been at the table for these leadership meetings, too. I can only speculate about what happened with your boss, but I’ve got a pretty good guess about what might have happened. A lot of times, leaders don’t have the details at their fingertips. And sometimes, they carry forward what they thought they heard, and they tell a story they’re pretty sure is right. And one possibility here is that your CEO is afraid of looking bad to the client. And so he thought he heard your department drop the ball. And then in the meeting, he says out loud what he thinks is true, and essentially throws your boss under the bus.
[00:11:04] Now, I’m gonna just take a moment and say it’s important to realize how most of us who ever found ourselves in a leadership position actually got into that leadership position. Most of the time, we were talented individual contributors, and as we established a pattern of getting stuff done, we found ourselves responsible for bigger and bigger stuff, until we’re put in charge of a team. Now, if our team delivered, we get promoted again. So what that means is that people in charge are often more focused on tasks and getting stuff done than they are on leading people. And it also means we may not be aware of what it takes to lead people well. And what’s even worse is the average manager is in position for 10 years before getting any training on people or on leadership.
[00:11:53] And that’s why, many times, bosses are not great at dealing with people. And that’s why your CEO may have chosen to throw your department under the bus. So, let’s take just a minute and put yourself in your boss’ position. He’s found himself, all of a sudden, under a bus. And what’s worse is he doesn’t actually know if the bus belongs on top of him. It’s conceivably possible that you and the team did screw up. He doesn’t know. And this is a situation that as Steven Colbert, the comedian, calls truthiness. It might be true. It also might not be true. And it’s possible that it’s true, and because now someone in authority, the CEO, said it, it’s even truthier than before.
[00:12:38] Here’s the thing. Now, the facts don’t matter because regardless of the actual facts, this became a factoid because it was repeated by the CEO, even if the facts are unquestionably in opposition to whatever it is that he just said. So now, your boss is embarrassed because, A, he looked stupid in front of a client, and, B, he looked stupid in front of his boss. Nobody wants that. Nobody wants that. So his natural reaction is to try and find a way to get out of that situation. And that’s where the text messages come in and the crappy day you had dealing with those lousy text messages.
[00:13:21] So, what do you do? Well, I put my engineer brain in gear, and the first thing I’m gonna do is find a thousand reasons that it’s not my fault, right? And before you go and make that list of the thousand reasons your boss is absolutely, undeniably, unquestionably wrong, before you do that, and also if you’ve already done that, don’t email that to the CEO and your boss. It’s not gonna help you. Seriously. Don’t send that out. As I said, at this point, the facts are irrelevant. What matters are the feelings of the leaders.
[00:13:56] Now, for those of us with an engineering background, it’s really annoying because we like to think of ourselves as super rational people. And unfortunately, we’re not. Unfortunately, what happens is we make our decisions emotionally, and then we find a logical justification for them. Your boss will logically rationalize whatever he wants to make it okay for him to have sent that lousy email to you. And there is nothing you can do to change that. So, this bitter pill is that the feelings matter more than the facts, but I’m here to tell you the truth even if you don’t like it. That’s my job. So, now you might think, “Well, yeah, feelings matter. What about my feelings?” Well, I’m sorry to say that I don’t think your feelings are all that relevant to your boss or your boss’ boss.
[00:14:44] So, what should you do? Well, the first thing you should do is find the time when you can go see the boss in person face-to-face. That type, this…conflict resolution is almost universally more effective if you can do it face to face. There’s a lot of power in being able to do that face to face. Do not text-message back, and do not email to try and resolve the issue. That’s not gonna get you where you wanna go. Next, tell your boss you’re sorry they were in that situation. Now, we’re not admitting fault here. What we’re saying is, “Boy, that really stinks for you. I’m sorry that that was the case.” You’re not admitting guilt because you don’t have to admit guilt because you weren’t guilty here, but you can legitimately be empathetic about the situation your boss is in.
[00:15:29] Next, you wanna tell your boss you’ve looked into the facts, and he might be interested in learning what you learned. And this is not the time for you to be defensive, nor is it a time for you to be self-righteous because there were a thousand reasons it wasn’t your fault, right? Even if they were a 100% wrong in accusing your team, this is not the time for you to take a victory lap. What you wanna do is tell your boss that after looking into it, you’re convinced your team wasn’t to blame. Now, in your process, you may have uncovered some facts that led the CEO to believe you were to blame and go ahead and share those. It looks like we did the wrong thing here because. Or so and so said. Or there was this email. Or whatever. But share those facts and then say, “But I’ve uncovered what really happened, and it turns out it wasn’t our issue.”
[00:16:16] And next, you’re gonna wanna try and come up with a solution. Even if it’s something like better cross-team communication or a better approach to problem reporting or problem tracking, the key thing is you wanna focus on solutions, not the history. The history is just not gonna help you at this point. Now, once you’ve settled the issue and you’ve got some kind of proposed solutions, then you can talk about the way your boss handled the situation. Now, I don’t have time today to go into exactly what you should do there, but if you check out season 2, episode 4, which I called “Dealing with a Disrespectful Team Member,” I think you’ll find the technique there to be very, very helpful in dealing with the how your boss handled it. And while the episode is about dealing with a disrespectful team member, the technique I described there, can easily be used with your boss as well.
[00:17:08] So, Giovita, I hope this helps. I’m sorry you had to deal with a boss who picked a lousy way to address a conflict that he was in. And I just want you to remember, the facts are not as important as the feelings of the people that are involved. And that’s today’s “Coach’s Mailbox.”
Thought Leader segment.
John: [00:17:22] Hello, I’m John Maxwell. As one of founding partners, Tom has been trained by me and my team.
Tom: [00:17:28] In today’s “John Maxwell Thought Leader” segment, we’re covering what John calls the “law of intuition,” that leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias. And this was something I think you can begin to tackle even at level 1 of the four levels of thinking as a geek leader.
Male: [00:17:44] Level 1, individual. At level 1, you may even be a superstar technical resource. Level 1 focuses you on improving your technical skills.
Tom: [00:17:57] Intuition, that is a tough one. How do you explain something you know in your gut? Well, today, I wanna talk about intuition when it comes to your acting as a leader. And one key idea here is that everyone is intuitive in the area of their giftedness. And this is exactly what Dr. Kim Ruyle talked about in episode 9 when he said, “Experts don’t even know what they know or how they know it.” This is a matter of having collected a ton of information over a long period of time. So whatever you’re great at, you’re almost automatically gonna generate a sense of intuition about it. Whatever you’re interested in, whatever you naturally research and read about or study, as you do that, you’re gonna be growing your intuition capacity.
[00:18:43] Now, let me ask you, do you know how to ride a bike? Do you know how to dribble a basketball? When you do that, do you think about how to do it or do you just do it? You don’t think about theory. Now, you mastered those tasks and now you just do it. And one key way for you to be better prepared to be intuitive in the way that you’re interacting with others is to increase that level of knowledge. Intuition is facts plus instinct plus dozens of other things. Intuition is when you know something but you can’t say how you know it. Going deep. Digging into your field, studying and learning and knowing the knowable facts provides a good starting point. You need to do the work to learn those details. There’s no way around that. And that’s related to that 10,000 hours number that Malcolm Gladwell talks about to become an expert, that time involved in the process. And here’s a challenge. When you’re a leader, you often have to make decisions before you feel like you’re ready.
[00:19:44] I’ve got a friend who’s a natural researcher. He’s data-centric. Before he tries anything, he has to do a ton of reading and organizing and collecting data and more. But the downside is, there’s never enough data. And one day he said to me about this, “The law of intuition makes me mad. I mean, I decide we need to take on something new, so I start to look at the options, I figure out everything I can about it, and then I learn a ton of new things as I’m researching. I have to track down all the information I can about those new things, and by the time I’ve done that, I have to go back to the beginning because some of the original things have changed. And what really makes me mad is there are these ‘shoot from the hip’ people, who don’t do any of the work I do, and then they just luckily stumble onto the option that I spent months researching. It’s just not fair.”
[00:20:29] Well, he’s right. It’s not fair. And I think he’d be happy if he had 100% of the possible facts before he decided. But interestingly, former Secretary of State, Collin Powell, said that his practice was to make a leadership decision after gathering only 40% to 60% of the information that can be obtained. And he uses his intuition to make up the difference. Now, there are those who would say, “Yeah, but then you’re wrong sometimes.” Well, the fact is, you are wrong sometimes, and that’s okay. It’s not that we seek wrongness, but we seek action. Most people won’t take action at all, and the process of taking action, even the wrong action, is gonna help you learn and grow your intuition.
[00:21:11] We have to have knowledge, and knowledge alone is not sufficient. Facts cannot solve it for you as much as we like to do that. It’s knowledge plus experience. There’s a saying that goes, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, however, they’re different.” And this is something I talk to my kids about in the workshop. I ask them to solve problems in the woodshop, and one thing we’ve discovered is this. We don’t actually learn anything about our theory until the saw hits the wood. It’s that practice that makes a difference in our intuition. So, you can increase your intuition by increasing your knowledge, the facts that are out there, and increasing your experience. And that’s how, when the moment comes where you have to make that decision, that gut check, you’re gonna know what to do. The law of intuition says that leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias. And that’s today’s “John Maxwell Thought Leader” segment.
Behind the Scenes segment.
Male: [00:22:11] In the “Behind the Scenes” segment, Tom shares a tip about how his business works.
Tom: [00:22:20] Well, I have to say I can’t believe it. Here we are the last episode of season 3. What a blast. I have learned a ton over the last three seasons of the podcast. One of the things I’ve done to make things easier for me is I’ve developed templates that I use to create episodes, everything from the way that I write, the content, to the way that I record the content, to the way that that gets processed before it becomes the podcast episode. And I’ve been learning from other podcasters about how to make my episodes better, too. And hopefully, that’s showing up in the quality of the material that I’m sending your way.
[00:22:58] Now, I want to take a minute and say that I appreciate you. I’m really appreciative that you are listening, and I’m here to serve you. That’s one of my goals, is to serve you. And I wanna ask you, would you please help me? Specifically, what I’d like to know is what challenges are you facing? If you could ask anything, what do you wish you could ask? Seriously, send me an email. I read all of them, and I’d be happy to help you tackle your challenge. Maybe there’s a topic you’d like to know more about. Now, let me know. I’m in the final stages of planning for season 4’s topics, things like dev ops and other Agile tools. I’d love to hear more from you about the things that you’re interested in.
[00:23:36] And finally, is there a win you’ve experienced because of what you learned on the podcast? I’d love to hear about that, too, so you can send me an email. The best email address to use for me is firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com. And that’s today’s “Behind the Scenes” segment.
Male: [00:23:55] In the “Episode Hack” segment, Tom shares one action-oriented takeaway from this episode, something you can apply right away.
Tom: [00:24:09] In today’s episode, we talked about how to create great meeting minutes. We talked about the law of intuition, and we talked about managing by text message. And it’s this third area that I wanna focus on in our episode hack. For today’s episode hack, I want you to think about the last time you found yourself in a really uncomfortable situation with your boss or maybe another leader. What might have been happening with their emotions? Make a list of two or three emotional reactions or situations they may have been dealing with. You see, if you take the time to identify the emotions that other people are feeling, that’s gonna help you find ways to overcome that resistance you’ve been getting from them. And that’s today’s episode hack.
[00:24:51] Hey, can I ask you something? Did you hear something helpful on today’s episode? Why not share it with a friend? On my iPhone, it’s as simple as hitting the three little dots on the bottom right of the screen, selecting share episode, enter your friend’s email, and hit send. Why do this? Two reasons. One, your friend or co-worker will thank you. You’ll be seen as a source of helpful and valuable information, and they will appreciate you for it. And number two, I need you to help me get the word out about this podcast. I’m working hard to bring great ideas and great content to you, and it’s a big help to me if more people hear those ideas. Go ahead. Share it now. I’ll wait. Thanks.
[00:25:42] This is Tom Cooper. Thanks for listening. Be sure to join me next time for another episode of “Becoming a Geek Leader.” Join me in my mission of discovering better ways to lead others at work and at home.