All posts by Renzo Costarella

How You Can Lead More Attentive Meetings

By | Time Management | No Comments
Have you ever sat in a meeting and played around on your phone the whole time? If you answered no then you’re probably lying. The reason why you were on your phone is probably because whomever was leading the meeting wasn’t able to keep your attention. So how can we lead more attentive meetings? While there’s no single solution there are definitely strategies that you can take to capture the attention of those in attendance.

Here’s how you can lead more attentive meetings at work, life, or anywhere.

Define a Purpose

When calling a meeting you need to define a clear and definite purpose. Typically when we call a meeting we feel we’re being proactive and productive. The problem is some individuals call meetings for that reason only. If you don’t have a clear defined purpose for the meeting it’s probably not even worth gathering. One strategy is to write it down on paper first. Once you’ve gathered your thoughts try to create a few action items from your topics. If there’s isn’t much to execute on and or you don’t think it was worth writing down then you should rethink the meeting altogether. The biggest issue with keeping attention is that you don’t have many chances. If your team associates your meetings a lack of purpose then you’ll lose their attention before they’ve arrived.

Respect Everyone’s Time

One of the best ways to lose focus and worst of all respect from your team is to be constantly late for meetings. When you call a meeting you need to be absolutely sure you are there at least 10 minutes early. Yes of course things come up and we are late from time to time. But the old “I’m sorry I’m late something came up” or “my last meeting ran over a few minutes late” can only be used so many times. If your meetings are constantly running late then that shows your team a bit about your time management skills. Another reason why you want to be early is because you should be the one kicking off the meeting. If you stumble into a meeting room with the team already chatting about various topics you’ll have a hard time gathering the focus back onto you.

Phones Where You Can See Them

No matter what someone says about their phone it will always serve as an immediate distraction if buzzed. If their phone is in their pocket and they receive a call or text it’s almost guaranteed that person will at least look at their phone. Even if they don’t answer it still serves as a distraction to not only them but the rest of the group as well. I suggest having every member in attendance silence their cell phone and put it in the middle of the table turned face down. This way you can ensure that everyone’s attention will remain on you and they won’t get distracted by calls, texts, or even worse social media notifications.

Define Rules

One of the golden rules of focus and productivity is organization. If you’re concise and organized most things will fall into place. As you send out meeting agenda’s or hold meetings with new teams or groups make sure your rules are clear and written down. A disciplined group is a focused one. As long as your rules are respectable and concise I’m sure your team will have no problem following them.

Final Thoughts

Leading meetings is tough. When half the group isn’t paying attention it’s really tough not to mention a bit demoralizing. That said you should follow the tips above so you can lead more attentive meetings and a more disciplined team!  
Originally published here.

4 Affordable Ways to Reward Your Employees For Their Hard Work

By | Business Tips | No Comments
A business is nothing without the employees who grind day in and day out to make it run. As the business owner, or manager, you need to show your team how much you appreciate their hard work. When you reward your employees for their efforts, it will also lead to increased productivity and motivation. Especially in startups, it’s tough for business owners to allocate a budget for these rewards. Truth is, you don’t have to break the bank to show your employees your appreciation. It really comes down to being creative and connecting with them on a personal level. If you’re short on ideas, take a look at these four affordable ways to reward your employees for their hard work.

Field trips.

Let’s take a quick moment to reminisce on our many years at school. Remember, when a teacher would announce a field trip? The level of excitement from the students was typically through the roof. Even if the trip was months out, you better believe every student had it on their calendar. This level of excitement can also be brought to your company. Team outings are a great way to reward your team as well as build chemistry. Whether it’s a trip to the bowling alley or a team dinner, there are plenty of cheap options that will have a huge impact on team morale.

Executive lunches.

As your organization grows, your staff will become increasingly distant from the executives who ultimately run the business. That distance will cause a naturally disconnect between the employees and their leaders. A great way to bridge that gap is to schedule lunches with the team and the executives or founders. Lunch meetings are productive for many reasons. First and foremost, they put the attendees in a much more casual setting compared to a conference room. This will encourage discussions beyond business and allow the employees to connect with executives on a personal level.

Flexible work days.

Rewards and perks go hand in hand. One perk, that literally costs nothing, is a flexible work day (or days). Whether you allow them to work completely remote or reduced hours, they will feel like they are being given a special privilege. Not only that, working remote has actually been found to increase productivity for some employees. The best way to leverage this policy is to leave it loose. For example at our company, being in the office on Friday is optional. If you’re able to finish your work before Friday, then you can enjoy an extended weekend. You should focus on measurable output rather than just hours worked.

Gym memberships.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with living a happy and productive life. Odds are, most of your employees are looking to get a gym membership to say active. Nowadays, memberships at quality gyms can get quite expensive for a single member. Luckily for the business, plenty of gyms offer corporate or group membership packages that allow you to equip your entire team with a membership. This is a small gesture that will be well-received by everyone. Keeping your employees happy is no easy task. However, a loyal employee will stick with you through thick and thin. That said, use the four strategies above to make sure you’re rewarding your team for their efforts.
Originally published here.

4 Ways You Can Improve Teamwork

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Regardless of how talented your individual team members are, you won’t get very far if they don’t work cohesively. As the business owner or manager, it’s your job to implement strategies that will improve teamwork. When your team works together, trust begins to build and responsibilities become clear. A healthy team knows how to be honest with one another even if it means putting forth harsh criticisms.

That all said, here are seven ways you can improve teamwork in your company.

Establish a clear team mission.

This applies to your overall company mission, and the mission of each project you kick off with your team. It may take five, ten, even twenty years to build a successful company. During that time, you may kick off projects that drag on for months if not a year. Regardless of what stage you’re in, you need to establish a clear team mission. If you can paint the big picture and align everyone with the same goals, your team will be motivated and productive.

Create a reporting infrastructure.

In every organization there will be problems. The last thing you want is to have an employee sit on an issue and not have anyone they can report to. On the flip side, you also don’t want that employee to gripe about their problems every time they arise. The best way to handle this is by creating a reporting infrastructure. First and foremost, you need every team member to understand their roles and to whom they report issues to. If there is a disagreement, there needs to be a process in which that issue gets discussed. Last but not least, you need to decide which members of the team make the final call. Establishing these ground rules is key to improving overall teamwork.

Make the right hires.

While this one sounds obvious, it’s surprising how many managers fill roles with unqualified employees. The problem is, most hiring managers overlook the importance of personality fit. A fancy resume and a proven track record may look good on paper, but if they don’t get along with the rest of the team what’s the point? As you go through your interviews you need to focus on both skill and personality qualifications. If they seem promising, you should always throw them in the mix and let them work amongst the team for a few days. If things don’t work out, try shifting things around or look for another candidate.

Build relationships outside of the workplace.

In order to build honest and lasting relationships you need to encourage team bonding outside of the workplace. Work can get stressful, and that stress can really weigh down on people. Instead of trying to fix things at the office, take your team out to lunch or organize a team field trip. Not only will this give your team a breath of fresh air, it’ll give them the chance to get to know each other on a personal level. One great option is to have your team join a sports league together. First and foremost, health and fitness is as popular as it’s ever been. Second, team sports is one of the best ways to build team chemistry. For tech companies, there are plenty of sports leagues you can join where you compete against other companies. This way you can network, exercise, and foster teamwork all at the same time! At the end of the day, building teamwork takes time – so it’s in your best interest to start now. For starters, use the four strategies above so you can improve teamwork.
Originally published here.

5 Ways You Can Communicate Effectively in a Business Meeting

By | Time Management | No Comments
If you’re like most business professionals, the majority of your day is spent in meetings. Sometimes you can get a lot accomplished during this time. However, they are often ineffective. If you want to get more accomplished in your business meetings you need to communicate effectively. You need to communicate the purpose of the meeting and the actionable takeaways when it wraps up.

Here are five ways you can communicate effectively in business meetings.

Take the time to prepare.

Before delivering a speech, you always take the time to prepare what you’re going to say. The same thing applies to your business meetings. Before you even schedule the meeting, prepare what you’re going to say. The reason you should do this before the meeting is scheduled is because it forces you to find a clear value or purpose for the meeting. If you have trouble preparing useful content for the meeting, it’s maybe best to hold off or cancel it all together. Once you’ve prepared, gather your thoughts into key bullet points you can reference throughout the meeting.

Don’t talk over others.

If two people are talking at the same time, odds are neither one is being heard. As excitement (or tension) rises in the room, people tend to talk over each other. This is extremely unproductive. If you get interrupted, refrain from trying to battle the other person for the ears in the room. Let them finish their points, and make sure to address them afterwards. If they try to interrupt you again, respectfully tell them to let you finish before they respond.

Pay attention to body language.

Body language is a huge part of effective conversation. When you’re speaking, make sure you are making eye contact with others and that you are sitting in an upright position. When looking at someone in the eyes, it builds trust and makes you seem more sincere. Additionally, you should gauge the body language of your listeners as well. If they are looking off into the distance or slouched in their seats, odds are they aren’t picking up what you’re saying.

Always try to mix things up.

Business meetings, especially long ones, can get very dull very quickly. Sometimes, that’s just the nature of the content being discussed. When you sense things start to go dry, try to mix things up a bit. If you need to, you can take a break completely from what’s being discussed. Open up the floor to discussion and get everyone reengaged. If you’re diligent about keeping track of where you left off, these breaks won’t serve as a distraction.

Always summarize and repeat key points.

This is something you need to learn for any kind of communication. People often underestimate how well their points are received by who they’re talking to. To be honest, people are generally bad listeners. While you can’t make them “listen better” you can take it upon yourself to hammer home your key points. After you’ve delivered your message, you should always summarize and reiterate your key points. It will help both you, and the audience retain what’s been said. Before you head into your next business meeting, make sure you remember the five points listed above. It will help keep your business meetings organized and productive.
Originally published here.  
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