5 Tips to Maximize Meetings

5 Tips to Maximize Meetings

Meetings are an essential part of every organization. Whether they’re team check-ins or department updates, the routine meetings held every week or every month are the hardest to get fired up about. Engaging, productive, and valuable meetings require a clear goal, open dialog, as well as a strong leader to manage the meeting effectively.

Meetings can be efficient and effective. Otherwise, why would more than 11 million meetings take place every business day in the US alone?

The problem is many of them aren’t as productive as they should be.

If you find that your meetings aren’t achieving what they should, here are five things you can do to get better results in half the time.

1. Set the Goal or Purpose of the Meeting

Unfortunately, many meetings don’t have a clear purpose. Not only should every meeting have a stated purpose, but you should be concise enough to tweet.

Note that this key point reads “purpose.” Too many meetings try to accomplish too many things. There may be various topics, but the meeting should always have a single purpose.

Often, the purpose of the meeting is something that doesn’t require a meeting at all. Perhaps an email will suffice.

Make sure to state the purpose of the meeting in the invitation, and again verbally at the start of the meeting. This way, everyone knows why they’re there and where their focus should be directed.

2. Invite Only the Relevant Stakeholders

Far too many meetings involve people who aren’t essential to the purpose or outcome of the meeting. Think of every potential invitee as someone you are “hiring” for this particular event. Is their time more valuable in the meeting or is it better spent working on something else?

If the meeting involves decisions, then invite only those who have a key role in the decision-making process.

Again, this goes back to the purpose. Keep the achievement of that purpose clearly in mind and let it drive these decisions.

3. Prepare an Agenda and Schedule

Don’t schedule a meeting unless you have an agenda and a time schedule. Otherwise you risk wasting time.

Using a visual meeting agenda is a proven method for planning, conducting, and tracking meeting progress.

It’s a good idea to share this visual agenda with all attendees in advance of the meeting. Map out discussion topics and decisions to be made.

Stick to the agenda. Any sidebar discussions should be taken offline and discussed later. Keep discussions on track and focused on the meeting’s purpose.

4. Get Productive Input

A meeting is designed for open communication, so it is critical to get honest input from those attending. It’s the responsibility of the meeting leader to make sure everyone is heard. To encourage open discussion, avoid wearing your opinion on your sleeve—it is quite easy for a leader to stifle a discussion if everyone assumes that the outcome is already determined.

Make sure that key ideas and decisions are written down. Do this visually, so that everyone can see the developments as they occur. The leader of the meeting or someone else should be designated to do this. Why is this important? Because everyone in the room (or online) can see what’s being logged. It limits miscommunication and misunderstanding and promotes accountability.

5. Close with a Plan of Action

Conclude the meeting by briefly summarizing the decisions and outcome. Make sure that the purpose of the meeting has been achieved.

Follow up with a written meeting brief. Make sure that decisions and action items are added to the agenda map. Share it in your meeting brief.

If a follow-up meeting is necessary, this document now serves as a starting point, so time won’t be wasted back-tracking on things already covered.

How to prioritize using a master checklist

How to prioritize using a master checklist

Prioritization happens on different levels. You have the tasks that need to be done today. The goals you have for this week. And the accomplishments that would make you feel like the past month has been a success. At Exceedia Consulting Ltd., when we work with clients, we often find those lists don’t always match up. It’s all too easy to default to what seems urgent today and ignore the fact that it isn’t getting you any closer to your bigger priorities. So before you can learn how to prioritize your daily work, you need to get everything down in one place.

Start by making a master list—a document, app, or piece of paper where every current and future task will be stored. One great way to do this is David Allen’s Get Things Done (GTD) methodology.

Once you have all your tasks together, it’s time to break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

As productivity consultant Brian Tracy explains, your monthly list pulls from your master list. Your weekly list pulls from your monthly list. And so on. This way, you know your daily priorities are aligned with your bigger goals.

However, when setting your priorities, try not to get too “task oriented”. Sure, checking items off a list feels good. But you want to make sure you’re prioritizing the more effective work.

When filling out your different lists, remember the Pareto Principle—or, the 80/20 rule—which says that 20% of your efforts tend to produce 80% of your results. Look for those tasks that don’t just get checked off, but that bring you real results.

The Story of Bamboo

If you walk into the office at Exceedia, you notice that we have a small bamboo plant in the office.  The bamboo truly represents how Exceedia builds our relationships and our solutions for our clients. Chinese bamboo teaches us patience, faith, perseverance and the enduring nature of the human spirit.

Chinese bamboo takes 5 years to grow before you notice any signs of activity.  In its first year, we see no visible signs of activity. In the second year, again, no growth above the soil. The third, the fourth, still nothing. And finally in the fifth year, we experience growth. The Chinese Bamboo Tree grows 80 feet in just six weeks!

Does the Chinese Bamboo Tree really grow 80 feet in six weeks? Did the Chinese Bamboo Tree lie dormant for four years only to grow exponentially in the fifth? Or, was the little tree growing underground, developing a root system strong enough to support its potential for outward growth in the fifth year and beyond? The answer is, of course, obvious. Had the tree not developed a strong unseen foundation it could not have sustained its life as it grew. The same principle is true for people. People, who patiently toil towards worthwhile dreams and goals, building strong character while overcoming adversity and challenge, grow the strong internal foundation to handle success, while get-rich-quickers and lottery winners usually are unable to sustain unearned sudden wealth.

During the first 5 years, if you miss even ONE day of caring, watering and nurturing, you would have stunted the Chinese Bamboo tree’s growth, dooming it to remain dormant.

The Chinese Bamboo Tree is a perfect parable to our own experience with personal growth and changes. It is never easy. It’s slow before any measurable progress. It’s frustrating and unrewarding at times.

This is the critical variable in attaining new skills – in developing ourselves and others. It is our ability to stay persistent even when we are unable to see any growth on the surface…. just like the Chinese Bamboo Tree.

Far too often, we try something new and give up too quickly, searching for the next fast solution.  Whether it be our health, our finances, our business… even our relationships with others.  At Exceedia, we believe in investing time, making deposits to the relationship bank, developing trust over time with our team, our clients, our community.

Can you stay focused and continue to believe in what you are doing even when you don’t see immediate results? In a microwave culture driven by instant gratification, we all struggle to sustain this.

Keep your faith in your important work. What is important work? Important work is what you do that speaks to your heart, your soul, your spirit. It is not a coincidence that it also takes 10,000 hours (5 years) of practice for us to become an expert in whatever we are doing.

We always become excited about the ideas planted inside of us, but within days or weeks of the initial planting, we become discouraged and begin to second guess ourselves, or worse, quit. In our doubt, we dig up our seed and plant it elsewhere, in hopes that it will quickly rise in the more fertile ground. Changing jobs, companies, another flash in the pan instant rich investment, business etc… More often than not, these people are greatly disappointed when their Chinese bamboo tree doesn’t grow any faster in the new location.

Other times, people will water the ground for a time but then, quickly become discouraged. They start to wonder if it’s worth all of the effort. This is particularly true when they see their neighbors having success with other trees. Do they start to think, “What am I doing trying to grow a Chinese bamboo tree? If I had planted a lemon tree, I’d have a few lemons by now.” These are the people who return to their old jobs and their old ways. They walk away from their dream in exchange for a “sure thing.”

Sadly, what they fail to realize is that pursuing your dream is a sure thing if you work on the right things consistently over time.  Keep watering and fertilizing your dream; it will come to fruition. It may take weeks. It may take months. It may even take years, but eventually, the roots will take hold and your Chinese bamboo tree will grow. And when it does, it will grow in remarkable ways.

At Exceedia, we want to help you grow your Chinese bamboo tree – whether it be personal financial goals, business goals, life goals – let Exceedia be your trusted guide.  Please call us at 587-779-5337 and we will be happy to start this journey with you.


7 Traits of Successful People

7 Traits of Successful People

Highly successful entrepreneurs do things differently than their less successful peers.  Tap into what they do differently in these 7 traits.

Trait #1: Goal Clarity

Highly successful people set SMART goals: Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you only take away one habit from these seven let it be goal clarity! You can set goals in all aspects of your life: career, personal finance, family, physical, public service, or even artistic. Goals allow you to visualize your desires and create a path, which if followed, will lead to success. Setting goals, as well as the activities you need to complete to achieve your goals, is one of the greatest skills you will ever learn. It will positively impact every aspect of your life, both business and personal.

Trait #2: Focus

Once you have your goals in place the next step is to focus. Focus can be defined as: following one course until successful.

Write it down. Write down the top five tasks you need to get done every day before you leave the office then review the tasks again the next morning. Refresh and repeat.

Create a daily schedule.Having a routine and a schedule will help you stay on task and prevent you from getting distracted.

Identify distractions and remove them. Whether it is the telephone, Facebook updates, or email notices, you need to identify the biggest culprits that hinder your focus and then remove or minimize them.

Trait #3: Blueprint

Your business blueprint is your strategy for moving forward into the future. Your blueprint is your road map to grow your business while enhancing your life. A properly designed blueprint will include three components. Your inner game – this is your foundation. Your inner game includes your Worth Barometer, setting goals, and creating a mission and vision. Your game plan – this is your strategy. This should be a concise plan with big picture goals, your niche market, and marketing strategies. And finally your outer game – the daily action required to achieve your goals.

Trait #4: Niche Market

Highly successful entrepreneurs understand that targeting a niche market is absolutely critical to reaching the upper echelons of success. No business can be all things to all people. Taking the time to identify your ideal niche market is one of the most valuable uses of your time. Once you identify your ideal clients, then you need to research the market to ensure it is truly ideal.  The goal of your research is to learn as much as you possibly can about your niche market. You need to understand exactly what your niche market wants, what they need, and how YOU can best provide for them.

Trait #5: HVFDAs & IPAs

Successful people spend the vast majority of their time completing HVFDA’s (high value fixed daily activities) and IPA’s (income producing activities). Low and average producers do activities that make them feel busy and productive.  They fail at completing the most important tasks that will improve their bottom line. The majority of your day should consist of HVFDA’s. LVFDA’s (low value fixed daily activities) should be either eliminated or delegated to support staff. As the leader, you need to seek out opportunities that allow you to find a new client, make the extra sale, or expand our business.

Trait #6: Thinking Outside the Box

Creative thinking requires you to seek out and isolate all the assumptions pertaining to a situation. An effective method for this practice includes quiet time without outside distractions.  When you become clear on what you want, your mind opens up. You also see opportunities you would have never noticed in our normal everyday lives.

Trait #7: Passion

Passion is critical to achieving success because it is the motivating factor that drives you to do the tasks you don’t feel like doing; but that are critical to achieving your goal. It also ignites your inner energy and enlivens your soul. So make sure and include some passion in your quest for success!

Before you get back to your day, write down the necessary changes you need to make to join the elite group of high achievers. Then carve out time within the next few weeks to make those necessary changes a reality.

Are you struggling to achieve success on your own?

All elite performers require a coach to keep them focused. At Exceedia, we can help you build a financial road map and coach you to stay on track. Give us a call at 587-779-5337 to meet with a Solution Strategist today.

Annette Bau
Who shouldn’t apply for funding?

Who shouldn’t apply for funding?

When it comes to government funding there are a lot of factors that a business owner needs to keep in mind and consider before they apply.

As an entrepreneur you need to know your small business, have a well developed business plan, know what you need funding for and how much you need.

Other factors such as your location, your industry and credit score can also have an impact on your potential for government funding.

That being said, not everybody should apply for government funding. And not for the fact that you may not be eligible due to factors mentioned above but for other reasons.

There are certain entrepreneur types that simply should not be applying for government funding. Here are the two types:

#1: Small Business Owners Who Don’t Need The Funding

Not everyone needs funding. Just because money is on the table doesn’t mean that you actually need it or that you should be trying to take it.

For some business owners having the extra cash may look like a good opportunity but in reality it can do more bad then good.

Over spending, or thinking that you have extra money can turn your business into a financial sinking ship.

This doesn’t apply to everyone but those small business owners who believe that they need to spend every dollar to improve their business constantly.

#2: Small Business Owners Who Believe They Deserve Funding

The other type of entrepreneur that shouldn’t be applying for government funding is that person who believes, no matter what, that they deserve to get the funding from the government.

Simply because you are Canadian, have a small business and pay taxes doesn’t mean that you are instantly able to apply for government funding.

These types of entrepreneurs often apply to anything and everything just to get what they are “owed”, and more often than not, they apply for funding that isn’t right for them which simply wastes a lot of time, resources and tax payers dollars.

By not following the requirements and instructions set forth by the funding agencies, they don’t apply to the correct programs.

This hurts other business owners who may have tried to apply and couldn’t due to filled deadlines.

Again, funding may not be for every entrepreneur but if you believe you dont fit into the two mentioned above, go ahead and start your funding search as soon as possible.

Do you need help with funding? Our business consultants can help assess sources of funding you may qualify for.


How to Create an Operations Manual

How to Create an Operations Manual for Your Business (and Avoid Nuclear War)

Having an operations manual may not be glamorous, but preventing the disasters caused by human error and bad processes can save your business and even (in extreme circumstances) millions of lives.

If you’ve ever seen Dr. Strangelove, you’ll know it’s ridiculous. You’ve got a mad scientist, a cowboy pilot riding a bomb as it falls, and a nuclear holocaust brought about by a series of overblown human (and mechanical) errors.

Yet, despite being criticized as unrealistic, at the time it was entirely possible for human error to cause a Third World War. Hell, human error has already caused the worst nuclear accident to date.

“A perfect storm of 6 human errors — culminating with staff thinking it was ok to turn off the emergency cooling system — caused the Chernobyl disaster, costing an inflation-adjusted $720 billion, 30 deaths and an extreme amount of unsafe radiation.” – Ben Brandall, How Processes Protect Your Business From Crashing and Burning

The truth is, the only way to prevent such errors is to document workflows and processes, and the only way to make sure your employees know what they have to do, how to do it, and have the resources to do it is to create your own operations manual.

What is an operations manual?

An operations manual is the backbone of your company – the encyclopedia for your business. Your employee handbook may introduce your team to your mission, various policies (benefits, holiday leave, security), and culture, but the operations manual will show them how to do their job and give them everything they need to do it.

Typically the manual is either a book or folder of printed documents containing all of your standard operating procedures (SOPs), your hierarchy, contact details and emergency procedures. Whenever an employee wants to know how to do something or needs to know how to contact someone, they can look it up in the manual.

Imagine a manual for a car. In it, you’ll be told what the model is, what the tire pressures need to be, and a myriad of other useful facts which are important to know, but not necessarily off by heart. An operations manual is exactly that, but for your company.

It’s a way of making sure that your team can reliably and efficiently carry out their tasks with consistent results. Human error is reduced to a minimum and everyone knows precisely what they need to do, who they might be waiting on, and who might be waiting on them to deliver results.

Why is having one important?

Think of the last time you or a team member had to complete a task, but they had no idea how to do it. In all likelihood, the task was completed only after either researching how to complete it (and wasting time in doing so) or by disrupting someone else to get them to explain.

With an operations manual, you avoid all that hassle and just get down to what you need to do, letting you make the most of your time rather than working at half-pace. Think of it as an employee knowledge base – a place that anyone can go to when they have a question or need something explaining, rather than bothering somebody else.

Processes are documented clearly

One of the biggest advantages of having an operations manual is that it forces you to have fully documented processes for every task you do more than once. This might sound like a pain to set up, but the long-term benefits for having them are massive.

Aside from increasing your efficiency and highlighting problems in your current processes, the consistency your business achieves is at the core of why processes are important. By having a method which can be executed perfectly time after time you’re standardizing your business model, making it easy to find problems and dealt with them.

It allows you to scale

Without a consistent and reliable business model, it’s next to impossible to scale your business. By having an operations manual to store your SOPs and important internal data, you can easily onboard new employees and identify the factors limiting your ability to scale.

Not only that, but having documented processes in the first place will mean that your operation runs with less wasted time and money, making it able to rapidly expand.

Everyone is accountable

A major part of reducing human error is to making everyone accountable for their actions. By detailing the company hierarchy, job descriptions, and parties involved in a given task, you’re effectively keeping everyone accountable for what they need to do, and who they need to talk to if there’s a problem.

In other words, nobody can argue (with someone else or themselves) that a task or duty isn’t their responsibility, and the fact that anyone can access the operations manual means that everyone else will know it too. The knowledge that everyone else knows what you’re responsible for is a brilliant motivator, so your team’s output should also increase.

Important resources and processes are centralized

You could document your processes, hierarchy, job descriptions, emergency procedures, and more all without creating an operations manual. After all, it’s only once they’re collected in a single location that they turn from random files into a coherent document.

However, by centralizing all of this information you’re making sure that everything is available for anyone who needs access at any time. There’s no question about whether the process you’re following is the most recent version because everything is always up-to-date and stored in the manual.

Admittedly, this will depend on the format of your manual. A physical file (a book or folder) will need to have items reprinted with corrections or potentially even a complete re-issue to avoid lengthy and confusing appendixes. Digital operations manuals do not suffer the same problem, giving them an advantage over physical copies.

What to include in your operations manual

Much like with an employee handbook, the challenge here is to include enough detail in your operations manual to serve as a comprehensive knowledge base for your team, but not so much as to bore them into complacency.

If you go into unnecessary detail, you’ll either make them want to skip the instructions or leave them more confused than when they started, making the entire thing pointless. Not enough detail, however, and your team won’t have enough information to correctly and consistently perform the task.

To this end, you’ll need to include sections for your:

Company hierarchy

Job descriptions

Contact details

Documented processes

Emergency procedures

To give you a better idea I’ll tackle each of these sections in turn.

Company hierarchy

Here you need to explain the layout of your company, kind of like stating the “family tree” of who reports to who. There’s not much to explain here in terms of content (since it will greatly vary depending on your size and layout), but you do have a couple of options for how to present it.

For example, you could create a text document and use subheaders to separate the various teams, with a brief description of who reports to who. I’d recommend using a visual flowchart to do this instead though, as all you really need to show here is the order of things, and a single chart is much easier to follow than a long-winded document.

Try to focus more on the job titles than specific people (eg, managing director), as then you won’t have to go back and make changes whenever your hire someone new or someone changes position.

Job descriptions

If the company hierarchy is a scannable chart, your job descriptions list is the information to back it up. While not necessarily job descriptions (although fee free to use them), here you should be going through each role in your business and laying out their responsibilities, skills, who they answer to, and who answers to them.

In other words, give an overview of what the position is in more detail, but keep it in context of the hierarchy. That way if someone isn’t sure as to who to contact about a particular issue (or wants to collaborate over a specific task), they can skim the hierarchy to get an idea of who to contact, then confirm it through the job description.

Contact details

Here you need to provide contact details for everyone in your company, and those outside who are in close contact. Easy.

You could combine this part of the operations manual with the job description section if you want to have a more compact document, but having a separate list of contacts can make it easier to skim through and immediately get the correct information.

Documented processes

Your documented processes will be the largest section of your operations manual, especially as your company grows. The trick is recording them in a way that’s comprehensive, but easy to follow.

Whether you’re using a word processor or a better piece of process documentation software, you’ll ideally have a set of checklist templates which give basic instructions to complete various common tasks. These are best separated into categories (such as “accounting processes” or “editing checklist“) since you should be documenting anything that you need to do more than once to make sure you have a consistent approach to it.

Emergency procedures

Finally, any emergency procedures should also be stored in the operations manual. “Emergency” could mean anything from a server security breach to an onsite fire – if it’s possible and could result in damage to your company, product, and/or staff, at least take note of it and draft out a procedure for dealing with it.

You don’t have to cover every situation under the sun, just the most likely ones to occur, and give the best way to limit the damage.

How to create an operations manual

Okay, so you know what you need to include in your operations manual, but now you need to know how to go about creating it. There isn’t a huge amount to say here, but to briefly cover it, you’ll need to:

Choose the platform for your manual

Plan a consistent layout

Create the manual

Improve any processes you can

Choose the platform for your manual

First, you need to select how you’re going to create your operations manual. You could use a word processor to create and print out physical copies and then store them in a file, but there are a couple of problems with that.

Printing out a physical operations manual means that any changes you make will need to be added in an appendix or you’ll have to completely reprint the document. Using an appendix can quickly make your manual difficult to use, because rather than being the definitive source for your employees, you’re handing them a convoluted mess of addendums to an outdated process.

Having to print out an entirely new manual (or at least a chapter of it) every time you update it is just as bad. Unless you only print one copy at a time it will be difficult to recall every existing copy and replace them, leaving plenty of room for human error to sneak back in with an outdated manual.

You can document your processes to run as useful, actionable, trackable, checklists.

Having your processes in a central location means that you can access your them whenever you have an internet connection. If you really want to have a physical copy of your processes to hand out you can also print them out, eliminating the one advantage a program like Word may have.

Set a consistent layout

Setting up the layout for your manual will largely depend on the platform you’re using to create it, but the most important thing is that it’s consistent across the entire document.

If you’re using a word processor, the details you need to sort out are simple aspects such as the font you’ll use, how you’ll separate each section, whether you’ll include images or screenshots, a page counter, and so on.
You can manage your operations manual by creating a folder, and then organizing your processes into subfolders. Processes can then be inter-linked, and checklist run links can be pasted wherever you want to let you easily run checklists no matter what you’re doing online.

Create your manual

Once you’ve formalized the layout of the operations manual it’s time to actually create it. Go through the items mentioned above (the hierarchy, job descriptions, processes, etc) and document each of them in turn.

Ideally, you’ll want to do this while working with the rest of your team or at least the managers of your various departments. That way everyone who will use the manual is involved in creating it, and is more likely to promote its regular use. Plus, having people more experienced than yourself to help you document your processes means that they’re far more likely to represent how the task is actually carried out.

Speaking of which, after you’ve documented your processes for the first time you’ll want to do a little process improvement and see if there’s anything you can tweak to make them better. There’s always something you can do to boost your efficiency and consistency, whether it’s by using better software or tackling a problem in a different way.

Don’t let your operations manual bore your team to death

The cardinal sin I’ve seen by scouring Google for useful operations manuals is that everything is dull to the point of being useless. Doing this is a one-way ticket to invite disaster once more, as your employees will be more likely to ignore your processes in favor of relying on memory.

So, rather than invite a Third World War, make your operations manual detailed enough to be useful, but simple enough to follow without sending the reader to sleep. Your company (and the general population) will thank you for it.

What’s the best way you’ve found to create an engaging operations manual? Have any horror stories from someone not following procedure?

Article by Ben Mulholland

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