Business Meetings: Be Prepared

By: Mandy Bowling

In Chapter 12 of O’Rourke’s Management Communications: A Case Analysis Approach, he goes about explaining appropriate conversations and reasons why to call business meetings. Along with that, he discusses the importance of them and how to make them effective meetings.

 

I have read blogs posted about chapter 12 and I, like Jazzmine got an interest in when O’Rourke talked about when a manager should call a meeting. The purpose of a meeting is to get things resolved, moves forward and importantly, gives employees a time to voice their opinions, concerns, goals and so on.

 

There are reasons why meetings are called and sometimes employees don’t understand. A lot of employees either think that the meeting is going to be pointless or they dread going to meetings. The meeting should operate and go through in a positive way covering the information that has been planned to talk about. A lot of times in meetings, things may not always go in the right order or according to plan, but it is important to prepare for the meeting to make sure everything gets covered.

 

In my work, SFA Athletics, meetings happen everyday and it is important to be there when they do. Most of the time it deals with an event coming up, a sponsorship or maybe just a staff meeting. Regardless of what it is, it is important to pay attention and be prepared. For the person calling the meeting be prepared for questions and concerns and opinions. For ones attending he meeting, be prepared to pay attention and if you need to voice something, that would be in the time to do it. Meetings are meant to be effective and a time to get matters taken care of.

 

 

By mandybowling

Managing Conflict – The End of Contract Bonus Fiasco (Part 2 of 2)

Managing Conflict – The End of Contract Bonus Fiasco (Part 2 of 2)

by Mark Leonard

In some contingency contracts, the initial bid reserves funds for paying out an end of contract bonus.  The LOGCAP III contract for the final Task Order supporting the U.S. military in Iraq did not reserve funds for end of contract bonuses.  Despite the funds not already being allocated to KBR by the Department of Defense, a well-to-do retired full bird colonel working at KBR’s Middle East HQ developed a proposal for additional funding to support end of contract bonuses for KBR employees in Iraq.

The proposal was a reasonable request and, if accepted, would both reward employees for their service and provide an incentive for staying on through the end of the contract.  An entire team of employees worked on the proposal and it carried the backing of KBR’s corporate offices in the U.S.  The proposed bonus funds were approved by low and mid level military approval agencies in a long and drawn out process that lasted from the Fall of 2010 to the Summer of 2011.  In the end, the approval failed to garner support from senior officials in the Department of Defense.

Throughout the approval process, employees were notified via all hands emails and during all hands meetings where project managers briefed employees on the status of the bonus proposal.  Each time the proposal passed through certain steps on its way to final approval, employees’ hopes were bolstered.  The rhetoric used by KBR was very optimistic, giving employees every reason to believe that the bonus would be approved.

From an HQ perspective, the proposal was an effective exercise because it convinced some employees to stay on until the end of the contract.  From an employee perspective, their hopes for an end of contract bonus were dashed in the summer of 2011, when, in the twilight hours of the project, KBR finally revealed that there would be no bonus.  Employees felt that the whole end of contract bonus was just a scheme to get employees to stay on the project longer, and lost faith in program management for pulling the wool over their eyes.  It was easy for disgruntled employees to create this narrative of manipulation by HQ and it is hard to say how many managers had good intentions with the proposal and how many managers were using it to keep employees around.

Ultimately, the proposal convinced employees to stay on and thus helped KBR meet its mission requirements, so from a corporate perspective it was successful.  However, this example highlights the ethical dilemma inherent in this type of conflict management strategy.

By mandybowling

Successful Experiences with Meetings

By Jazzmine Davis

In Chapter 12 of Management Communications: A Case Analysis Approach, O’Rourke deems appropriate the conversation about “business meetings that work.” His discussions of what a business meeting is, planning for meetings, and different meetings styles give managers a successful guideline to follow. I had great interest in the section that talks about when a manager should call a meeting. Meetings move group actions forward, and give members an opportunity to discuss and collaborate.

O’Rourke also explains the different reasons why a meeting should be called. To talk about goals, listen to reports, and gather opinions are some of the top reasons. I am particularly experienced with a former retail employer, New York and Company, calling meetings to train people. We would often get new associates, and our manager saw it beneficial to have group meetings—with new and old associates—to talk about the various things that we are trained on. How to use the register, interacting with customers, and how to run the fitting rooms were some of the big issues that new employees should know and what current employees should be reminded of.

Most of the employees dreaded the training meetings, and felt as if it was repetitive and a waste of time. What they did not realize is that the only way something becomes second nature is repetition. New York and Company’s training program is brilliant, and one of the reasons why the company’s customer service and employees are exceptional.

By mandybowling

Business Meeting Tips

By Justin Bigger

 

In Chapter 12, O’Rourke briefly discusses the importance of business meetings and covers strategies to improve their effectiveness in a multitude of areas including motivation, education and networking.

While O’Rourke does a fantastic job of succinctly covering the topic and illustrating how a business meeting should operate, I feel that I may add a little bit just from personal experience to flesh out some of the ideas in the chapter. I’m not going to try and specifically weigh each tip in order of importance, because I think that would silly, so I’ll just briefly list a few tips that I have seen work for meetings in which I have been a part.

First and the most obvious is location. The location communicates so much and can make or break a meeting. The location must be reasonable for all parties and it must communicate the particular tone of the meeting. Second, everyone must be made fully aware ahead of time the nature of the meeting as well as the objectives of the meeting. The easiest way to plan a failed meeting is by not making sure everyone is on the same page. Third, and it’s rarely talked about, is balancing task focus with relationship building. Just because you are in a meeting doesn’t mean it has to be serious all the time. Finding the right balance between work and fun is the key to generating the best ideas or making people receptive to potential new ones.

By mandybowling

Operation Business Meeting… Successful!

By Nathan Beavers

In Chapter 12, O’Rourke details what constitutes making a business meeting a successful one. It ranges from determining the motivation for the meeting, why you’re meeting, what a business meeting is, when should/should not be called, how to prepare for a business meeting and many other factors. However, more often than not, it is the makeup of the people and their attitude about the subject that makes a meeting successful.

At my current job, we have a work group that meets regularly called the Cultural Council. This group meets once a month with members and nonmembers all welcome. We discuss various topics; anything from what we feel is the most important thing that we should focus on that month, Overall, I feel that we have a successful business meeting each time we meet. Why do I think so? We are all engaged in the topics and things being said and we all want this to be successful. We want our workplace to be the best it can be all while giving our customers what they want in the best way possible. We host “Associate Appreciation Week,” every year for the employees. These are often the most heated meetings, as more people tend to show up than normal, and trivial topics (what foods we should offer on which days and if there should be paid casual days) become the most divisive topics you could imagine. I will give the group leader credit; she does her best every time to keep everything together, and does a good enough job. She compromises so much with so many people, she could probably negotiate major contracts with huge companies if she could, all while giving people mostly what they want. Probably the best thing, everyone goes away with no hurt feelings. We all know we have to work together after so if anybody does anything to upset anyone, they apologize after and go about their business. I believe these meetings were successful because people showed up, were engaged in what was being discussed, and actively participated in the issues at hand.

Not every business meeting can be a successful one, but they all have the opportunity to be. If you know how to make people interested, engaged and want to participate, meetings will almost always be successful.

By mandybowling

Managing Conflict

By Justin Bigger

Managing Conflict

 

In chapter 11 of Management Communication, O’Rourke discusses conflict in the workplace and ways to manage the more negative aspects of it. He mentions specifically techniques to use to manage anger and talks about many different “conflict-handling intentions” that can help manage conflict in certain situations.

While O’Rourke discusses many techniques toward approaching conflict, he mainly focuses on things that individuals can do to mitigate some of the more damaging things that can happen when conflicts become a problem. He really doesn’t focus on company-wide efforts that can be implemented to resolve conflicts or actually use them to promote change within the organization.

I used to work for a small business in my hometown. The business was very close knit and everybody knew each other, some for many years. Because of the close-knit family type atmosphere conflict was something that was pervasive within the organization. On the outside looking in, it was very evident that many of the people in the organization knew each other so well that they knew how to get under each other’s skin and sometimes if they were having a bad day it was very easy for conflict to escalate in an unhealthy way. The owner of the organization realized this and set up a conflict management type system that really helped move the organization forward. First, conflicts were either classified as work-related or not. This was especially important in this particular business because people knew each other so well. If the conflict was work-related, then steps were taken to get to the core of the problem. After the core of the problem was discovered, steps were taken to resolve the conflict by using a mediator that would help the two sides come together and discuss differences. Most conflicts were centered around the way things were done, and after a while, many new implementations came about that helped the organization move forward.

While this is a very isolated case, and the locality of it probably doesn’t apply to most organizations, it shows that sometimes conflict can be healthy if approached from a positive frame of mind with the view of the larger organization and its goals.

By mandybowling

Culture Clash

By Nathan Beavers

 

O’Rourke devotes Chapter 10 to Intercultural Communication. He states that there are many things that can make up a type of culture; ethnicity, size of population, immigration, age, families and gender. However, because cultures are so varied, there is often ample opportunity for people from one culture to come into a conflict with someone of a differing culture.

 

At a previous job I had, we had a healthy mix of all different types of people. Older, younger, male, female and several different ethnicities were present in workforce. This often made for interesting days. Never knowing how someone would react to something you might do, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and as it would often go, things would be dealt with in a passive-aggressive way that would make the offender never quite sure what they had done or what they could do to rectify the situation. However the main source of tension was a supervisor who believed he had more power with the company than he really did. To give some background, this supervisor was a veteran of the army who had planned on being a career soldier. Everything he did or wanted to be done, had to be exactly right or it would be redone until it was done his right way. However, the main source of conflict between the employees and him was punctuality. He was ten minutes early for everything. Everyone else would arrive around the time that they were supposed to show up, often a few minutes late. Being even a few minutes late would earn a chewing out by him and would often evolve into full-on shouting match in the break room. Finally, management stepped in; if someone was five to ten minutes late, that was fine but anything else would earn an automatic occurrence. This angered the supervisor to no end, as he believed showing up one second after your shift was being late. Eventually, the supervisor left and was replaced with someone far less strict and the break room shouting matches all but disappeared.

 

Culture is extremely important to consider, especially in a working environment where they will often develop their very own. Knowing how to successfully deal with these issues is a great step at being able to effectively communicate in a business environment.

By mandybowling

Managing Conflict – The End of Contract Bonus Fiasco (Part 1 of 2)

by Mark Leonard

Managing Conflict – The End of Contract Bonus Fiasco (Part 1 of 2)

At the start of the final drawdown of troops in Iraq in January 2011, KBR had about 12,000 direct hire employees and 40,000 subcontract employees in country.  Over the next 11 months, as bases closed across the country, there would be a gradual drawdown of employees, and by December 31, 2011, these 52,000 individuals had to be out of Iraq.

This was a period of uncertainty for employees, who had no idea when their time would come and they would be sent home.  When bases closed, they were either relocated to another base with a vacancy for their position or sent home based on an employee rating system that looked at time on project, performance, and attitude.  As the year progressed and the number of active bases in Iraq decreased, fewer employees were relocated and more employees were sent home.  It was in the best interest of employees to start applying for other jobs and leave on their own terms, before KBR could send them home.

From an HQ perspective, we needed the employees to stay in Iraq until the very end because we had a contractual requirement to complete the mission.  HQ emails encouraged employees to update their resumes and apply for jobs but stay on until the end and finish the mission.  These emails also highlighted KBR’s projects worldwide, implying that there would be more jobs available for employees who stayed on until the end after the contracts in Iraq expired.  One of the most controversial strategies employed by HQ to convince employees to remain in Iraq was the submittal of a proposal to the Department of Defense for additional funding to pay an ‘end of contract bonus’ to the employees who remained in Iraq until the end of the contract.  Part 2 will delve deeper into the end of contract bonus proposal, looking at its consequences and effectiveness in managing employee uncertainty during the drawdown.

By mandybowling

Stress Causing Conflict at Work?

By Jazzmine Davis

In chapter 11 of Managerial Communications: A Case Analysis Approach, O’Rourke explains the details of Managing Conflict in an organization. As stated, conflict can arise from various reasons—personalities, professional/personal relationships, competition and cultural differences. Stress plays a vital role in all of these variables. If people knew how to decrease their stress levels, many of the conflicts in the workplace could be avoided. My manager always has personal problems within her relationships, and it seems that her stress always trickles down to her employees. If she is not having a good day no one else will. I have taken the initiative to find some stress relief tactics that may be options that will solve the root of the problem.

  1. Meditation will allow the employee to find their center and eliminate the stream of thoughts that are creating stress. Meditation helps your overall well-being and health.
  2. Laughter can cure anything! Even it is a fake laugh it could make a person feel better, by cooling down your stress response. Reading some jokes may initiate a stress reliever.
  3. Journalizing your thoughts may cause some stress relief, because it causes a mental distraction and decreases stress hormones.
  4. Attempting to delegate tasks to others may help when trying to relieve stress. Maybe you have too many things for one person to handle, and should take the load off of your shoulders.

Stress can cause tension in the workplace, and may be a hindrance in getting goals completed in a timely fashion. Stress spreads like wildflower, and should be avoided for a successful professional relationship between managers and employees. Is stress causing conflict at your job? Use these stress relievers to decrease levels. If the options described above do not work, counseling about the problem is the next step.

By mandybowling

Intercultural Communication is EVERYWHERE

Culture is all around us and the way we accept it is up to us. O’Rourke defines culture everything that people have, think, and do as members of their society. Basically, it’s a way of expressing how and why people do the things the way they do.

Everyone is different and everyone expresses things differently. Learning intercultural communications goes much further than teaching someone the rules or principles of our culture, but learning about someone else’s and not being judgmental, but taking it as a learning experience… you never know what new culture you will learn about now. 

I have always been a working girl and I come across many different types of people and types of cultures. I used to work for a baseball team and we have people come in for the game from all over! A lot for the time, they can for the environment and a fun atmosphere. There were times people would come in, dressed differently and people would look and wonder, “why are they wearing that to a baseball game?!?” or people would come up not speaking English very well and trying to ask information about the park or the game. 

This all comes with working in a job setting where people come in from all over. But there is a way to handle it, you can learn from it and appreciate it. At the end of the nights, not only did I help people with other cultures, but I always learned that cultures come in from all over and it is not right to judge, but to understand their points of view on things and learn from them, just like they are learning from us.

By mandybowling