I was talking to a friend the other day about ways to get more involved in the local Portland scene for networking and volunteering. Here are several avenues I’m aware of. Most I’ve tried in one form or the other.
Silicon Florist — All things small companies and start-ups in Portland. Be sure to sign-up for the weekly email newsletter which always has good stuff in it.
I recommend searching for things you’re really interested in, not things you think you should be interested in or that would simply “help your career.” I find there’s more connection when it’s a natural interest and not something you’re supposed to like.
And if you aren’t sure what you are interested in, pick one event a month and try something out until you find a fit. Don’t torture yourself if it seems like a bad fit. Make yourself stay for 15 minutes and introduce yourself to two other people. If you don’t get any traction with that, call it a “success” and call it a night.
I recently told Mike Vardy over at the Productivityist how much I love facilitating project meetings and he told me I had a to write a blog post about it. It hadn’t occurred to me how unusual I might be until he asked me if I knew anyone else that feels the same way. Don’t miss Mike’s recent podcast about meetings that has some good stuff in it.
So what is it that I love about facilitating project meetings?
I love that I get to experience and live so many of my values. What personal values are and how we define them is a much deeper subject for another time. The short version is that “values” are things that are intrincicly important to us. They make us feel good when we honor them and are very central who we are.
The values that come out for me when I facilitate meetings are:
Forward Progress — things are getting done and moving forward (or at least trying to)
Clarity — everyone leaves with the same understanding even if they didn’t share it at the beginning
Connectedness — we’re all in this together and building relationships with each other
Collaboration — we’re trying to make it successful together
Purpose and meaning — we’re only focused on and talking about things that matter for shipping and completing this particular product
Last December as I was contemplating moving back to program management from product marketing, it kept coming back to me how much I missed running meetings. This was a mix of attending unproductive meetings and realizing as an invitee the ability to shape meetings to be more effective is limited.
But not everything about meetings can be shaped. I also like the mystery of running meetings. You never really know exactly what is going happen. I’ve lost count of the number of meetings I was positive would turn out a certain way, only to turn out the opposite. I rarely create an agenda or start a meeting without envisioning what I think will have the best outcome while also holding onto that vision lightly.
You just never know what what you’ll discover, particularly when, if you’re like me, you ask those hard direct questions that need answers. Sometimes it’s negative surprises and other times its positive surprises like learning that a release schedule we thought was completely broken is in fact viable after really digging into the details.
I enjoy bringing people into the conversation by encouraging participating from everyone at the meeting. This often changes the outcome of the meeting as more perspectives get factored into the discussion. Sometimes it’s trying to figure out how to ship a product on schedule and other times it’s trying to figure out how to ship at all. One common ingredient in the success of all these meetings is that in a majority of them the entire cross-functional team is looking for ways that the entire release team can win and not just themselves.
There’s no secret formula to the way I run meetings. Each one is different though there are several tried and true techniques that rarely fail. I’m working on a series of posts that explore different angles of meetings and how to make them really work. Along the way I’ll also continue to share why I enjoy them so much.
I Want to Know, What You’re Thinking
What’s one question you have about leading or facilitating well run project meetings (or meetings in general) I could answer for you in a future post?
One phrase I want to drop from my vocabulary is the trite and over-used term often thrown around at the beginning of meetings by a host or facilitator who says they “want to honor everyone’s time.”
One big way to honor people’s time is not to hold the meeting.
Telling an assembled group of people you want to “honor everyone’s time” feels more and more like a throw-away line. I don’t think I’ve ever met or observed a person who intentionally created a meeting to waste other people’s time. Most people holding meetings do so with good intentions that don’t always deliver.
It’s more meaningful to me not to tell me you want to “honor my time,” but instead show me you “honor my time” by:
Not having the meeting at all
Providing a crisp agenda of issues to discuss and decisions to make prior to meeting
Moving the meeting along as quickly as you can
Making sure the meeting stays on track
Ending the meeting early or on time
If I experience these things, my time feels honored.
I heard a great interview with Jim Woods over on the Rap With Nic podcast several weeks ago. In addition to some great productivity ideas I was reminded of the power of the timer. I use them from time to, but not as much as would benefit me. I tried out his suggestion and it saved me a bunch of wasted time.
Jim described how he sets a timer when he goes onto social media. The other day I was trying to be more disciplined with my time and so when I opened my personal email to take a break I hit start on the timer that was set for 5 minutes. Before long I was lost in a worm hole of links and queries and then suddenly the timer rang. Without them who knows how long I would have gone.
I picked up these timers at the Dollar store. Sometimes I use them for the Pomodoro technique, but more often than not I work in random blocks of time and use them to force me to focus. They are always sitting right in front of me.