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Bob Schoultz
Naval/Academic leader

Bob Schoultz

Captain Bob Schoultz (U.S. Navy, Ret.) directs the Master of Science in Global Leadership at the University of San Diego's School of Business Administration.

Meet Standing Up

Meetings clearly serve different purposes for different people. Leaders who are extroverts need meetings to energize themselves through engagement with other people. Leaders who are introverts are more likely to limit the number and length of meetings, focus on efficiency, and conclude their meetings as quickly as possible.

Subordinates learn so many intangibles at meetings, having to do with mood, passion, and priorities of the leaders, office politics, and coordination opportunities with other participants. While extroverts generally like meetings more than introverts, nobody likes to have their time wasted, and nobody wants to sit through a poorly run meeting. Yet NOT having meetings forces communication into electronic channels or one-on-one encounters, which have their limitations and liabilities.

My personal rules involve no rocket science. Whether I personally attend a meeting or not depends on my passion for the subject, and what I perceive as my duties as the leader. For the meetings I call or run, I try to publish an agenda by email in advance, with a couple of lines about each topic. This tees up the topics and helps me limit the scope of discussion.

What has worked for me to make daily or routine meetings more efficient is to hold the meeting with all participants standing. This makes clear that the meeting is meant to be short and perfunctory, and there is a pressure to avoid long discussions or pontification. When more relaxed team building or brain-storming is desired, less frequent meetings in a more relaxed setting seems to work.

Can a leader be meeting-free? I believe it is possible, but only in very unusual circumstances, and only with a strong number 2 who can look people in the eye, provide guidance, read body language, answer questions, and deal in person with the human element of leadership. Some organizations run on the vision, charisma and virtual presence of people who are long dead, and in a sense these deceased leaders are still leading their organizations by the example and inspiration they provided while alive.

And then there are competent but reclusive leaders like Howard Hughes. Some leaders may recognize that they are very poor at dealing with people in person and delegate this key function to someone else who is good at it. But SOMEBODY needs to deal with the human factor of an organization in person. The critical element of trust in leadership is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to establish and maintain solely by email.

By Bob Schoultz

 |  October 6, 2009; 6:47 AM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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making people stand
cuts red tape and small talk
i could see that people use lesser words to say the same thing
with the passing of the time people start to get tired
and start to go right to the point
even bad words are less used to save energy

Posted by: jaderdavila | October 7, 2009 6:02 PM
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That's basically my tactic as well. I'm a trial judge and, when conferencing motions or other pre-trial matters, I make the attorneys stand in the well and argue their issue. They hate it, but it really cuts down on the BS.

Posted by: nymjk | October 6, 2009 11:57 AM
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I'm a certified Project management Professional (PMP). One of the key components of leadership is communication. However, you don't need to take more than 5-15 minutes in a stand up to deliver the message for the day, the scheduled duties, issues, action items, and planned goals.

People should be busy, not wasting their times in meetings.

Posted by: Lulu12 | October 6, 2009 11:02 AM
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WaPo might improve if it had the same rule for comments. But it would be difficult to enforce.

Posted by: OldAtlantic | October 6, 2009 9:51 AM
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