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Agents: What’s That Spot on Your Face?

In December 2008, a spot appeared on my face. It looked like a large freckle. I ignored it.

In March 2009, Floyd and I were having breakfast. He asked, “What’s that spot on your face?” I answered, “A freckle.” He then responded, “What are you going to do about it?” My reply, “Not a thing – it’s just a freckle.” We debated the issue for a few minutes longer, but I’ll save you the details.

The next day, Floyd called to announce my appointment with Dr. Patout (a local dermatologist) in a few weeks. He had called another doctor, but she couldn’t see me until August. Dr. Patout had been booked up until August, as well, but Floyd intervened with her husband (Floyd’s tennis partner) and got me in earlier.

I agreed to the appointment more to shut Floyd up than as a concern for my health. The next week, Dr. Patout removed the “freckle” and sent it to the lab to test. I still felt this was much ado about nothing.

At 1:30 p.m. on April 20, I was walking out of the Regions Insurance Office in Baton Rouge. My phone rang, and I heard a statement I’ll never forget. “Mike, this is Dr. Patout. The test results are in; it’s melanoma.” I took a breath and said, “That’s the kind of cancer I don’t want – right?” She answered: “That’s right. Come see me tomorrow.”

Dr. Patout reassured me that we had gotten it early. She sent me to Dr. Walker, who cut a double-quarter-sized hole in my face and sent this specimen off for more tests. Two weeks later, I got the good news I had prayed for – “Mike, we got it all.” Come see me every three months.

Suddenly, my attitude changed. Going to the doctor and listening to her recommendations were now a priority, not a pain in the butt. On the third visit, Dr. Patout explained, “Mike, understand that if we had waited until August, you’d be dead.” This was (and still is) a sobering thought….

Floyd saved my life. He didn’t find the cancer, and he didn’t cure it. Floyd’s role was more important than that – he was the gadfly who motivated me (read: nagged me) to do what needed to be done.

Now I want to ask you two most important questions – “Is there a spot on the face of your organization?” and “What are you going to do about it?”

In March 2009, I felt good. I looked good (except for a little spot on my face). I was one admonition away from a quick and painful death! THANKS, FLOYD!

The good news is that you don’t have to die, either!

The bad news is that to avoid dying you must change. Change is difficult – the excerpts from the article “Change or Die” by Alan Deutschman from Fast Company Magazine (www.fastcompany.com) explain the challenge of change:

“What if you were given that choice? For real. What if it weren’t just the hyperbolic rhetoric that conflates corporate performance with life and death? Not the overblown exhortations of a rabid boss, or a slick motivational speaker, or a self-dramatizing CEO. We’re talking actual life or death now. Your own life or death. What if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think and act? If you didn’t, your time would end soon — a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most?

Yes, you say?

Try again.

Yes?

You’re probably deluding yourself.

You wouldn’t change.

Don’t believe it? You want odds? Here are the odds, the scientifically studied odds: nine to one. That’s nine to one against you. How do you like those odds?”

I say this in particular for independent agents. What matters with independent agencies is INDEPENDENCE, the entrepreneurial spirit of this group and its members. You as individuals and operating entities have been declared dead or dying by the experts for decades. You’re prospering – so why change now?

The answer is simple – the marketplace you serve is changing. This is all about people and culture – not products and services. If you haven’t noticed, the Gen Y and whatever follows are much different than their older siblings, parents and grandparents. They are taking charge of the market as we are forced to relinquish control.

Address that “freckle” or die.

3 Steps Toward Better Meetings

How many meetings did you attend last week that lacked a specific agenda, started late and then ended late? How often did you attend a meeting without knowing why you were even there? How many meetings actually resulted in a new idea or significant decision?

With about 11 million business meetings occurring each day, one thing is clear: Meetings are a mainstay of business culture. When they are conducted effectively, they inspire and ignite innovation and lead to higher-performing teams and a stronger bottom line. When they are ineffective and irrelevant, they plague all of us with the notion that this time together was wasteful, costly and inefficient.

Too many meetings fail to generate any meaningful return on the investment of our time and energy. And they undermine our productivity. Our meeting-intensive culture forces people to complete their work in the margins of their day-early in the morning and late at night-hurting their health, motivation and work-life balance.

Something has to give.

It is time for better meetings. It is time for a meeting revolution.

Start the revolution by questioning the value of each meeting you attend, by preparing for your meetings and by ensuring that the right people, and only the right people, are invited.

1. QUESTION THE VALUE OF EACH AND EVERY MEETING YOU ATTEND

Instead of automatically accepting the next meeting request, pause and consider the meeting’s return on investment for you. Ask yourself:

  • Will this meeting assist me in achieving my goals?
  • How does the purpose of the meeting align with the company’s strategic priorities?
  • What contribution can I make in the meeting?
  • Will anyone even notice if I’m not present?
  • Will this meeting be energizing, or will it suck the life right out of me?
  • Will this meeting be a rehash of the last five meetings I attended?
  • Is attending this meeting the highest and best use of my time right now?
  • Remember, every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else.

2. SUCCESS AND EFFECTIVENESS DEPEND ON YOUR PLANNING

As you prepare for your next meeting, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do we need to meet?
  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • Is this an informational, decision-making, problem-solving, brainstorming, team-building or instructional/skill-building meeting? Or a combination of a few of these?
  • What is the outcome I want to achieve as a result of this meeting?
  • Is there an alternative format I can use to achieve the outcome?
  • If a meeting is essential, what is the ideal meeting format to achieve the meeting outcomes-an in-person meeting, a virtual meeting or a combination of the two?
  • Who needs to attend the meeting?
  • What information do I need from the attendees?
  • What do the attendees need to know or complete in advance of the meeting to achieve the outcome?
  • What expectations do I have for the meeting attendees regarding preparation and participation? How will I communicate these expectations?
  • What is the ideal length of the meeting to accomplish the stated purpose of the meeting?

Use your answers to guide you in planning and preparing to have better meetings.

3. INVITE THE RIGHT PEOPLE AND ONLY THE RIGHT PEOPLE

To think about who to invite to your meeting, start by recognizing that there are four types of meeting attendees: the decision maker, the influencer, the resource person and the executer.

  • The decision maker is the primary authority.
  • The influencer has the pull and network within the organization to advocate and popularize meeting decisions and initiatives.
  • The resource person has specific knowledge, skills and expertise needed to inform the decisions and create plans for executing those decisions.
  • The executer has the knowledge, skills, resources and authority to successfully complete the work resulting from the meeting.

An ideal meeting has each of these types in attendance. Of course, one person can represent multiple roles, and more than one representative of a specific role may be required. For example, you may need three executers to complete a complex project discussed during the meeting.

To determine who really needs to attend the meeting, ask yourself:

  • What is the meeting outcome?
  • Who in the organization must be present to achieve the outcome?
  • Who is the decision maker?
  • Who is the influencer?
  • Who is the resource person?
  • Who is the executer?
  • If there are people who will not be invited to the meeting but who have been invited to similar meetings in the past, how will I communicate my rationale for excluding them?

Without the right people in the meeting, nothing will be accomplished, and everyone’s time will be wasted. To have better meetings, invite the right people and only the right people.

A decision maker is not necessary to start a meeting revolution. A meeting revolution starts with one person choosing to do something differently and then communicating with colleagues about why she has chosen a different approach.

Thirty-seven percent of employee time is spent in meetings. So, when you choose to lead a meeting revolution, you are not only ensuring that this investment of time and energy generates a significant return on investment, you’re also giving your team time back to do the work they’re good at, the work they’re hired to do and the work that will grow the business.

What can do you right now?

  • Here’s a game-changing question for you: Are you a planner, prioritizer, arranger or visualizer? Find out your productivity style in less than 10 minutes; take my free productivity style assessment.
  • Want to take it to the next level? Share the assessment with your team, then start a conversation about your respective productivity styles and what you each need to work well.

Share your thoughts on how these strategies worked for you! Please leave a comment on this post.

This article originally appeared on fast company.com.