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One of the jobs of being a leader is to help the people who work for you find more passion for their work. One of the perhaps less-than-obvious ways to do that is to remove the things they’re decidedly dispassionate about. My favorite example of that comes from Melissa Moody. Melissa runs a modeling and acting academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, called Excel Models and Talent.
As a small-business owner and mother of four, it’s not unusual for some of Melissa employees to also know her as their mom. That can sometimes lead to very unusual meetings. Here’s a case in point.
The Staff Meeting
One afternoon during a typical staff meeting, Melissa was discussing something that mostly involved one particular employee, so her comments were directed primarily his way. Out of the corner of her eye, Melissa noticed Brooke Moody, her then-30-year-old daughter, slowly sinking lower in her chair. Like any good parent whose child is misbehaving, Melissa ignored it so she wouldn’t encourage her any further.
Eventually Brooke disappeared entirely behind the desk that separated them. Melissa continued with the meeting, not saying a word to Brooke or even looking in her direction. “If I just ignore her, eventually she’ll sit up and start paying attention,” she thought.
A few seconds later, an unexpected movement entered her peripheral vision. It definitely was not Brooke straightening up in her chair. So this time she looked. Through a small space between the edge of the desk and the door, she could just make out the form of her daughter—crawling on all fours—slowly inching out of the room and down the hallway!
Brooke was insanely bored. The dramatic exit was her unique form of protest. And since her mom was the boss, she knew she could get away with it without getting fired, or probably even reprimanded. And she was right. In fact, the whole family gets a huge laugh every time the story is retold.
Here’s the point. How many employees have desperately wanted to slink out of one of your staff meetings but didn’t because it would be unprofessional? Probably more than you’d care to admit. The reason is likely no different from Brooke Moody’s. They’re bored. The discussion during much of the meeting doesn’t involve or affect them. They’re in the room for two hours just to hear the 30 minutes that actually matters to them.
Why does this happen? Because staff meetings are typically arranged to be convenient for the boss, not the staff. It’s the easiest way for the boss to hear what’s going on from everyone and provide direction to the group. What the boss doesn’t realize is that the time she’s saving by doing it this way (her time) is more than offset by the collective wasted time of her staff. More importantly, the cost to morale is immeasurable.
That’s the lesson Melissa Moody learned that day. Since then, her staff meetings have been much different. Now they’re very short and only cover a summary of the business that’s important to everyone. She then follows with detailed one-on-one meetings with her staff members to cover the information important to them in particular. Yes, it takes a little more of her time to do it that way. But her staff is happier, more engaged, and has more time to work on the things they are passionate about.
And Brooke Moody hasn’t crawled out of a meeting since.
It’s hard to hear this story and not rethink the way you run your staff meetings. In fact, if you’re the boss where you work, ask yourself this in your next meeting: “If my daughter worked here, would she be crawling out the door right now?” If the answer is yes—and it probably is—take a piece of advice from Melissa and change the way you run things. And if you’re not the one in charge, and it’s you who feels like crawling out during the meeting, take this story and share it with your boss!
[You can find this and over 100 other inspiring leadership stories in my book, Lead with a Story.]
Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a Story and Parenting with a Story.
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