Having a meeting? Add silence to the agenda

While on a cruise through Alexander Kjerulf’s Chief Happiness Officer blog archives, I came across a post he did called 5 weeeeeeird tips for great meetings.

Of his 5 tips, the one I liked best was the 5th one: Use strategically placed silence:

This is probably the one thing you find in no meetings. I mean – the purpose of meetings is to talk, right. Silence kinda defeats that purpose, doesn’t it?


No. The purpose of meetings is not to talk – the purpose of meetings is to arrive at ideas, solutions, plans and decisions in such a way that:

1. The ideas are so good that they can be carried out.

2. The process that leads to the ideas is so good that people want to carry the ideas out.

And in this respect, silence can be a great tool. Because while some people can think while they’re talking – most can’t.


A well-placed two-minute silent break is a great chance for people to stop and think. To figure out what the deeper issues are. To see the solution that is not immediately obvious. To find out how they feel about the issues being discussed.


Here are some ways to use it: [Read the rest at the original posting, and meet Alex while you’re there.]

Strategic silence is something I use in my workshop presentations as well, giving people time to reflect and debrief for the 3 minutes before every break we take. I force the issue; no break until I see them write something down, and if they only needed a minute they are asked to sit and respect the peace in the room for everyone else until the full time has gone by.

At first it can be uncomfortable for people; we really aren’t accustomed to silence when we are in a group. However after the very first break I will be sure to ask, "Is there anything else we need to talk about before I move on?" and I’ve noticed that people come back from their breaks with great questions.

By the end of the workshop there will be an outcry for that silent time if I forget to give it: People engage with each other better during those breaks instead of hiding away somewhere in a corner with their blackberries, and they engage in learning with more focus. Silence has become a mini-immersion technique and a retention-booster.

Great idea for your next meeting too. Try it.

ROI: The old guys were right after all.

Monday morning reality check (or topic for your next huddle):


Productivity isn’t just about how good you feel about getting something done; there’s got to be a return you set out measure.

When you are young and idealistic, the concept of ROI may be the hardest one to deal with. You bemoan wanting to “do the right thing” instead, ignoring the fact that getting a Return on Investment can be doing the right thing too.

In business, it should be.


My own challenge-to-self this week:
Since I now know this, am I doing it? What is the investment I am making, both tangible and intangible (do I articulate it well?), and how am I measuring it so that I will know whether or not I am on the right track? Think dollars and cents sense.

Sunday Reading with the Times: A Literacy Debate

Saw this article at the New York Times online this morning, via a tweet by Angela Maiers: Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?

A snippet:

As teenagers’ scores on standardized reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading — diminishing literacy, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.


But others say the Internet has created a new kind of reading, one that schools and society should not discount. The Web inspires a teenager like Nadia, who might otherwise spend most of her leisure time watching television, to read and write.


Few who believe in the potential of the Web deny the value of books. But they argue that it is unrealistic to expect all children to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Pride and Prejudice” for fun. And those who prefer staring at a television or mashing buttons on a game console, they say, can still benefit from reading on the Internet. In fact, some literacy experts say that online reading skills will help children fare better when they begin looking for digital-age jobs.

I’m fascinated by the article itself, but it also caused me to wonder about the differences between engaging ”“ and having conversation with ”“ people online versus those who are with you and in the same room: Like in this picture with the article:

Nytimes27reading600
NY Times photo

You may want to watch the video clip of this family first, and then read the article to best connect with where I am coming from… the video never shows them talking to each other about all this stuff they are reading!

What do you think about it ”“ both article and ease of conversation/engagement)? Would love to hear your thoughts… there are 99 comments and counting at the NY Times online edition, however the views I am most interested in are yours. I think of our Ho‘ohana Community as largely asking, “Why not enjoy both [books AND online reading]?

Rapid Fire Learning for July ’08: Shift

Rapid Fire Learning is in full swing at Joyful Jubilant Learning right now. Chris Owen of Pink Apple is hosting for us (Chris is an Aussie-based Relationship Specialist and blogger who shares her “Secrets to Successful Relating”): She has called her entry A Scandalous Peek Inside One Woman’s Learning.

Choosing to soothe strong feelings (eg. anxiety, frustration etc)
with a distraction, means you have much more energy to face the rest of
the day.

(That means I’ve got more time for catching up on my life and my loves.  Seems like a win to me.)

~ Chris Owen

At first I was content to simply comment on some of what is being shared there ”“ great stuff ”“ but in a moment’s quiet time this afternoon I reflected on my own top learning in the past few weeks and thought I’d share them here on Talking Story: RFL is another prompting for great conversation in work teams – take advantage of it!


As for so many
in Hawai‘i right now, the past month has been one of significant business change for me, thus in a word, my RFL this month has much to do with thoughts about ‘shifting.’

1. I knew, but have newly learned just how dependent Hawai‘i has become on the rest of the world. When the world catches cold, Hawai‘i gets sick. From a business point of view, this has been a time to take honest stock of one’s financial literacy, fully understanding how both local and global economics affect cash flow and equity health. The learning never ends; it evolves.

Great Price!
Not too many prices getting etched in stone
or bronzed this way right now!

2. This is the first time I have been self-employed when there is such a severe downturn, and my viewpoint is different: It is much larger, and more community-focused. I have not thought solely about my own choices right now, but also about how our individual choices, mine and those of others, affect everyone and someone in some way. In times like these, responsibility and loyalty newly define each other.

3. Shifting is easier when you have strong support from family and friends. My dad had once told me, “No job will ever love you back.” He was right about so many things, and that was one of them.

At Angela’s Honolulu Literacy Institute
A highlight of my month was meeting Mike Sansone and Angela Maiers for two days in Honolulu. Online friendships are as real and as great as can be.

4. Money can buy a lot of things, but there is something extremely valuable that is absolutely free; your ability to generate ideas and act upon them. From the archives: Looking for Leadership: any Ideas?

5. Shift is liberating. Most of us say “I have to” quite a bit, when in fact there is very little that we have to do; free choice runs rampant in our daily lives. What we have to do, is stop holding ourselves back. We need to eliminate our excuses.

What about you? Rapid fire stream of consciousness is what our monthly exercise is all about: What have been your top 5 learnings this month? Share them with the rest of the Ho‘ohana Community at JJL.

Last month: It’s RFL Time: Rapid Fire Learning for June
From the archives: Why Learning is a Leader’s Most Important Skill by guest author Kevin Eikenberry