Meetings …

Meeting SpaceInspired by David Dye’s excellent post on the Lead Change Group blog on January 21, 2015.David provides some excellent observations about how to create better meetings.  My additional thoughts on this topic are noted below, edited for clarity and length:


I just wish we were not still having to concern ourselves with doing meetings better. It seems this has been a topic throughout my professional life … (Insert heavy sigh here).

One assumption that flows throughout David’s thoughts:

When you take the time to strategically plan a meeting by identifying clearly who is gathering and what they are to do, you need to clearly communicate that IN ADVANCE so people can prepare.

I have heard the idea that a best meeting practice is to have a one-page agenda.

I respectfully disagree a tad.

The agenda, published well in advance of the meeting date, should contain the information needed for the person to come ready to contribute. Depending on the size of the meeting , this might be much more than one page.

I think agendas should include:

1) Who is coming, and if necessary, their title and function.  This introduces accountability and alows everyone to know the participants in a more useful way.

2) The Bottom Line purpose of the meeting (as you say deciding to do something and deciding how to do that something are two very different discussions).

3) The specific expectations for participants regarding each activity of the meeting.

4) Pertinent information that participants should have that is not within their ability to find out themselves. If you do expect people to come prepared, help them by telling them what you expect them to know and share.

I still attend meetings where an agenda with topics is handed out, often at the meeting, which makes it useful only as a Tick List to tell me how much more we have to go before I can leave.

When people know clearly beforehand what is to be done at the meeting, they have the opportunity to prepare to do exactly that. Otherwise, we are just guessing at what we are supposed to do.

Considering my own past meeting sins and promising to do better in the future in the Heartland …





Three “REAL” Values in “Overcoming Fake Talk” …

promo_02Overcoming Fake Talk by John R. Stoker is NOT

A sweeping new vision of business strategy.

An intricately designed model of human behavior.

A stirring account of leadership and creation of empire.

We already have books about fierce, crucial, difficult, and so on.  We know that conversations are art more than science and that they are important in our lives.  As I glance over the many titles of books from counseling, adult learning, leadership, human performance, training, and critical thinking (to say nothing of my extensive “Doonesbury” collection), I repeatedly and consistently see communication and all its parts reinforced as essential.

So why another book on communication?  

Maybe because we still do not practice what has been preached at us.  Maybe because we need reinforcement that communication is about more than just telling others what you want them to do.  Maybe because we need regular reminders of what we should already know.   Maybe because hearing something in a new and engaging way makes it stick.

John R. Stoker has the background, experience, and knowledge to be a very credible source of our continuing leadership education.

Stoker talks about an Interaction Style Model:  eight principles that neatly sum up the core components of talking (and listening) to others in a positive and collaborative fashion to create results.   His model stands above others with which I am familiar, because it is very well thought out, comprehensive, and presented clearly for maximum understanding. 

I am still absorbing this fascinating and enjoyable book, but here are three things I am already finding of value:


Stoker is visual and provides us with clear graphics to support his ideas.  Two related examples of his ability to create visual communication are on pages 59 and 79.  

Using our well-known 2×2 grid, Stoker shows us the relationships and continuum’s about people and task orientations, aggressive and passive behavior, and four primary types that flow out of this:  Builders, Initiators, Discoverers, and Connectors. 

Those who are familiar with the DiSC model will feel right at home, but Stoker adds richness and his own stamp to what in other hands might be stale material to these two graphs, which show the same basic information, but with nice variation.


Stoker has an ear for dialogue and the book is full of actual, quoted words and conversations to illustrate the points being made.  

This is no dry textbook or extended analytical article, but an engaging and useful series of vignettes where we actually see and hear (at least in our heads, unless we read aloud) real conversations. 

Stoker uses the acronym REAL in his book, and these conversations show this nicely:  authentic people speaking in authentic language.


Stoker is up-to-date and incorporates current thinking about neuroscience to explain how our brains work during discussions, why this is important, and how this knowledge informs our transformation into leaders who can create and engage in “real” conversations. 

In earlier times, we had inklings about what was effective, but did not always know how to explain why communication worked better in some ways than others. 

Now we can support effective practices more clearly and Stoker does so nicely, without overwhelming those of us who are less “technically” oriented.

I keep using the term “real”, but this book is about more than just the opposite of “fake” … REAL” conversation in Stoker’s world “is the process of creating dialogue” and includes the following:

1) Recognizing and Suspending to Uncover

2) Expressing Your Intention

3) Asking to Reveal

4  Listening and Attending to Connect 

(Stoker, 2014, p. 57)

Through the course of the book, Stoker explains each part in great and engaging detail.   Overcoming Fake Talk is just a very well-written and thorough book about making our conversations “REAL”

Actually, if you read and think about the practices outlined in this book, then put what you learned into action, you may actually find yourself creating sweeping business strategy, changing your view of human behavior, or finding your own voice for leadership and creation … or you may just find working with others to carry out your mutual goals a lot easier and more rewarding than you imagined.

I could tell you more about this exciting new addition to my library, but you need to discover the value in Overcoming Fake Talk yourself.   Let me just end by saying that this “fake” book is the real deal.

Having a blast reading and relaxing as summer ends slowly in the Heartland ….





promo_01For over 20 years, John R. Stoker has been facilitating and speaking to audiences, helping them to improve their thinking and communicating skills. He is an expert in communications who believes the human capacity to achieve astonishing results depends on the individual’s ability to interact with others.

John holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Behavior as well as a J.D. Degree. His landmark book, Overcoming Fake Talk, is both entertaining and engaging, and it presents skills that help readers talk about what matters most.

In the past, John worked as a practicing criminal defense attorney, spent summers as a Grand Canyon white-water guide, and taught on the university level for 13 years. John has been happily married since 1994 and he and his wife Stephanie are the proud parents of five children.


Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book for review before it was available for sale.  If you think a free book is enough to sway my professional considerations, I have a very large image problem with which I need to deal.

A Throwable Microphone? … Love it

Ball Room MeetingEver been in a large meeting, where microphones are passed from person to person to person, so someone deep in the crowd can have their say?

Ever wait “patiently” while people made their way toward floor microphones spaced out within the seating sections?

Ever wonder if a better way existed to allow people to speak their minds … and be heard?

Elliott Masie is already familiar to many as a man who lives and thrives on the very front edge of learning innovation.  With this revealing of A Throwable Microphone, he aptly reinforces his credibility.  Watch the video at the link for more.

Those of us who have been daunted by the cost and technology of facilitating Q&A sessions or town hall meetings should be quietly pleased at this new product.

Wanting to throw something real bad in the Heartland ….


Three Good Reasons to Say “I Have A Question …”

QuestionsI have this reputation for asking questions …

… in public forums where important issues are being discussed.

… in classes, usually right after a student comment or the end of a team presentation.

… when I am listening to one of my children explain things to me.

… during conversations with old friends, professional acquaintances, and total strangers while chatting in the check-out line.

Maybe I’m just a curious guy … but maybe there is more to this …

Continue reading

About Alligators and Helping …

image“It’s easier to see the swamp needs draining when the alligators are chewing on someone else’s ass …”

Value can go hand in hand with perspective.  One person is often so enmeshed in their environment, in dealing with their challenges, in just getting through each day ... Perspective comes from others … trusted others who can view your situation with respect, concern, and objectivity.  

Therein lies the value of seeking help from others, whether you call them a consultant, a coach, a mentor, or a friend.

Here’s a little assignment for the coming week … after you wash the BBQ sauce off your face and out of your clothes:

Ask someone you trust how they see what is going on with you … ask for specific perceptions around a specific situation, and not “How’m I doing, buddy?”


Listen carefully and respectfully to what they say … ask for clarification as needed, but keep your objections to yourself … 


Thank the person sincerely for their insights  … continue to keep your objections and responses to yourself …


Repeat with several other trusted sources, including some who are not “on your side” … ask for perceptions about the same focus or situation …


Review the information received and note similarities that will emerge … look for overall patterns and repeated thoughts.


Reflect on these patterns and themes by considering how well or how poorly they mesh with what you want others to see in you … do this along in quietness and calm …


Choose a path forward to change your behavior based on what your honest reflections on the perceptions of others has shown you … figure out what you will do to get from where you are to where you want to be …


Trying to keep myself away from those nasty, sharp teeth by asking for help in the Heartland ….


Inspired by “The Power of Detachment” by Cranston Holden