Insights about growth and all things impacting it within your organization

End Meetings That Go Nowhere — “The Who What When” Tool


Are you having meetings that go nowhere? Join the club, A lot of people are having those kind of meetings today. We’d been through a year of meetings that are online, rushed, pushed, too many. Now we’re getting back to face-to-face meetings and I think might be a good time to brush up on a key part of having good meetings.

A meeting from that’s going nowhere, to me, is one of these meetings that have productive dialogue, good decisions, everyone’s aligned, and you adjourn. You come back next week. Nothing’s happened on any of the decisions. They have gone nowhere.

I’m going to share with you a tool, that I learned about years ago, I’m not exactly sure who shared it with me, but it’s an old school way of taking care of this problem.

My suggestion is this.  Don’t have a meeting where decisions are made without this tool. It’s called the “Who, What, When” Tool.  Very simply at the end of the meeting, or as you’re going through the meeting, the master note taker, in the “What” column, captures the various decisions or actions that have been agreed to.  Then you go through each one of the actions, and decide “Who” is the person that owns that action and is going to make sure it gets done.

Next, ask each “Who” to set a deadline for “When” they’re going to have that action completed or report progress.

After this is all filled out, you make copies of it for everyone in the meeting and distribute them right away. In the old days you would run to the copier and do this.  Today you scan it with your cell phone, , and then send a copy to everyone.  Again, you want to get this into everyone’s hands as soon as you can.  The next time you meet, everyone pulls out their copy and reports in on the “What” as the first agenda item.

So that’s the tool.  Here’s a link for downloading it.

As you can see, Simple is better, low tech that is even better.

Download the tool. Good luck.

Next week, we’ll have another one.

The Remote Workplace Paradox: Efficient Meetings ≠ Effectiveness

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking efficient meetings lead to effective team performance.  It’s never really worked that way.  And in the remote workforce environment we find ourselves facing, it it doesn’t work even more.

When I say this, don’t think that I don’t like efficient meetings.  I love them.  Many meetings should be and can be more efficient.  Those meetings whose purpose is sharing information and aligning the day’s main activities, ála “the daily huddle,”  are meant to be efficient.  Let’s review the purpose of the daily huddle.  Share the main thing to accomplish that day, share any updated info, share if/that you need help.  Decide things in other meetings with  the people necessary only.

Same goes for portions of other meetings, the information sharing portion of the meeting.  It should and can be very efficient, especially when a format and the info to be shared is clear and relevant.  The rest of the meeting? I don’t think so.

The decision making and learning portions of meetings are, by necessity and nature, the messy. The intent of these portions is to gain understanding of what the best thing to do is, and then decide on how to move forward.  Dialogue, confusion, disagreement are part and parcel of decisions and learning.  It’s not always easy to work through these things, very often it’s messy, and quite likely it will take more time than you anticipate.

But it’s effective.  It creates alignment, buy in, understanding, comradery, all of which lead to increased effectiveness.  The meetings I facilitate, that are the messiest, are also the most effective and productive ones.

That bring us to today’s remote work environment and what I’m calling the “Remote Work Place Paradox.”  Let me walk you through the steps of it.

  • People see Zoom (or Meets, or Teams….) as an efficiency tool.
  • They use it to hold efficient remote meetings.
  • Effectiveness of the remote workforce, after a small upswing, declines.
  • Leaders hold more remote meetings, efficiently, to increase effectiveness.
  • Effectiveness continues to decline or remain stagnant.

How do you break the Remote Work Place Paradox?  Get messy with your remote meetings.  Stop focusing on efficiency.  The companies that are doing great with their remote workforces, embrace and focus on connecting, engaging, and empathizing, all of which are messy things.  They plan for their messiness.

The realize that Zoom is not an efficiency tool, it’s an intimacy tool and the intimacy is what creates effectiveness.

Why?  Because in the remote work environment, the things, that endear teammates to each other, no longer naturally exist.

  • Sharing at the water cooler or over a cup of coffee. Gone.
  • The side conversations that connect each other. Gone.
  • The check-ins when things aren’t going so well. Gone.
  • The clarifying conversations that clear up a misunderstandings.  Gone.
  • The reminders that you have each other’s’ back.  Gone.
  • Need I go on?

These things have be intentionally worked into the your meetings, maybe even going so far as having meetings just to shoot the breeze or commiserate with each other.

To increase your effectiveness with your remote workforce and beat the Remote Work Place Paradox, empathize, connect, engage in messy ways.  Effectiveness follows.

Can I be of assistance?  We’ll have an intimate zoom meeting.

Schedule some time with me

Complexity, Confusion, Uncertainty? Get Used To It.

Were you expecting these three things to settle down after the election?  Think again.  The complexity, confusion and uncertainty that has been weighing you down since March is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere. at least not for awhile.

If you want details on why, here’s a link to a McKinsey Study that will explain it all for you.  Me, I’m just a business coach who sorts out complexity and uncertainty for mid-market CEOs and Owners like you and knows we are seeing and experiencing those things like never before.  It’s driven by the pandemic, societal discord, and political unrest. And the election changes none of that.

Up until February, most of us have been operating comfortably at working towards achieving our full potentials, relatively unencumbered by the more basic needs of life. Now we are operating at all levels of need (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).  It’s different, it’s complex, it’s uncertain, it’s confusing.  It all adds up to higher levels of stress for everyone.  Certainly you, but also your customers, your staff, your partners and your families.

Do you want to make it easier for yourself?  “Empathy first, in all things, then solutions.”  That’s my paraphrase of Joey Coleman’s (Never Lose a Customer Again) advice I heard at the Gravitas Leadership Summit, hosted by Gravitas Impact, my coaching organization.

Certainly it starts there, but there’s a lot more to it.  Not enough to cover in this blog.  But it’s the first step in sorting out things for your people, customers and family.  And in sorting that out, you’ll be able to sort things out for yourself and your organization.

That’s a lot of sorting.

Sorting out complexity and uncertainty.  It’s what I’m good at.  It’s what I get excited about.  It’s what I do.  Should we have a conversation?


* Written prior to all the votes being counted from Tuesday’s election.  It’s still uncertain.

Some how, some way, we always make this harder than it has to be.

Lately, it seems to be part of the human condition, making things harder than they need to be.  Everywhere but especially in Customer Service or Customer Experience.  We’re all guilty of it, and often unknowingly.

Lately I’ve noticed that what driving this might be the lack of trust we have in others, the the fear that somehow we’ll be ‘screwed’ in the process of being geneous and kind to others, that someone will ‘take advantage’ of us and our generousity.  When we give into that fear, we put procedures in place to prevent getting screwed that end up screwing up so many other things, including our customer’s experience.

Recently I spoke with a friend, Paul Morris, who is also the CEO of Jack Morris Auto Glass, a company that delivers great service and great experiences when you get your windshield replaced.  I needed to get mine fixed.  I just wanted to find out what the best way to proceed was, bring the car in, or do it remotely; and to check in with Paul on how he’s doing with all this Covid driven isolation we are experiencing.

Paul told me a story about a recent call he recieved on his from a car dealer in Nashville, where they have shops.  The service attendent told him how a customer had walked in ordered an interior detailing job for her car, and that “Jack Morris” would be paying for it.  The attendent seemed to be concerned that the customer was trying to pull a fast one so he wanted to make sure Paul knew what was going on.  Paul immediately started giving him his credit card numbers to pay for it.  The attendant stopped him briefly, asking if he wanted to check his records to make sure he wasn’t being taken advantage of.

Paul responded, “If that’s what she said, we must have promised her we would do that.  We must have stained her upholstery when we changed out her windshield.  So please detail her car and charge my credit card.”

“Don’t you want to know her name?”    “Nope”

“I’ll call you when were finished to make sure you’re okay with it.”    “No, just detail her car, and bill my credit card”

“I’ll send you the reciept, okay”      “No need, I trust you’ll do a good job. Bill my credit card.”

Paul and everyone at Jack Morris have doing things this way since the sixties.  No procedures or policy to follow, except “Make it right for the customer, no matter what”   From the very beginning, first his father’s, then his brother’s, and now Paul’s personal phone number is on the bill and on the wall and door, asking everyone to call if something isn’t right.

Here’s the thing.  Paul rarely gets a call.  And when he does, he takes care of it exactly like the instance above.  And all of his staff does the same thing, long before anyone ever calls Paul.

“It’s really not that hard to make customers happy.  Everyone seems to make it hard than it is.”

Here’s the deal.  Paul and his team don’t worry about getting screwed by anyone.  It just doesn’t happen very often. They just take care of it.   Each customer, tells everyone about what happened. So customers keep rolling through their doors.  Other than the first couple of weeks of the pandemic, when no one knew which way was up, Jack Morris hasn’t missed a beat, and right now business is better than it was before.

Their formula is simple.  Keep it simple, make it easy, trust your employees, trust your customers.

One other thing, they don’t have an adverstising or marketing budget.  They don’t need one.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Adopting it for my coaching practice, and encouraging my clients to do the same.   And thinking about how to apply this elsewhere in society.

What are you thinking about this story? This idea that we make it harder than we have to by not trusting our customers?

And I got my windshield fixed.  Remotely.  Happy as a pig in mud.

Be A “Beta Tester” for School of Rock & Sand? It’s a good deal!

Greetings.  I’ve been building the School of Rock & Sand. It’s a bit of a pivot for me.  It’s a online strategy school, where students, right now, can enroll in three classes that will deepen their understanding of strategic thinking and execution planning.

I need “Beta-Testers” for one of the classes: The Rock & Sand Master Class.

  • It’s a deeper dive into the Rock & Sand Model, and all thing strategy, using both Video and Proven Tools.
  • It thoroughly explains every concept in Rock & Sand.  And It’s self paced.
  • It gives explicit intructions on what’s needed to facilitate each portion of the Model, complete with the tools to use with your team when facilitating.
  • It can be used with your team to facilitate your strategic planning process.  Or with a coach. Or by yourself so you fully understand the process and what it will produce for you.

Here’s why I need Beta Testers and what is in in for you.  

  • I’m only half way through with the class.  6 modules completed, 6-7 more to go.  I’ll be adding at least a module a week for the next 6 weeks.  Probably faster than that.  And I need feedback.
  • Because it’s in Beta Tester mode, the tuition for the class is only $195.95.  When it’s complete the tuition will be going up to $600.
  • You’ll be able to access the class with your teammates for a full year after you enroll.
  • When you use it, you’ll be able to create a better strategic plan than you could before.

Enroll as Beta Tester

There are two more classes available right now. More on the way.  

  • An Overview of the Rock & Sand Model  (for those who remember this was a PBS Special in Memphis)
  • Core Customers and Brand Promise: Connected at the Hip, Together They Define Your Strategy

Learn More Here

As you know, Annual Planning Season, is right around the corner.  You’ll want to be ready.

The Seven Stages of Growth: Which One Applies To You?

Summary of “The Seven Stages of Growth

  • 700 Successful Growth Companies Studied
  • Each company grew from 1 (founder)  to 150+ FTEs 
  • Different challenges  are faced at each unique stage of growth
  • What Stage are you and what challenges are you facing?  

It’s an interesting study, in that 700 successful mid market growth companies, not unsuccessful ones, were studied:  CEO/Founders were interviewed extensively about the challenges they had to overcome to grow from 1 person to 150+ and beyond.  The interviews identified 7 distinct stages of growth and the specific unique major challenges faced at each stage.

What I found both enlightening and confirming, is that the challenges are directly attributable to the complexity that is driven by the number of employees, not revenue levels.

The study was conducted by James Fisher of the Origin Institute and a matrix of the findings is available through Flashpoint LLC. at

The matrix of the Seven Stages of Growth will help you and your team determine the stage you are in, and the challenges you need to overcome to achieve sustainable growth.  The matrix also gives insights to the changing leadership focus and time allocations needed at each stage of growth.

The real value of the matrix is that it uncovers the blindspots holding your organization back, so you can address them.

Interested in talking about this?

Schedule a conversation with me ( and I’ll send you a copy of the matrix with you and walk you through how to use this and what you can do about what you learn from it.

Is the wisdom of Jim Collins relevant during Covid?

Of course it is.  Jim Collins is the emminent expert on both growth and failure to grow.  His four books, Built to Last, Good to Great, Why the Mighty Fall, and Great By Choice, are timeless.  They should be required reading for all entrepreneurs and business school students (which, sad to say, is rarely the case for either groups).  His research methologies are strong, the knowledge he’s compiled is both deep and wide, and the lessons apply almost universally.

My good friend and mentor, Ron Huntington, graciously sent me his notes this morning from a lengthy zoom session he attended yesterday.  Collins’ presentation about applying his findings to today’s environment.  As I read through Ron’s notes, a small smile spread across my face. It served to be a review of the foundations of what I have been teaching and facilating for my prospects and clients for years. I’ve been sharing the same, in different words mind you, during COVID-19 as my our world has changed.

It’s a shame that Jim Collins has lost a bit of his shine.  He’s questioned because a number of his “great” companies”  have not continued to succeed.  Yet he even explored that exact situation in Why The Mighty Fall, which looks at some of the failed companies and explains why.  But I digress.

At the end of the presentation, based on his research, he said to focus on these three things RIGHT NOW!

  1. People: Who are the Indispensable Members of our Team that we simply cannot afford to lose?
  2. Relationships: What are the indispensable Key Relationships we will need to nurture and preserve in order to get us to the Thrive Phase? What is their priority and impact in the march to Thrive? Who can best nurture and optimize the connection with each Key Relationship?
  3. What’s our BHAG? What is the Vision and Point of getting to Thrive for the Long-Term? What is the Vision worth struggling for in the long march ahead?

Sorting out the answers to the questions is difficult in normal times, more difficult now.  Get some help?

I’m offering some flex-fit Coaching these type of facilitations.  Flexible enough to fit remote facilitation. Fleixible to your timing and working style, Flexible to fit coronavirus cash flows.  Here’s a One Sheet that tells how we get started.

Discreet Discussion?

More to come on the rest of what I’ve learned.

Why “Adjacent” Pivots are best.

Adjacent is a strange word to use in business.  But for the pivots or moves you are making in this COVID driven recession, it’s really quite good.

From the Merriam Webster App–Adjacent:  (adjective) 1. not distant, nearby, 2. having a common endoint or border, 3 of two angles: having the the vertex and one side in common

Simplifying adjacent futher: it means something common between two items, maybe next to, maybe similar to.

As you are pivoting, short term or long term, as we all seem to be doing right now, your chances for success are increased significantly if you are exploring adjacent pivots.

Look at your customer base first:

  • What’s an adjacent offering you can make to your customers, that snugs up tightly to what you currently offer, that solves a problem for them.  Talk to your core customers and ask them what else they think you should be able to do well for them.  This might be the easiest adjacent move.
  • Are there adjacent customers, ones that look like your core customers but are different in some way: different industry, territory, channel, size, segment, etc. Can you shift your offering to these adjacent set of prospects

Look at your competencies and offerings:

  • Can your compentency, expertise, and capacities be shifted or applied to other offerings.  One of the obvious examples is how all the distilleries and now making hand sanitizer. Do you have a potentially adjacent competency that there is a market for with just a couple of changes to your processes and equipment and that you feel confident you can  master quickly?

The key to these adjacent moves is that you stay close to your existing culture and strengths when you pivot.  Not a complete 180 degree turn, that’s no where near what made you great in the first place.

Your pivots, or adjacent moves, will serve you best if you can remain as true as you can to your cores that got you here in the first place.

It’s not necessarily an easy task to figure out these adjacent moves, especially when you are under the pressure of this COVID driven recession.  So, taking my own advice, I’ve made an adjacent move that you should be interested in.  I’m calling it the Quick Pivot Planning Package a short term focused facilitation of what we just discussed above, flexible enough to fit our times and your cash flow challenges. Download it here. 

Give it a try?

Should you have a “Quick Pivot” Planning Session?

Unless you are one of the lucky ones who is enjoying an COVID induced “Immediate Growth Curve,” a “Quick Pivot” Planning Session is in order right now.  (I would argue that even if you are experiencing an “Immediate Growth Curve” you should do a Quick Pivot Planning Session because it is creating a fair amount of complexity, i.e., I just received an email from zoom this morning replying to a service request from back in April) .

Every thing is new, everything is uncertain, nothing is normal. We’re living in a COVID induced world of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) that isn’t going away.  You have resolved the safety issues of staying in business.  You have most likely shored up your cash flow practices.  It’s time to return to growth.  That’s going to take a planning session. That is if you want to respond rather than react.

What should a “Quick Pivot” planning session involve.  A SWOT, An agility assessment, a reset of the foundations of your business (your cores) and plan to find “adjacent” customers, build “adjacent” offerings, and create new relationship and build existing ones.

It should be pointing towards the end of the year, what’s going to happen in the next 6 months and what exactly are your going to do to get there.

It’s a short term execution plan based on short term strategic thinking.  Certainly you can DIY.  But do you have time? Do you need to lead it or be part of it?  When’s it going to happen?  Who should be involved?

Consider a COVID “Quick Pivot” Planning Package.  You assemble the team and the time, I’ll work you through a proven process that delivers results  Covid appropriate fees,  Facilitated remotely.

I recommend watching these two You Tube videos to help you understand the dyamics involved.

Let’s Talk

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Rock & Sand by Michael Synk is model, a book and a school that serve as “The Bridge Between Strategy and Action” enabling you to uncover opportunities and the means for acting on them, while creating the team alignment necessary for unleashing growth.