Renowned meetings coach Cameron Herold graciously picks up the phone when an apologetic reporter calls five minutes past a scheduled appointment. The circumstance allows Herold to launch into one of his talking points.
“When you tell people, ‘Sorry I’m late,’ you are really saying, ‘I’m selfish; I’m disrespectful and I didn’t plan for anyone else except me,” he explains.
Herold, founder of the COO Alliance, is not trying to be rude, but it’s not exactly a gentle joke either. Time management, he says, is one of the culprits of why many people dread meetings.
Herold would know. He wrote the book on that subject. “Meetings Suck” explores common mistakes planners make. Those errors lead to attendee dissatisfaction and generally nonproductive gatherings.
“Meetings are awesome if you know how to run them,” he says.
Tech companies, Middle Eastern monarchies and the second in command at Sprint have all hired Herold to mend their ways. In some respects, he is like a Little League coach stressing the importance of practice.
“If you don’t know how to hit or throw a ball, you’re not going to like baseball,” he says. “But once you get the knack, you can be an all-star.” The catch is you may have to unlearn some bad habits, like the ones below.
“I call it the Kumbaya group hug,” Herold says of asking too many people to sit in on a meeting. Don’t be afraid to leave someone out. If you question their importance to the meeting, they probably don’t need or want to be there anyway. You won’t hurt the person’s feelings and, in reality, the employee is able to be more productive focusing on tasks at hand. “It starts to streamline the meeting and saves the company tons of money because you don’t have a bunch of people sitting in room they shouldn’t be in,” he says.
Back-to-back meetings can be grueling to attendees. They also often result in scheduled meetings starting late—and we already know what Herold thinks of tardiness. While you may not be able to avoid multiple meetings in one morning or afternoon, there is a solution. Herold suggests giving yourself a buffer. “I finish every phone call and meeting five minutes early,” he says.
Herold goes to the extreme by setting a timer during meetings to end earlier than scheduled. When in a keynote capacity (he’s spoken in 28 different countries), Herold, a veteran of Ted Talks, is more generous. He tells the audience that if there’s a 15-minute break, he will set the alarm for one minute prior to the scheduled start time. But rest assured: He won’t start late.
A CEO’s job is to be a leader. As the face of the brand, the CEO can’t be negative in public. The COO is meant to keep the engine running, even if it means ruffling a few feathers. Make the second in command the meeting moderator and allow the CEO to shine, suggests Herold.
Naturally, Herold advocates for face-to-face discussions. But when that’s not possible, he strongly pushes for video conferencing instead of email. While everything is in writing via email, humor or emphasis on certain words is easily lost. Plus, it’s easy to misread a sentence. Take the case when Herold thought he was joining a conference call early but was actually half an hour late. Did he apologize? “I should have,” he admits, laughing at the irony.