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I am a freelance Consultant to a number of different businesses and with holidays etc I am having to play catch up and working shedloads. Which I enjoy. And the other day was a day of ups and downs and headbanging frustration but a great rollercoaster ride nonetheless.

It started with reviewing materials on the computer – calm, quiet, introvert inspection. It moved to meeting to agree a position between three of us and was an enjoyable discussion and meeting of minds. It then moved on to the telecon from hell. Four of us on the line from the UK and half a dozen or so elsewhere. But obviously not all there at the start. No we have the usual revisiting of decisions already taken in the first 15 minutes, followed by a realisation that the key player isn’t actually on the phone so no decision can be taken.

But we all took a decision a few days ago, why can’t we stick with that? Nothing’s changed. Then someone else joins the call. And introduces a whole new, incoherent element to the proceedings. We discover this is actually someone very senior whose views we should listen to but I have got to the point of no return. I am trying to interrupt the ramblings but am not getting anywhere until he decides to draw breath. By which time I am seething with anger at what I see as lack of clarity and vision from someone so high up and that’s it. I’m on my feet and yelling in to the speakerphone. i am invoking company mission statements in a bid to get them to understand that what they are suggesting is unacceptable to their own company, not just me. I rail for a good minute. And there is complete silence at the other end.

It was a different silence to the one when you ask brightly”Does any one have any ideas?” and you can hear people shuffling, wriggling, metaphorically looking down at their feet. No, this silence was total. As if we’d been cut off. It was a void of shock and disbelief. I realised I had gone too far but it was too late. I felt my contract swinging in the breeze but felt vindicated by my righteousness. (Won’t feel so clever if I can’t pay the mortgage though!).

And then someone at the other end broke the ice and acknowledged that it was a blistering attack and I’d stung them in to silence. But then we moved on. To a degree. Until someone else joined the call and we had to start over. And then we moved on to the main reason for the call, Having used up half the time on a side issue. The person whose call it was was doing her best to retain control and in the end it came down to her apologising for “being brutal” but asking for an actual unequivocal yes or no from the two most senior people there. Everyone else had put their cards on the table, but at the end of the day, these two had to make the call. They are paid high salaries to make high level decisions. To be fair, one of them did step up to the plate and do it. But the other? He weasel-worded his agreement in such a way that it was clear he was only agreeing because everyone else was. Here he was, the most senior person on the call and yet presumably he had just floated in to that position, and has stayed there, resting on the shoulders of his subordinates. Leadership my arse.

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TCs. Another rant.

July 9, 2012

Yawning or yelling. TCs make me want to do both

Teleconferences (TCs)  seem to be ever more frequent in these days of ‘virtual’ teams. I am not sure it is actually possible to be a team if you never meet. Human eyeball to eyeball connection. It may be possible for two people to work well together without ever meeting, but that;’s a double act not a team. More than two and I fear it is a sham. However, they do make TCs ever more neccessary.

Pointless, rambling meetings get my goat, but teleconferences bad are probably even worse. They are rarely engaging or informative and are used when the subject is not considered important enough to insist on a face to face meeting. I know no one who has not ‘been on a TC’ when they are in fact doing their emails/having instant messaging conversations with others/going off to make a cup of tea. Yet at the end of the meeting the poor host can tick the ‘I informed them of XY and Z’ and cover their arse.

So I give you my

Top Ten Tips for Making TCs Productive (or Not)

  1. If you are the host, don’t dial in first. Let everyone waste a good 5 minutes with that irritating music to reduce their stress levels
  2. If you dial in late, do bore everyone with your elaborate excuse and  ask questions about what you have missed. Everyone will be eager to hear exactly the same thing over again
  3. If you are dialing in from a noisy, public area, do not mute your phone. It makes it fun for the participants to guess where you are by the background sounds.
  4. If you are using a headset, try to get the microphone as close to your nose as possible so everyone can hear your heavy breathing and constant sniffing.
  5. If you are asked a question directly, never admit you weren’t listening. Make up a crass excuse like the’ line went faint’, or you ‘didn’t catch the end of that’ or your ‘reception in this area is terrible’.
  6. If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, again don’t admit it, but simply state that you’d ‘be interested to hear Steve’s take on that’ or similar.
  7. If you are in a group TC, make derogatory gestures and pull faces when other participants are talking
  8.  Place any papers as close to the telephone as possible and shuffle through them as critical pieces of information are being relayed.
  9. Play bullshit bingo openly in a group TC and shout ‘House’ when you reach five of the pre-determined words.
  10. Never introduce yourself on a TC, especially if it is with a large group of people you barely know. It is fun for them to try and guess who that tosser mouthing off is.

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