Mind Your HiPPO

When JC Penny stock shot to nearly one billion dollars after hiring who was referred to as “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs,” the parade was all but booked on the corner of Money Street and Prosperity Avenue.

18 months later, after the failure of renowned business executive Ron Johnson, those same streets were barren,  littered only with the discount coupons they couldn’t even pay former patrons to use.

According to Business Insider, the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion,” or HiPPO is a plague that has affected many top corporations and moguls from Sears to former Clinton White House Aide, Jason Goldberg respectively.  This phenomenon is costing stockholders their investments and reserving a space in the unemployment line for an unsuspecting and once faithful and career driven employee pool.

HiPPO Beware

It is often suggested that the most successful entrepreneurs are those who surround themselves with more intelligent people.  Using this information, many major and upstart corporations looking for a boost in profit will seek out and highly compensate one of these individuals. With stacks of hundred dollar bills blocking their ear canals, the suggestions of others become unable to reach the HiPPO’s brain superiority.  

No one is listening, thereby allowing only one set of opinions are being heard.

Whilst surrounding oneself with more intelligent or knowledgeable people is a good start, being able to let their opinions flow and being willing to be challenged is vital for the best plan or decisions to emerge.

This humble leadership doesn’t just apply to the traditional role of the ‘leader’, it helps everyone whose perceived authority can unduly influence critical conversations.

Surround oneself with intelligent people is a good start, let their opinions flow is vital for the best decisions to emerge. Tweet this

Highly Intelligent Individuals DO Make Mistakes

The catalyst of failure for Johnson with JC Penny was determined to be something so simple and avoidable, it’s hard to fathom that it was even allowed to occur.

Forbes Online suggests that Johnson chose to follow his “gut” instead of proven focused group data in determining consumer preference. To state it simply, a multimillionaire believed that he better understood what a middle class patron wanted to purchase. In this case, the data was available, though it was ignored by a feeling.  Since JC Penny threw all of it’s “cents” into the pockets of Johnson, is it any wonder why when Johnson asked his subordinates if the plan was working, no one had the gumption to speak up?

Large Ripples The Of HiPPO Effect

The HiPPO effect creates ripples of intimidation as members in the board room learn to keep their mouths shut, eventually lose their voice, and become accustomed to the role of subservient rat to the Pied Piper.

Employees are disempowered, moral is destroyed, and accountability becomes a tale of folklore and mythology.

The goal of a company is reduced to the vision of one, and no matter how well that one is able to see, it could never compete with the strength in vision of a cohesive unit. Why have a board room or, better yet, a board, if the voices and opinions of those in and on it are irrelevant?

Hungry, Hungry, Not The HiPPO

Once a problem has been recognized, it must be confronted if it is to change.

This is often the most challenging proposition to implement and can largely determine the fate of an organization. Allow the opinions of the staff to be vocalized before those of the influencers, even if it requires a closed or silent voting session. Crowd voting has also become a popular method with the seemingly infinite resources of technology.

To diffuse the intimidation factor of the great HiPPO, these actions are imperative. Proper facilitation, idea implementation efficiency, and  restoring the voices of those who matter can bring the creativity and success back in the board room to which it belongs.

Originally published on Linkedin by Mike Sutton

 

A Giveaway for Business Folk

First of all, let me thank everyone who filled out the European Meeting Survey. If you don’t know about it, it’s meant to determine the present state of meetings in European businesses, much like some recent American equivalents. We’ve got almost 100 responses so far, but we need to take it up a notch.

Which is where you come in. Whether you’re in Europe or not, you can still help us AND qualify to win a prize! (I’ll explain how in a bit.)

pablo

Don’t speak English?
We didn’t forget you; we have  German, French, and Spanish versions.

Filled it out already?
If you left us your email, we’ll automatically include you in the draw.

By this point you’re probably wondering – what is the giveaway?

The giveaway is: an actual physical book, a handwritten note, and a surprise; sent to you in the mail. Don’t you just love getting things in the mail? 

At first we thought of choosing the book for you, but then we decided that the winner should pick it. To give you some ideas, you can check out the NY bestseller list for business and also some new/popular titles this year:

coolbooks

Want to enter? Follow the steps:

The more you do, the more you increase your chance of winning.

  1. To fill out the survey, go here.
  2. To email the survey, you can copy this.
  3. To share on twitter, click here. (Feel free to customize the tweet.)
  4. To let us know what you did, simply fill this out.

Did ya do it? Great! Thank you and good luck. 🙂

P.S. The end date for this giveaway is June 2nd. Any entries after that will not be considered  for the draw.

I’m the founder of Amazemeet and like most people who’ve worked in professional organisations for the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of that time in meetings. And they mostly sucked.

I’m on a mission to help people and organisations do meetings better.

Saved By Design: How The Meeting Canvas Was Born

I work with large companies.

By large I mean huge – most companies that hire me as a consultant usually have more than 10,000 employees scattered across the globe.

And they all hate meetings.

They hate organizing them and they hate attending them.

During meetings, they hate the lack of purpose, the lack of structure, the poor or non-existent moderation.

They hate that the wrong people are in the meetings – the people who can add the most value are often not present. They hate the endless circular conversations that achieve very little.

They hate that when decisions are made on some action to be taken, there is no follow up – no closure.

Great Conversations Don’t Just Happen

As a consultant Agile and organizational process coach – my professional life is spent helping people improve what they do. I have to be able to have great conversations with individuals and groups otherwise my job becomes almost futile.

After 15 years of consulting and thousands of meetings later, I have learned 2 fundamental truths.

All meetings are conversations but not all conversations are meetings.

Great conversations don’t just happen.

Facilitation is a necessary part of my work and I love it! To be able to help create the conditions for great conversations to happen feels like such a  fantastic privilege.

But how could I apply the years of experience and the my skills and process as a facilitator into something others could use?

“Help Us Have Better Meetings”

At an engagement recently, I was asked by a large multinational networking company to prepare and deliver a workshop on facilitating effective meetings .

I had delivered similar workshops in the past and I have always  tried to design a workshop that could impart my skills and meeting design process to the participates. With limited success.

On this occasion, I didn’t have very much time to put the workshop together and I worked well into the night to get it ready for the next day’s session.

Inspired By The Business Model Generation Canvas

Discovering the awesome Business Model Generation Canvas by Alex Osterwalder was an epiphany moment for my start-up journey. To be able to iterate on my business idea through some very reasonable questions and to be able to see the whole view all of the time was transformative.

Late on the Thursday night, fueled by what was left of a nice single malt, I mentally ‘walked’ through my design process for meetings that I facilitate. I extracted the key steps and identified how the entire process consisted of multiple sub-iterative activities. Then I reverse engineered my last meeting and checked why it was so successful.

At about 4:00am on Friday morning,  the Meeting Facilitator Canvas was born.

Workshop Tested By Frustrated Meeting Goers

As I put the final touches to the canvas and included the usage notes into my workshop slide deck I was a little nervous that my workshop participants – all battle hardened meeting goers – would simply tear this offering to shreds.  I was worried that they would see it as yet another overhead that they have to bear.

To my delight, the participants reworked some of their worst meeting experiences through the Canvas and found that most of them could have been vastly improved. Some of the meetings were even found to be unnecessary – by simply using the design process contained in the Canvas, a few of the meetings would never have actually needed to happen.

What I found really surprising was the willingness of the participants to accept that great conversations don’t just happen – that some time and effort has to go into facilitating them.

The participants were also full of feedback for things I might improve in the canvas – most of which went back into the design.

“Saved By Design”

A few weeks later, I shared the canvas privately with Simon – friend who works as an executive in a major financial institution and he really took to it.  He promised to use it at his next team meeting so I gave him the single usage sheet I was preparing and off he went.

A few days after his meeting we chatted again and he said their ‘meeting culture has been saved by design’ – that the canvas was a beautiful little design thinking tool that had given them a way to focus their conversation and they had one of the best meetings they had ever had.

I’m really pleased I created the Meeting Facilitator Canvas – if it helps only 1% of the people whose time is wasted by unnecessary and unproductive meetings, I would feel deeply satisfied.

Can It Save Your Meetings?

You have a choice right now.

You can choose to continue to complain about how meetings suck in your company or you can download the Meeting Facilitator Canvas and use it to cut down on unnecessary meetings and improve your the ones you need to have. If you don’t organize meetings, share it with those who do.

I’d love to hear from you when you start to use the Meeting Facilitator Canvas. It is free and open source – so adapt it, copy it and share it as much as you like.


Featured image by NASA Goddard Photo and Video .

I’m the founder of Amazemeet and like most people who’ve worked in professional organisations for the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of that time in meetings. And they mostly sucked.

I’m on a mission to help people and organisations do meetings better.