Friday, 27 February 2015

Meeting etiquette - online / phone meetings

As a follow up to my Beginner’s guide to meeting etiquette blog, Stuart Rance asked for thoughts on online / phone meetings.

We don't want meetings like this, do we?

So, where to start?  Well, again in no particular order :

  • If you are arranging the meeting send everybody the correct method to connect to the meeting.  Check that it works before sending it. Preferably send it in a meeting invitation and not in a separate email. That will get lost.
  • If you are sending out details for a phone conference ensure you have sent out the attendees code and not the chair’s. Likewise, make sure you have the chair’s code otherwise the meeting goes nowhere.
  • *Addition 4/2/16 - Mark Smalley suggests a good chair in this blog

  • Check that you have the means to use the methods provided, as soon as you receive them.  It is frustrating for all, to have attendees turning up at random periods after the start time because their phone / tablet / laptop / computer couldn’t use the appropriate technology for the meeting.
  • If you are attending a phone conference, have the attendee’s code recorded outside of your calendar. Otherwise you will find it very difficult to find it, copy it and type it in to your phone if you are doing it all on your mobile.
  • Say your name, if requested, when you join the call. That reduces the continual “Who just joined” / “Have we lost someone or has someone joined” / “Is Bob here?” discussions that take over the first 10 minutes of any conference call.

  • I think it would be fair to say that standard meeting rules apply, as it doesn’t really matter what forum the meeting is in, it is still a meeting.  However, turning off electronic devices may be difficult due to the way you access these meetings. You should however, not carry out other work in the background.  Your lack of attention WILL be found out.
  • If the meeting involves webcams, try to sit where there will be the least amount of distraction behind you.
  • Turn up a few minutes early. Test your connection. Have everything ready so that at the agreed time, the meeting can start.
  • Mute your phone / microphone when you are not talking.  Other people do not want to hear your background noise, whether it is builders,children, animals, emergency services sirens, office chatter or anything else.
  • Ideally have the meeting in a separate room, whether a meeting room at work, or a quiet room away from distractions at home. Unless you know your co-attendees very well, they probably don’t want to be part of your family during a meeting.

Other than all of that, online / phone meetings can be a great and efficient use of everybody’s time and can reduce cost.  Make good use of them and enjoy any free time it creates for you.

Let me know what else should be part of meeting etiquette. Let's change this meeting filled world!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Beginner's guide to meeting etiquette

Ah! Meetings. Whether we love them or hate them, we all have to attend them. So why do so many people get it so wrong? 

A tweet from Kirstie Magowan, which in turn referenced an article written a year ago by Greg Savage called  No, you are not ‘running late’, you are rude and selfish, got me thinking about how few people understand or consider meeting etiquette.  Having to then cancel a meeting with somebody today, I thought I would share my thoughts with the hope of gathering your feedback and compiling a definitive set of meeting etiquette rules.

In no particular order:

  • Don’t be late.  If you have accepted a meeting request for a certain time, then it is expected that you will be there at that time. The other attendees of meetings have made the effort to get there at the agreed time, so why shouldn’t you?
  • Don’t over commit.  If you are planning to be in another meeting, another location or believe that something will delay you getting to a meeting on time, suggest a different time. If that isn’t possible, then set expectations that you may be a few minutes late. People would rather know beforehand, instead of hanging around wondering where you are.
  • Be prepared.  If the meeting invitation asked you to have read something, or brought something, do it. Turning up to a meeting to discuss an item and reading it during the meeting is a waste of everybody's time.
  • Turn off electronic devices.  Unless you have a particular reason (note taking, expecting an update on a major issue, etc.) turn off your phone, tablet or laptop. Sitting in a meeting playing with your phone, or typing (click, click, click) on a laptop to catch up on emails is rude. It demonstrates a lack of professionalism and creates the impression that this meeting is not important to you.
  • Don’t talk over other people.  Meetings should not be a shouting match where people are being ignored or shouted down, but a place where discussions are held in a mature manner, and decisions reached.
  • Have an agenda.  If you can’t write down the purpose of the meeting and what you expect to achieve from the meeting, then what is the point of having it?
  • Don’t leave early. This is generally done by those individuals who turn up late.  You aren’t important enough to warrant them arriving on time and spending the requested time with you, obviously.  These people are the ones who live for back to back meetings as it makes them feel important. If they do it more than once, stop inviting them. Ask someone else from their team to attend and if they can’t make decisions, they can certainly take actions to get the required information together.
  • If you have said you will be there, be there.  Unless you have died on the morning of the meeting, there is no reason for you to not attend a meeting to which you have been invited, and you have accepted. If you really can’t make it, send somebody to represent you. There is almost nothing worse than driving for several hours to go to a meeting only to find out that nobody else turned up.
  • Be considerate.  I could have started with this one, as it sums up the others, but I think it needs saying separately and here.  If you can’t adhere to the points above, then you are inconsiderate and rude.  Don’t be surprised if people stop talking to you.

What have I missed out? What should be included? Let me know your thoughts and let’s see if we can change the world, bit by bit.

Monday, 23 February 2015

How to survive an audit

Image result for audit icon

I'm currently putting myself through training on ISO20000 which is the international standard for IT Service Management and am learning about the audit requirements. 

Reading through the types of audit and the steps that should be undertaken reminded me of something an old boss (old as in previous, not ancient) taught me when we were about to be audited for ISO9000 re-certification. It stuck in my head and so I thought I would share it with you in the hope that it helps you with your next audit.

Why do we get audited?

  • Legal requirement
  • To ensure best practice
  • To achieve certification
  • A client requirement
  • To ensure that documented procedures are being followed
  • Industry requirement

Image result for preparation


  • Agree what the audit will cover (scope) and when it will be
  • Agree who will work with the auditor within your team / organization
  • Make sure they understand the scope and what needs to be ready for the auditor
  • Ensure everything is ready on the first day of the audit
  • Ensure everything has been recently reviewed
  • Allow those involved in the audit time in their day to prepare
  • Ensure the auditor knows exactly where to go on the day; you don't want a stressed auditor

The audit

  • Take the auditor to a pre-booked room that is big enough for their needs
  • Provide refreshments if possible
  • Show them where the facilities are and advise of fire exits / fire drills etc
  • Allow the auditors to run the timetable
  • Only cover the items agreed in the scope
  • Relax - an audit is a chance to improve the way you operate and not a criticism

Post Audit

Image result for reports
  • Listen to the auditors feedback at the exit meeting
  • Don't comment unless something is obviously wrong or misunderstood
  • Agree a date / time when you will receive the draft report
  • Agree what needs to be sent to the auditors and by when
  • Don't argue. Note areas of disagreement.

Audit Reports

  • Arrange a meeting to review the report with those involved and relevant senior management
  • Ensure you agree with the findings or document what and why you don't
  • Prepare responses and time-frames to resolve actions
  • Assign each action to an owner
  • Agree priorities.
  • If the auditors require regular progress updates, agree with the owners when they will be provided; follow up with the owners
  • Document progress
  • Close issues as they are completed, but check first.
  • Stick to the plan


Image result for do and don'ts
  • be confrontational
  • look at the audit as a way to get things done that you have been requesting for years
  • tell the auditor too much
  • commit to resolve things in time-frames that are unrealistic.


  • prepare
  • look after the auditor
  • stay focussed on the scope of the audit
  • provide any additional information required by the auditor
  • put in place a plan to resolve issues raised
  • stick to the plan
  • highlight anything that will stop you achieving your actions time-frames.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Make life easier for your customers

I pay a membership fee to a certain international hotel group, so that I get preferential rates, upgrades, etc. You know the deal. I'm sure that if you travel a fair bit for business, then you are a member of something similar. When you join or renew, they provide you with a free night in any hotel. Great deal.  They also provide you with points, which you can redeem as vouchers to pay for accommodation.
Now, I have tried to book two rooms, for two nights, so that we can be tourists in a lovely part of this great country, en famille. I contacted the hotel I wanted to stay at and they were more than helpful. They could provide us with the exact rooms I wanted, at a good rate. Unfortunately, the hotel are unable to provide the booking for the freebie over the phone.  I have to do that on line.  This is where it falls apart. To reclaim the vouchers, I have to decide if I want to reclaim them in USD or EUR.  I'm in New Zealand, so am not interested in these currencies.  I considered it would be easier to contact the freephone number and book it all over the phone, because I wanted to make sure I knew how many vouchers I would need, and how much it would cover.  The helpful young lady overseas advised that I couldn't use both on the same booking but changed her mind after I requested to speak to a manager.  Trying to complete the booking got very complicated due to language differences, so I will try again tomorrow.
Now I am not here to tell you that any particular French hotel group is wrong or right in the way that they operate, but this seems like a prime example of how companies can get customer service wrong.
If you are going to offer special deals and freebies to paying customers, then it should be easy for them to reclaim them. I spent 20 minutes talking to people before I lost the will to continue. I shall try again tomorrow.  However why should I need to go through this? Why not offer the customer a simple way for them to reclaim the offers? Why not allow the front desk the ability to take a booking and the computer system handle the promotional codes.
The trouble is, I have seen this type of thing on too many Service Desks as well. You want a new piece of software?  You go to the Service Desk and ask them. I have seen Service Desks where they use tools to provide a Request Catalogue, and work flow the request to all parties concerned. This makes life easier for the customer / user.  However I have seen situations where the customer / user is passed from pillar to post and left bemused and frustrated.
How do we get this right? This will sound easier than it is. Bear with me.
Firstly, it is about understanding what your customer (I use the term for ease, instead of customer / user - I know it annoys some skeptics, and I wouldn't want to do that). If you know what they want, you can try to  provide them with a simple or easy way to achieve that.
Next, understand what you can or cannot deliver. What are the services that you provide? What do you rely of others to provide? Where are the lines of delineation? Do you need OLAs (Operational Level Agreements)? I would recommend against them, as it creates a non-team spirited approach.
Make sure you have a simple way of passing information between dealing groups. Once you understand how you will do it, by all means use a tool if it is justified. Please don't jump at the first big-named tool you see because you have read good things about it. Work out whether it will deliver what YOU want and need. There are many very good ones out there that cost very little.
Once you have this worked out, understand how you can measure whether what you deliver is actually delivering what the customer wants.  And the cycle continues.
So why does it seem so hard in areas and industries whom we are supposed to look up to?

Monday, 2 February 2015

Quality in the workplace

Is it me?
Not so long ago I came home to a notice from daughter number 2's school.  The school was planning a beach trip to participate in an "Education Outside The Classroom" programme. We are, of course, expected to pay for this, on top of the "voluntary donation" that we are expected to pay each year. That isn't my issue. What I am concerned with, is the fact that one sentence says: " Chidlren will be carry their own packed morning tea...." Chidlren??? They "will be carry " will they?
So this is by the people who are paid to educate our children? What steps are put in place to perform quality checks on the work that the educators perform? By the look of this note, and some of the notices / posters around the place, none.
So, Is it me? (I fully expect that I have misspelled words or even made grammatical errors, so no chocolate fish for spotting them)
However, what quality checks do we put in place within our workplace?  Do we check that the communications we send out are accurate and timely?  Do we check the quality of the builds we do when handing over a new PC to a customer, or a new server?  How many changes fail due to errors - do you know or measure it?
There are many quality checks that we ought to be making on a daily basis, but don't.  The time has come to start to improve in this area.
Checklists are essential, yet so often overlooked, because we are so busy. +Rob England has made a good start with his Basic Service Management site which I recommend, but I would recommend you to think, write and review your own as well, to make sure that you check your own and your team's work.  
Remember, it's all about perception.

Sunday, 1 February 2015


CommunicationCommunication. Essential when keeping customers updated and informed and also for gathering feedback. It's a two-way thing.

During a normal day's work, keeping that communication flow going is relatively simple. Talking to people, whether formally or over a coffee, is what we do. Giving information is part of life and work too. No biggy.
However the time that you really have to focus on it because it is easy to forget, is when you are busy. If all around you is melting, and you feel that everyone and everything is on-top of you, communicating properly can slip off the desk so easily.
How do you get round this?
The simplest method to ensure that you do what you are supposed to do, and when, is to have a checklist on your desk, or stuck to your wall, but in sight at all times. Then, when the world turns to custard, you know what you are supposed to be doing.
It can be so easy as a Service Desk co-ordinator to get side tracked and forget to call back a customer when you said you would. You don't always need technology to help with this - write a sticky note and put it where you will see it. This may be your screen, telephone handset or your coffee cup. If it's important, leave yourself a few.  You might feel daft, but you won't be letting down your customer.  If you are an SDM / BRM / Major Incident Manager / Somebody who is responsible for updating stakeholders during major incidents, make sure you have a checklist right in front of your eyes at all times, so that you know who you need to update and how often.  They will thank you for updates saying "It's still being worked on, further updates will be provided in 30 minutes" but get really annoyed if nothing comes out, even if you have nothing.
So just have a clear, clean sheet of paper stuck to your desk, or somewhere you can always see it and use it.  It might just make your work life easier.