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How to Hold Shorter and More Effective Meetings, Plus Other Tips for March

And here’s why too much eye contact may be a bad thing for certain customers.

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managementShrink Your Meetings

It’s estimated American workers attend 55 million meetings each day. And most of these meetings run for an hour. Why? Because that’s what the Outlook scheduling tool dictates. It’s an illogicality made worse by Parkinson’s Law, which says that work expands to fill whatever time is allotted to it, so a meeting that’s scheduled for an hour will, sure enough, consume one hour. But you can also use that adage to your advantage, says Steven Rogelberg, a professor of organizational science at UNC Charlotte and author of The Surprising Science Of Meetings. “Schedule a meeting for 48 minutes, for example, and then it will take 48 minutes,” he says, urging bosses to be purposeful in thinking about how long the meeting should be and then dialing it back a bit to create some time pressure, “Research shows that teams perform more optimally under some levels of pressure,” he says.

Saving MoneyLittle Changes Mean Big Savings

According to the National Retail Federation’s online blog, Walmart recently reported it would save $20 million a year just by changing its floor wax to a cheaper and sturdier version, meaning its floors would need to be buffed less often. $20 million is peanuts for Walmart and floor wax is pretty boring, but as the blog noted, simple savings can add up. As the blog advised, “It might be time to dig deeply into the ho-hum products you use to see if savings or innovations are available.”

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SalesGo Easy on the Eyes

One of the things that every new salesperson is taught is to look the customer in the eyes. But, it’s easy to overdo it, especially for people of a more reserved nature. “One of the ways you can spot an introvert is if you stare them right in the eyes. Introverts will often feel like they’re staring into the sun and be like OK, I need a backup here and reset a little bit, whereas extroverts tend to find eye contact much more energizing and the intensity is not the same for them,” says Wharton psychologist Adam Grant. If rapport is your goal, it helps to be “very mindful of those kinds of preferences,” he says.

Problem SolvingRescued By a Rubber Duck

When faced with a seemingly intractable problem, have you ever called up a friend or family member to seek help, and as you were explaining the issue, had the solution come to you before your confidante could utter a word? This phenomenon is well known enough among software engineers that it has its own name: “rubber duck debugging.” It was inspired by a story in the book The Pragmatic Programmer about a software coder who would carry around such a bath toy. When confronted with a line of buggy code, he would pull out his yellow friend and explain line-by-line what wasn’t working, and in doing so often find the solution. According to Wikipedia, it works with just about any inanimate object, or even a pet cat or dog. So now you no longer need to bug your friends at 11 p.m.

ManagementSome Friendly Advice

Jobs are meant to be about money, status, and purpose. Right? Yes, but don’t overlook friendship, says economist and author Noreena Hertz. In her recently published book, The Lonely Century, she says “the single biggest determinant as to whether someone is productive is whether they have a friend at work.” You can’t force your employees to be friends, but you can make a concerted effort to acknowledge each staff member on a daily basis so they don’t feel left out or ignored.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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