Slay the Sacred Cows

By Heather Baldwin

In his book A Whack on the Side of the Head (Warner Business, 1998), author Roger Von Oech talks about “sacred cows” – those rules that have been around for so long, no one questions or challenges them. In fact, they’re so ingrained, no one even thinks of them as rules. To make your meetings sizzle, start challenging the sacred cows, says Richard Hawk, director of Bridgeton, NJ-based Richard Hawk & Company and a motivational speaker who gives seminars on improving meeting and communication skills. Hawk suggests you start by slaying the following “cows:”

1. Location. Chances are, your meeting doesn’t need to be held in the conference room. Look around for some other interesting locations. How about a hallway? How about the outdoors? If your group is small enough, you can pile everyone in a van and go for a drive. “Driving stimulates creativity,” says Hawk. “You’ll come up with ideas you wouldn’t have thought of sitting in the board room. And with no seat at the head of the table, there’s more of a sense of equality and camaraderie.

2. Leadership. Are you the one responsible for holding the sales meeting each week? Pass the torch every once in awhile and assign one of your sales reps the job of organizing and chairing the meeting. It doesn’t have to be every week and it shouldn’t be the same person every time. Mix things up. Keep it interesting.

3. Refreshments. Let us guess – coffee and donuts on Monday mornings, right? The coffee may be a necessity, admits Hawk, but why not replace the donuts with ice cream or some other tasty treat now and then? Or even better, replace it with something healthy, like a fruit salad.

4. Timing. Speaking of Monday mornings, hold your meeting at different times each week, and avoid Mondays when you can. “Everyone feels the same on Monday mornings. Move the times around and you’ll get different levels of emotions,” says Hawk. Hawk’s favorite meeting day is Thursday. By then, he says, reps are into the routine of the week and their moods are up because they’re looking forward to the end of the week. But they’re still focused on all the work they need to accomplish by Friday afternoon. “People tell me they have to have their meetings on Monday mornings because it pumps them up for the rest of the week. Well if your sales meeting is so exciting that it does pump people up for the week, then don’t change it,” says Hawk. “But I’ve seen very few meetings that actually do that.”

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