Successful Meetings Start with This

Over time, you’re going to notice a pattern with me.  Meetings are a hot topic for me.  I am a proponent of fewer meetings on the calendar, and my most viewed reel on Instagram is a picturesque landscape that simply says “This could have been an email”.  Despite my disdain for meetings, I have an extensive background in PMO, a group notorious for process and meetings and have facilitated my fair share of them. 

I will let you in on a secret.  I don’t hate meetings.  I hate poorly run meetings.

Meeting facilitation is an artform and I am sure I will be writing many more articles that break down what it takes to run a successful meeting.

Today I’ll focus on the center of the meeting: the agenda.  The secret here is, you will have two agendas.  The publicly facing agenda in the meeting invite and a second, secret agenda, just for yourself.  This second secret agenda is really just a glorified outline, but I much prefer calling it a secret agenda.  Makes any meeting more exciting.

The First Agenda

The agenda included in the meeting invite sets the stage for the attendees.  Why are you meeting?  What do you want to accomplish?  What are we going to talk about?  Why was I included in this thing?

I suggest drafting the agenda before you even set your attendee list.  What you want to achieve and what you plan to talk about should drive who is invited.  So often people go through the motions and add dozens of people that really aren’t all that relevant to a conversation.  Starting with your agenda can aid in cutting back in an extraneous invite list.

Your agenda at the highest level should have the following:

  • An objective:  What is the end goal for this meeting?  What problem are you solving, what mission does this meeting have? 

But Tracy, this is a reoccurring project status meeting, why would I even bother putting an objective on here? 

Even the humble status meeting has an objective and you should reiterate why you’re meeting.  Not every project deserves a recurring meeting.  Why is this project important?  Perhaps there is a date this project needs to hit that should be drilled into the memory of every team member working on it.  Emphasize that in the objective.

  • An Agenda:  Ok you got me, this is a bit redundant, but what I mean for this section is what topics (and in what order) do you plan to review?  If you’re having a hard time arriving at a set of topics, start by asking yourself questions that you would hope to resolve from this meeting, to achieve the above objective.  Write down all of your questions and then start to group those questions into sections, that will in turn become your agenda.

Hopefully after you notate your list of topics, the order will be apparent.  If it’s not, think about ordering them how they chronologically occur, or perhaps the topics that are highest priority first, to ensure they are covered.

Note:  Some meetings are status meetings for a program or list of projects.  While you might not need to list out all the projects in the agenda, the list should be accessible somewhere for your attendees to review and prepare for.  If it is this type of meeting you’re running, use the agenda section to document what topics each project should discuss when it is their turn.  This will prepare the attendees for the information they should come to the meeting prepared with (which fingers crossed, should result in a more productive meeting). Having a standardized set of talking points will also keep the call structured and ideally eliminate meandering tangents.  As the meeting facilitator it is your job to ensure the conversation sticks to the agenda of course.

Bonus Tip:  After you compile your agenda, note who in your organization is needed to contribute to each topic.  This list of individuals will become your mandatory attendees.  Following that, think through any backups to the mandatory attendees, people that need to be aware of the conversation, etc. This list will be your optional attendees.  Don’t bend over backward trying to find time that works for everyone, focus on your mandatory attendees.

The Second (Secret) Agenda

(or Outline if you refuse to indulge me)

This second artifact is a guide for yourself, an outline on how to facilitate the conversation.  You should start with the agenda in the meeting invite as a base and expand upon it in greater detail so you have all the pertinent information at your disposal.

Think through all the questions you asked yourself to build the agenda, place them throughout your outline as they are appropriate.  Who would you pose these questions to?  Include them in this outline so you know who to quickly pivot a question or topic to (and I am a proponent of pointing questions to specific people.  It doesn’t put them on the spot, it allows a conversation to move more efficiently so nobody is standing around twiddling their thumbs wondering if that question was for them).

Also include the last status detail in this outline so you can reference it as you segue from topic to topic.  Plenty of meetings are filled with people regurgitating the same bit of information every week, hoping nobody realizes that it’s just the same thing they said last time.  Beat these people to the punch and reference what was last said which you will have available in this outline so that you have a more productive conversation.

Notate if there are specific decisions that need to be made for each section as well.  This will help you ensure that conversation stays on topic and if a decision is achieved you can move onto the next.

Lastly, if there are a lot of topics that need to be covered, review your outline and divide out some estimated durations for each subject to fit within the allotted time.  While you can’t exactly predict how long a certain section should take to get through, you can make an educated guess and use that to determine if you need to move your meeting along to cover everything in the agenda.

Remember, meeting facilitation is an art form and the best way to improve is by running many meetings. Repetition will expose you to a variety of scenarios and train you on how to respond, pivot, and lead a successful conversation.


The Promotion Game; How to Justify a Climb up the Ladder

I wish promotions were doled out in an efficient and logical manner, automatically rewarding those that work hard and are truly deserving of moving up the ranks.  I wish all managers were well versed in career coaching and people management to properly get their employees where they need to be for success (sadly many are put into people management roles that are simply ill equipped for this responsibility, but that’s for another day).  Unfortunately, we are not in that reality.  For most, you will need to be your own advocate and justify the role you want as part of your overall career plan.

I’ve gathered some of the key elements that should go into an effective promotion pitch to your boss.  While none of this is a science, but this will certainly help you put your best foot forward.

I should also note that I am skipping the existential ennui of “what do I want to be?” and “what does my career path look like for me?” in this article.  There are many resources out there to aid you in finding your passion, and I am sure somewhere down the line I’ll walk through my own journey to that discovery.  All of my below points assume that you have arrived at a role/title that is in alignment with your trajectory and we will work from there.


Look around your company for equitable levels.  Do others have the title and role you’re going for?  Doing your best to not be a complete creeper, find out how many years of relevant work experience they have.  Try to objectively look at how they compose themselves at work and identify soft skills that they thrive at that you know you could work on.  I say tread lightly in this area, as you can quickly devolve into a jealous mentality, wondering why this person got where they are and you have not.  Look at it from an objective lens and know that this is to help you get to that level as well.

If there are no others at your company with the level you want, do some research online.  Find similar sized companies in your industry and look at job postings for the role you’re after.  Pay particular attention to years experience and skillset to see if you’re already there, or if perhaps you need more time.  I’ll caution that this isn’t to hold you back from still going for it, but it can be a neutral voice in assessing where you stand.


Incorporating quantifiable metrics in addition to soft skills and years of experience will make your case more objective.  Find a metric that you can consistently track over time to illustrate an increase in workload, productivity, revenue, profit, etc.  Procurement Specialist?  Track the number of POs you process. Technician?  Track the number of tickets you close.  Are you in Sales?  There are a wide array of metrics on your deals that are likely already being tracked and you should be able to pull from your company’s system as well.


Did you fix a broken process or implement a new one?  Keep track of that, and better yet, quantify what the improvement was (going forward, identify a metric ahead of the implementation to keep track of to illustrate improvements).  Does your new process save time? Money?  The more impact the better (obviously).

Beyond rolling out something, I encourage you to document your wins.  Did a project come in on time (or early)? On or under budget? Did you save the day on a tense situation with a customer?  No item too big or too small should be neglected in what you pull together.  Once you start approaching your meeting with your boss feel free to tailor the list down to some of the larger items, but keep that total running list, it’ll boost your confidence regardless.

The New Role

Outside of your prior accomplishments justifying a better title, what responsibilities would you take on in this position? Some companies are very liberal with title bumps and this definition isn’t necessary, but others do expect you to take on more if they promote you. Look through the above comps and pay close attention to the job descriptions. Are there elevated tasks you could add into your pitch that you will take responsibility for with this promotion? Note that.

Of course, perhaps you already went above and beyond and started taking on all these tasks ahead of a formal promotion. If that’s the case, be sure to indicate that and try to pull out the job description you were hired on to fulfill, showing that you have now surpassed the expected responsibilities of that position.

The Meeting

Give your boss at least a week’s notice that you’d like to discuss your career path at your company.  This gives them some time to think through their own thoughts, and, nothing is worse than being blindsided on this type of conversation.  If they are a great people manager invested in your success, they will come to this conversation with some thoughts to make it more meaningful.  That’s a big if though.

In all likelihood you will not have an answer immediately after this initial conversation.  There will probably be feedback on your performance and things you need to work on that will get you to the level you are asking for. 

Follow up after the conversation summarizing your conversation with a quick note.  This will probably freak out your boss, that you’re documenting this to get agreement in writing (which you are, lets be honest).  This is important though to stave off amnesia that your boss may have down the line on the conversation and be done from a passive perspective that should hopefully calm down an anxious manager.  Send over the documentation you put together as an attachment and indicate your follow up is to get them this detail.  At the same time, acknowledge any feedback they had on things you should focus on.



I appreciated our conversation earlier regarding my career path, specifically my interest in pursuing a [JOB TITLE] position.  I wanted to follow up and send over the supplemental details I referenced on the call regarding my work performance to date.

I also appreciated the feedback you provided and I plan to work on [INSERT ANY MANAGERIAL FEEDBACK PROVIDED FROM MEETING].



And there you go.  A simple email that can capture your conversation in a relatively non-confrontational way.

The Waiting Game

Companies are funny. They typically have a promotional cycle once or twice a year that most promotions wind up being lumped into.  Depending on the timing of your conversation it may be some time before the next round of budgeting, but hopefully your manager will give you some insight into what that process is and provide you some transparency.  I encourage you to continue your dialogue as you meet with your manager to get a status (or provide updates on what you’re working on), but I would not ask about it every week.  It gets incredibly depressing to keep asking and be told “no updates”.

As you wait, keep an eye on what’s going on with others in your organization.  Are there a lot of one-off promotions happening out of cycle?  Ask your boss about it.  I have been told numerous times that each one of these darlings were snowflakes that broke the promotion cycle mold and they absolutely needed to happen but the promotion you put in for needed to wait with the rest of the batch.  Those one-offs also likely happened at the result of an ultimatum (see my thoughts below on that subject).  Enough of those will likely break your spirit. 

I can’t tell you how long is the right amount of time to keep playing this waiting game (again, depending on the cycle it could be 6-12 months), but I can tell you that if your promotion is drawn out or continually delayed this is a red flag and you should contemplate looking elsewhere.   Good news though, you already have a set of metrics, process improvements, and accomplishments that can serve as the base of your updated resume.  Also hopefully the next company has a bit more of established career path and promotion from within policy.    

The Ultimatum

It will be tempting to throw a hail mary and threaten to leave if they don’t promote you.  This will likely get you the quickest results possible but to me it comes at a cost.  First, you will be the ultimatum guy (or person) to upper management.  They will look at you and remember that you forced their hand, held the productivity of the organization hostage with your threat of leaving.  That leaves a bad taste. You likely will not get promoted again after that, certainly not through another ultimatum.  At this point you have already indicated that you have looked elsewhere and have been on the brink of exit, which can only lead to trust issues at that point.

Beyond just management, your co-workers will know because there’s nothing employees love more than office gossip.  Some may laud your courage; others will resent you for it.  There are people across the organization in your same situation, trying to justify their promotions through their prior work performance and career aspirations.  I can assure you that they are likely awaiting the next promotion round and being advised that there are no off cycle promotions, only to see someone else get it through this hostage situation.

I’ll wrap this up by saying, if you are at the point where you are comfortable threatening your management with an exit if you don’t get promoted, it’s likely time to exit. 

How to Tame the “Sunday Scaries”

The “Sunday Scaries” has cemented its presence on social media, representing the existential dread of the impending work week.  While this dread has been around since we’ve had a five day work week, it has propelled itself into prominence in the last few years.

I waded through Urban Dictionary to understand it better.  The leading definition starts as, “The feeling you have after a long week of work followed by a Saturday of binge drinking, when Sunday hits you question your existence.  Typically characterized by laying in bed all day and both regretting your past decisions and questioning your non-existent future”.  Wow, a lot darker than what I remembered when I first envisioned writing this article, but ah well. My process should help out at least a portion of that dread.  Not the binge-drinking anxiety, but certainly any concerns about your job in the next week.

Friday Afternoon

My routine starts on Friday afternoon.  I know.  Everyone wants to shut down and get the hell out of dodge and start the above referenced binge drinking that will make you leave your debit card in the 3rd bar on your weekend route.  However, if you take 15 minutes before closing up for the day, I promise it can make all the difference.

For 15 minutes I review the next week and I map out the following “3 and 3”:

  • My top 3 priorities for the next week
  • My first 3 hours of work on Monday

For my top 3 priorities I think about what deadlines or big meetings I have coming up, along with their impacts. These could be specific artifacts I need to develop, or even a core responsibility in my job function (maintaining a request queue, etc). I list out whatever I decide requires my focus in the next week to ensure I’m staying on top of my workload. This could even be a deliverable that isn’t due that week, but I know it’s going to require a considerable amount of time to get done.

Here’s what an example of my top 3 priorities for the next week look like:

After drafting up my priorities I start to get a sense what I want to work on and frame up how my Monday morning will look. I’m realistic in the first 30 minutes, knowing that there could be some items that come up that I need to flag and address. I get a sense for any meetings I may need to prep for on Monday, as well as contemplating when I can fit in some work on some of my top priorities outlined above.

A sample of my mapping out my first 3 hours for this coming Monday:

Alright, Friday afternoon prep is done, go forth to the weekend!

Sunday Evening

Alright, Sunday rolls around, your nerves are slightly eased from your Friday planning but there is more to be done to put you at ease.  Yep, there you are, laying in your bed subsisting on Cheetos or that DoorDash delivery you army crawled to get from your front door earlier in the day.  This next part requires some form of effort. You can do it. You may even be able to do it from your bed, depending on what your Monday looks like.

Think about your Monday that you’ve mapped out already and the logistics around the day.  Are you commuting?  Are you working from home?  Visualize what your morning routine will look like surrounding those first three hours and build a quick game plan for yourself.  Are you in the office and need to bring a lunch?  Venture to r/MealPrepSunday and get some inspo and throw something together this evening.  That action could even quell some of that anxiety, plus future you will be forever grateful.  Or you short cut it and accept that you’ll be ordering out for your Monday lunch, you’ll get them next time…sure…

This visualizing your Monday morning step can be as simple or complicated as you need, but I do take a few minutes to pull a plan together to really visualize my actions Monday morning to be successful.

In my scenario I’m working from home on Monday, but I have a lot of meetings throughout the day and may not get too much time outside.

Sunday night, my only activity is to set my alarm for 7am. This is a realistic time that I won’t snooze but will still allow me time to transition into the work day and take some time on the supporting tasks I map out below:

The above exercises utilize the power of planning and visualization. The future doesn’t have to be an unknown abyss, an unknown that allows my mind to wander through various existential crises. I’ve established what my priorities are for the week, I’ve mapped out my first few hours on Monday, and I’ve even reviewed those first few hours and planned what I’m going to do to support myself in the morning.

The “Sunday Scaries” don’t have to be a part of your weekly routine. They can be reduced considerably through simple planning, by establishing a game plan of what your future will look like. Start small, start with just one of the above elements, anything will make a powerful difference not just on your Sunday evening, but throughout the week.