The inside jacket cover to Dorie Clark’s latest book, The Long Game: How to be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World spoke to me: “Your personal goals need a long-term strategy.”

Amen! But how do you do that when society favors immediate gratification? Clark sums it up this way:

“We need to be nimble and adapt when circumstances change. But long-term thinking is what undergirds everything and enables us to make those adjustments. If all we do is bumble along, reacting to stimuli, we won’t be anywhere near our goals. But if, instead, we embrace long-term strategy and recognize that the path may change over time—that’s what maximizes our chances of success.”

While there is nothing in this book that is earth-shattering, it’s an excellent compendium and reminder of what to do if you aspire to something different. Specifically, Clark encourages the reader to:

  • Be picky and protect your time (my words, not hers). Four questions to help you determine whether something is worth doing: 1) What is the total time commitment? 2) What is the opportunity cost? 3) What’s the physical and emotional cost? 4) Would I feel bad in a year if I didn’t do this?
  • To be great at something, accept that you’ll be terrible at something else.
  • Optimize for interesting and follow your curiosity to discover what is meaningful to you.
  • Seek out development opportunities – investing 20% of your time to explore new areas.
  • Think in decades, not just a few months or even years out. Understand what it really takes to accomplish your goals so you can pace yourself and set realistic goals.
  • Use a heads-up and heads-down approach where at times you are seeking connections and exploring possibilities. Other times, you take time to focus and execute.
  • Consider the “Career Wave” journey of learning, creating, connecting, reaping – and always be learning.
  • Leverage your time, relationships, and desired lifestyle by asking key questions and intentionally shaping the life you want.
  • Leverage your network. Clark has lots of examples here about building and sustaining a network of trusted advisors.
  • Keep the faith! Watch for “raindrops” – small, intermittent signs of progress. It often takes years of consistent effort to reach your goal.
  • Obstacles are inevitable. Give yourself multiple chances to succeed (“at-bats”) and test out concepts in small ways before investing fully.
  • Get started in some small way. Consistent efforts over time and you’ll see your success build!

Finally, Clark suggests there are three habits of the mind worth cultivating on your journey as a long-term thinker:

1) Independence – staying true to yourself and your vision

2) Curiosity – by noticing what we find fascinating and where we spend our time, we can pick up clues about what lights us up

3) Resilience – it’s rare that anything works out the first time or in the way you envision it. So let’s try something else!


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Decisions, DecisionsThis activity works well to demonstrate the team process of making decisions – especially with new team members who don’t know each other well. An ideal team size is 3 to 5 people and the exercise requires about 20 minutes.

You will need the following materials:

  • Prepared 5.x7. index cards with the name of the city, length of stay, travel time and cost
  • Map of vacation destination and/or travel brochure

Start with a space large enough for groups to collaborate. Begin by painting a picture of your team traveling to an exotic destination (e.g., Italy). The challenge is that all team members must agree on the itinerary within the following constraints:

  • You only have ten days total.
  • You must arrive and depart from Rome (or other central destination).
  • The possibilities are described on the provided index cards (hand out the cards…noting the actual time at the location as well as the travel time to get there).
  • Total amount budgeted for travel and lodging is $5,000.

This will be their starting point. Indicate on each card the minimum amount of time that they must stay in whatever cities they choose and the travel time (in days) from the arrival point to the other cities. Determine how many days the vacation will last. Inform the team that it has ten minutes to decide how to spend its ten-day vacation.

Ask each team to share its travel itinerary.

Debrief and Summarize

After each team has shared the travel itineraries, debrief the activity:

  • Did the team have a consensus? If not, what kind of decisions were made
  • What worked well for the team?
  • What would have made the process work better?
  • Did the team “think out of the box?” (e.g., asking the facilitator if  they could take more travel time by traveling by a slower mode or if they could allow “fluid” time so that they could stay longer in a city than planned.)
  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • How might we apply these lessons to our team’s work?
  • How did your team make decisions?Decisions, Decisions



Inspired by Sally Holloway

If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!

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Microsoft’s annual study of workplace-productivity trends provides the latest, and one of the largest, measures of how people actually spend their workdays.  The researchers found that 25% of their most active users of its apps—in other words, people who use Microsoft’s business software for much of their online work activity—spent an average of 7.5 hours logging meetings.

That’s close to one full day a week in scheduled meetings.  A fifth or 20% of your time!  To make matters worse, Airgram reports that two-thirds of your meetings are considered to be unproductive!

You can increase your odds of having more productive meetings by:

  1. Upon receipt of the invitation, clarify the objective.  Do you even need to attend?
  2. Review the agenda prior to the meeting.  I have a client who says, “No agenda; no attenda!”
  3. Prepare for the meeting.  Review the prework materials, slides, reports etc.  The meeting should NOT be a presentation of the prework.  (Recap or summary is okay, but the point of the meeting is to have a discussion about the relevant topics, issues, concerns, etc.)
  4. Follow the agenda as published.  This part is a team sport – whether it is the leader, facilitator, timekeeper, or recorder, all should endeavor to keep the meeting on track to achieving the desired deliverables.
  5. Finish with a call to action.  Who is going to do what by when.

Follow these five strategies and you’ll see your meetings be much more productive!


Related Articles:

Focus Your Meetings by Recording Key Information

Manage Time During a Meeting with a Timekeeper

Team Kick-Off: How to Start a Meeting


The next time you go to your team meeting, take a few moments to observe the team functions and roles.  At any particular moment, someone is leading, taking notes, keeping on track and on time, as well as participating in the meeting.  Watch closely who is performing each function.   Continue reading

When facilitating a complex issue, I often find myself either drawing, introducing, or explaining a conceptual model to help sharpen the team’s thinking.

Let’s say the team is talking about their target customer.  The conversation may start with a bit of brainstorming and then the ideas categorize themselves.  The categories are then talked about in such a way as I hear terms such as “sweet spot,” or the “bullseye,” that’s when I’ll draw a rough version of a bullseye target and confirm (or deny) the categories.

Perhaps, during a conversation, they have settled on an “answer” and it seems that they need to think through the ramifications of their decision more thoroughly.  You can introduce a conceptual model to have a more robust discussion.  I like to use Kurt Lewin’s Force-Field Analysis where I draw this “T-chart” and the group determines the driving and restraining forces.

Finally, you might be observing a team dynamic and share a model to explain what you are observing.  For example, it is not uncommon for teams to embark on a new initiative with high hopes. Once they get into it, they realize it’s not as easy as they thought!  This would be a good time to share Bruce Tuckman’s model on the stages of team development:



I also show this corresponding productivity curve to assure them that what they are going through is normal and natural.  But they have to get through a few hurdles to achieve team success.

There are a bazillion models out there…many of them emanate from the trusty consultant’s two-by-two matrix (there is even a book with that name!)  My favorite matrix is this quick decision matrix that enables team members to discuss two variables of an item:

So next time you are facilitating a robust discussion, try drawing, introducing, or using a model to help shape the discussion.


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