In the corporate world you can drown in meetings. Estimates are, that if you’re a middle manager, you can spend about 35% of your time in meetings. If you’re in upper management, that goes up to 50%. S&OP meetings can be long meetings, as it requires time to review a company’s 24 months rolling forecast, its strategic intent and enterprise wide resource allocation. Running straight from another meeting in to an S&OP meeting will not help its effectiveness. Neither will running the S&OP meeting for hours without a break. In both cases, meeting attendants will start to lose focus, contribute less in discussions or zone out completely.
The opposite of zoning out is being mindful, being in the moment, concentrating on the task we’re doing and using our active part of the brain. When we’re mindful, we try to be in the present moment without any judgment. Although mindfulness is an old Buddhist practice, modern research now shows it is associated with health and well-being results like decreased stress, burnout and increased immunity.
Mindfulness has also been related to increased performance through improved short term memory and the ability to process information more quickly and accurately. When we’re mindful, we also become calmer and keep our emotions better under control. It increases our ability to 100% concentrate on a chosen object or a mental state.
By making mindfulness part of our S&OP meeting routine, we can increase meeting effectiveness through robust discussions whilst staying calm, better focus and concentration and taking decisions whilst having more accurate information top of mind. What follows are some simple tips to build mindfulness in your S&OP meeting routine.
Ask your meeting participants to be mentally prepared. No back to back meetings before the S&OP meeting. Suggest to use controlled distraction, a well- known focus technique, as preparation. Before the S&OP meeting, participants can remove distractions and disruptions to increase focus. They can empty their mind and prevent negative thoughts, listen to a song, count backwards from 200 by sevens, or do a micro meditation.
Start the meeting with a Mindful routine
Start your meeting with a mindful routine, like controlled breathing, a mind game, puzzle or origami. Use a physical exercise routine or listen with the group to music, a story or podcast with eyes closed. Discuss a piece of art, or draw art. Here you will find a collection of free coloring pages from different artists. My favorite? ‘Calm the F*ck Down‘. Switch off all phones and electronics. Gamify your routine to make it fun or connect it to a good cause to give it meaning.
Use an activation cue
An activation cue is the moment just before you have to perform at your best. There is no way back, you will be measured and held accountable for what happens next. You know it! You have to be mentally ready. Agree an activation cue with your participants like, ‘Game on’, or ‘Let’s go’. Rotate the activation cue amongst participants.
Use Micro Breaks
When focus slips, introduce a micro break. For just 60 seconds, ask participants to focus on their breath or on an item like a pen or watch. Let them try to identify every little detail of it. Intensely focusing on something specific in the environment blocks out our surroundings, clears our head of any thought and when we look up, the focus is back on where it needs to be; the meeting.
Manage the energetic state
Manage the energetic state of the meeting. Take sufficient breaks, consider a standing meeting or use a micro break for a ‘psych up’ technique like physical movement. Agree an intensity keyword that any participant can shout out when they feel energy levels are dropping.
Being mentally prepared for S&OP meetings and being mindful during the meeting will make more effective meetings with better decision making. Including these exercises and routines is also fun and increases trust amongst meeting participants. Last but not least, it reduces stress and increases mental well-being of your meeting participants.