zombieThis weekend marks the return of TV’s #1 scripted drama series on AMC, “The Walking Dead.” (Full disclosure:  I’ve never actually watched the program; whatever fortitude I had in my younger days that enabled me to watch things crawl out of people’s stomachs in the “Alien” movies is long gone.)

Besides the fact that Halloween is in October, why this topic? Because this is the time of year where many of my client companies are engaged in “look back, look forward” meetings:  Strategic planning, budget analysis and projection, priorities for the coming year, etc. all discussed and dissected by department, by cost center, by project and even by person as we anticipate performance reviews in a few months.

Have you seen people walking out of these meetings? It looks like the March of the Zombies! Glassy eyes, clammy complexions, stooped posture and a stiff rocking gait, all complemented by a robotic voice IF you can get them to respond.  It’s not their fault. In marathon meetings like this the energy gets sucked out of the room as leaders struggle with tough decisions about resource allocations (never enough to do everything on the “must have” list) within these market conditions (rarely ideal) in this economy (out of our control)…etc.  It’s an exhausting but necessary part of being in the leadership role. But remember: Leadership presence is 24/7. When your team sees you looking like the walking dead, will they feel inspired? Motivated? Maybe not…Here are some tips to help end the zombie parade and infuse a little life into the fourth quarter:

  1. During the marathon meetings, re-kindle the energy in the room by reminding others about the good things on the horizon, the powerful decisions already made, and the positive results from prior initiatives. Help your fellow leaders connect to the inspirational parts of the strategy and set the example of positive energy. To paraphrase Peter Block, you may not be able to change the culture of a company, but you can change the culture of a room.
  2. At the end of the meeting, re-energize yourself before you leave the conference room so that you don’t spread a sub-textual  message of “doom and gloom” as you walk down the hall. Pick up your head, take some deep breaths, make eye contact, reconnect with your vocal melody, and walk with purpose and energy.
  3. Between meetings, carry the torch. No, not the bad kind that the villagers use to drive away vampires! The good kind that shines through darkness and illuminates the way ahead. As a leader, your torch comes in the form of inspirational talks, formal or informal, that remind people of the vision or strategy and help them see their way forward. Use your insight to help them look back and look forward with vigor and clarity.