A meeting is a like a party. If you don't plan it carefully you’ll look incompetent and end up embarrassed. Forethought is necessary. You wouldn't invite three ex-boyfriends to a game of Twister with your mom, and you wouldn't plan a costume party without letting people know the theme in advance. While you might not have ex-boyfriends or a good costume, most offices always have individuals who love to undermine leaders in meetings.

Having no agenda is the first sign your meeting will be a time-suck. . Most people who skip writing an agenda have no idea what they want to accomplish during their meeting. They don’t know this, though.

They begin the meeting thinking they know the goal — for example, to get a project back on track. But they’re wrong. The real goal is to bring team members together to create a plan to get the project moving. Without an agenda, someone else will create the plan during the meeting, and you’ll end up seeming weak and helpless.

Most people know they should always have a meeting agenda, but for unfathomable reasons, they assume their meetings are the exception to this rule. Even if you think your meeting is an exception, write an agenda. There is no downside for you in doing this. Every meeting gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you’re a visionary. But if you aren’t in charge of what happens during the sit-down, how can you ensure that you’ll look good?

Other people don't write agendas because their meetings are routine and predictable. Everyone who attends could write the agenda themselves. In this case, why have the meeting? Then you’re knowingly scheduling a time-suck. You’ve probably worked for a company where managers hold Monday-morning meetings to hear their staffers say what they did the previous week. A competent manager would ask for a weekly report, then distribute a weekly summary instead. Think daily listserv vs. digest. A digest would alleviate another boring meeting, or it would open up the Monday meeting for more substantive issues.

Still not convinced that your weekly meeting is useless? Perhaps you think an agenda-less meeting where everyone reports their progress will make a certain slacker in your group get the point. Forget it: Do your job and handle the slacker on your own instead of making your staff suffer through a meeting.

The downside of preparing agendas is they may get attacked. This happens when attendees get the agenda at the start of the meeting. The meeting can then degenerate into group-level agenda attacks, which then can degenerate into group-level personal attacks and a sidetracked meeting. Nip this in the bud by emailing the agenda in a note to participants a day in advance (don’t send your agenda as an attachment because no one will read it). By giving attendees a chance to review the agenda, attackees will likely approach you individually, and you’ll have time to make revisions. (Here's a tip for procrastinators: Write your agenda before you call your meeting. This way you'll know whether in fact you need the meeting before you schedule it.)

Even after writing a strong agenda, some meeting leaders feel their sit-downs will be unsuccessful. The solution isn’t ordering food for participants. If you need food to have a successful meeting, cancel the meeting. Otherwise, food will make your meeting last longer than necessary — again, a time-suck. . There's nothing like the inevitable crash from a a mass sugar high — just when you need to develop the big plan.

Still not writing that agenda? Let’s return to the party theme: The best part of a party is the after-party when you discuss everyone who attended and what they wore and said. In fact, I never feel a party has really happened until I've done a debriefing. The same is true for meetings. People will debrief and dis each other behind their backs after the meeting — nothing you can do about that. But you can ensure they're only dissing you for what you wore and not what you said by maintaining control with an agenda.

Some recruiters say that as many as one in five job hunters lies on their resume.
Why isn’t this news plastered on the front page of The Wall Street Journal? Quite frankly, it’s because we all know businesspeople lie – the issue is how bad are the lies?

Some people make a distinction between the falsehoods that put us in a better light – even if it’s a light we don’t deserve to be in – and saying something that’s totally untrue. The latter, even on a resume, is morally wrong and emotionally exhausting. Not only do you have to remember the lie but you also have to live with knowing you built your career on it. Even more difficult is the stress of waiting to be caught.

Exhibit A is Ronald Zarella, the CEO of Bausch and Lomb. He was caught saying he had finished business school when he hadn’t. He did not get fired, though. While he volunteered to resign, the board kept him on, presumably because the other directors had told a lie or two in their lifetimes.

Clearly, as Mr. Zarella’s case indicates, not all lies are equal on resumes. To determine the varying degrees of lying terribleness, context matters. For example, murdering 50 people and then saying in court that you never killed anyone is a very bad lie. On the other hand, it’s pretty innocuous when married partners tell each other that they just had great sex when it wasn’t that great.

What should you do if you lied to get your job? If you’re a career veteran, plan to go straight. You’ll need to undo the lies you’ve told over the years to get jobs or promotions. However, don’t be quick to make a public confession that could kill your career.

First, determine if the lie is considered “bad”. Sometimes, this is pretty easy. For instance, who cares if a metal welder said he graduated from college when he didn’t? But a college professor who tells this lie should consider a career change, and perhaps a name change as well. In a recent speech, the president of Hamilton College quoted Amazon.com without attributing the quote. This lie cost him his job. Ronald Zarella should be thankful he’s not a university president.

Some situations are murkier. If you’re a high-profile executive at a big company who lied on a resume, you should get a lawyer because the shareholders are likely to create a fracas and you may get fired.. And if, like most senior executives, you have a clause that allows the company to fire you for cause, you could lose your severance. If your lawyer can’t save your job, she might at least be able to save your golden parachute.

If you are middle manager, pray that your company doesn’t invest a lot of money in double-checking resumes. For now, don’t mention the lie, but be truthful the next time you seek a job. Meanwhile, be an outstanding performer. You don’t want to provoke your boss into searching for legal ways to fire you, because he might check out your resume and see your falsehood.

If you lied about having a college degree when you don’t, consider finishing college. Not having a degree will eventually impede your career advancement – but you already know that because you wouldn’t have lied otherwise.

For those of you just starting out, heed the duress that lying causes those at the top, and figure out another way to get there. A career is something you should want to live with, and a lie isn’t. Choose your life partners wisely. Take action to bolster your experience with hard work so you don’t have to bolster your resume with lies.

During the Internet’s go-go days in the late 1990s, I thought the term generalist meant “she's doing two jobs and pays herself double.” Now it seems the word generalist means “good at nothing and unemployed.” In either case, generalist is the label for a career that will die.

Think cars: You never hear an advertiser say, “Buy my car, it's good for everything!” Volvos are safe. BMWs are fun. Saturns are easy to buy. Just as successfully branded products offer specific benefits, successfully branded careerists offer specific talents. You get to the top by being the best, and you can't be the best at everything.

Ezra Zuckerman, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, agrees — and has the research to prove it. In his study of typecasting in Hollywood entitled “Robust Identities or Nonentities,” Zuckerman found that specialization leads to longer, more productive careers. Contrary to conventional Hollywood wisdom, big bucks come most often to people who become known for a certain type of role. Zuckerman finds that typecasting, as this practice is called, is also a moneymaker in the business world, where the hiring system is set up to reward those who differentiate themselves. “Headhunters are specialized,” he says, “and they look for something they can package and sell.”

Generalist is a good moniker during the first few years of your career. For example, if you're a standout college grad, you may win a place in a general-management rotational training program, such as General Electric Co. and other well-known consumer products companies offer. But the point of such training programs is to figure out what you're good at and then seek an internal role in that department.

So take a gamble. Figure out what you're best at and start making your mark. Then hope for good timing — that someone needs that particular talent when you have become expert at it.

Carly Fiorina, for example, is an outstanding marketer in the technology sector. She got to be chair and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard by being the best — and having a little luck: the company badly needed marketing expertise when it was conducting a search for a CEO. If it had needed an engineering genius, Fiorina would not have been considered. By the same token, if a food-products company needed a marketing-oriented CEO, Fiorina would not have been a candidate because her background is in technology. People who define themselves clearly are clearly wrong for certain positions, but super-achievers take that risk.

Many professionals hesitate to define themselves because it limits where you can go. But top players must have clear definition. Most have enough confidence in their abilities to risk specialization. Very simply, they believe that adequate opportunities will be available as they progress up the ladder.

To specialize, think discipline (marketing, sales, operations, etc) and sector (media, technology, fashion, etc.) Become known for your extremes. If you aren’t extremely good at something, you won’t get to the top.

Still not convinced of the benefits of typecasting? Then consider the current job market. Hundreds of applicants vie for most jobs, and many are more than qualified. This means hiring managers can demand a perfect fit — and specialists rather than generalists typically offer a perfect fit.

Figure out what your strengths are and hone them. Sure, take varied positions in the company, and learn a range of skills, but make sure people know where your talents lie. People at the top need to see you as someone who is extremely good at something, and no one is extremely good at everything, so don’t sell yourself that way to upper management.