The meeting was scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. It was an important meeting. That is what everyone understood based on the email they received the day before.
“Stop everything. Reschedule any meetings that may conflict. It is vital that you are present at a team meeting tomorrow at 2 pm. We will meet in the conference room and start promptly. Late arrivers will be noticed.”
Every seat was filled, except for one. The new regional director had certainly gotten everyone’s attention with that email. The buzz all morning was curious speculation as to what could be so important. The clock struck 2:00 p.m. and nothing happened. Nothing could happen, because the lady who had called the meeting was not there. There was no advance agenda, so they nervously chatted among themselves. A few talked with each other about a project for a client. Others whispered about their annoyance of “another stupid meeting.” Minutes dragged by.
At 2:13 p.m., the door opened and she flopped into her chair at the head of the table. Without apology, the Director launched into her agenda of how things were going to be “different around here” and the new goals she expected the entire team to achieve. Assignments were given and she droned on as she told each person exactly how they had to do their jobs. Two individuals attempted to ask for some clarification and one offered a suggestion for streamlining a process. She “kindly” listened and then promptly went back to her ideas. No one else spoke for the next hour and a half.
I told this story in a leadership development program one morning and asked the participants the following question:
“What do you think this leader lost during that meeting?”
They answered exactly what went through your mind as well:
- and even, Creative Collaboration
Everything about that situation screams “I’m the boss. I don’t value your time, ideas, or talent. But, you had better value mine; because I’m here to be successful and I’m in charge.”
Without question, in that single meeting this leader lost everything mentioned above. However, there is one more thing that she lost. In fact, I believe it is the single greatest loss any leader will suffer when attempting to be “in charge.” And that is the loss of:
Our greatest loss will not be in failing to convince people to do it our way. Our greatest loss will be discovering too late that our best leaders went unnoticed, because we were too busy focused on our plan and not open to our people. The greatest loss will be an exodus of leadership talent. It happens quietly. They will find an environment in which their ideas are welcome and there is opportunity to grow.
Now here is the reality check:
Providing a leadership culture where people can create ideas and take responsibility is a winners strategy for growth in your company. Pushing your leadership agenda, while politely ignoring the potential leaders at your table, is the losers strategy.
THREE INVITATIONS YOU CAN GIVE THAT WILL ENGAGE THE LEADERS ON YOUR TEAM:
- Invite them to the conversation. One of the simple realities I train leaders to embrace is that people would rather be invited, than to be told. Give your best people the facts and the vision of where you want to be in the next 12 months, then give them time to think about it.
- Invite ideas on how to improve processes or revenues. There is very little downside to bringing good people and their ideas to the table. Give them permission to be a part of the growth strategy. When we don’t permit this kind of engagement, they will only focus on their respective tasks.
- Invite ownership. This isn’t just about ideas. It is about goals and strategic alignment. Let them determine their own outcomes. The leaders on your team will naturally set objectives that demand a personal and professional stretch. The followers on the team will play it safe.
Oh - one last thing: Please, START your meetings on time!
Let me know your thoughts. I'm looking forward to the conversation.
Steven Iwersen, CSP - Certified Speaking Professional