Stop Controlling, Start Communicating

There are two ways to get things done via meetings. (Well, of course, there are more; but this is my blog and I want to focus on two.)

Control or communicate. What I’m realizing is how few people, smart, successful people understand the distinction. What does control look like? Here are a few things that come to mind:

1. Dominate. – Don’t let anyone else talk but you.

2. Guard the clock. – Time the agenda so tightly that there is no time for discussion.

3. Avoid. – Never discuss issues with others “offline” to understand their perspective.

4. Lull people into a sense of complacency. – Since you always run the show, why should they think or contribute?

5. Discount. – Put other people and their points of view down. Let everybody know that the only opinion that matters is yours.

What’s wrong with these things? Well, in isolation and in some extreme and difficult circumstances, any one of them might be a tactic that serves a purpose (except number five). You could make that argument. But as a steady diet, they are ingredients for a disgruntled, disenfranchised team…. Not good.

There is a choice. It’s riskier, and a hell of a lot healthier.

Never, ever forget that the talent you have in the room is the greatest asset in the room. They may be imperfect, but as long as they are feeling, thinking, sentient human beings, what they have between their ears collectively is probably more important than any one person, and that includes you.

Why not communicate with people? Talk to them outside the meeting. Find out what their concerns and issues are. Give them air time. Shorten the agenda to include opportunities for open discussion. Assign people responsibilities. Delegate, and then if they do not meet your expectations, before you make a judgment, find out why. There just might be a good reason, one you need to know about and will never find out if you don’t ask.

One group I worked with had assigned a team member a task representing the local team on a regular teleconference call with a national team. A year later the team leader left a message on the assigned person’s email telling her she’d been replaced. “I’m sure you’re pleased,” he said.

Well, not exactly, she thought. She had no idea why she was replaced, if he was being sarcastic, angry, or what it was all about. The result of her team leader’s call left her with a queasy stomach and a sense of failure. As it turned out, every aspect of the decision was one error on top of another based on inaccurate information and assumptions. It was all resolved, but not without causing unnecessary bad feelings.

Use sound  judgment. Involve people. Listen to them. Own up to it when you err.

That’s why you are a leader. …Thoughts?