Every meeting provides an opportunity to learn important things about the people who attend. Here’s what to watch for:
> Is it planned?
Effective leaders always begin with clearly defined goals and then prepare plans for achieving them. They have the courage to set a direction and then make changes as new information becomes available. They communicate with candour knowing that people perform at their best when they know what is expected. Thus, did the person who called this meeting prepare an agenda? Was the agenda distributed before the meeting? Did the agenda tell you everything that you needed to know to work effectively in the meeting? If so, this serves as a positive indication of effective leadership planning.
> Is it efficient?
A meeting is the culminating step in a larger process. It begins by setting goals and preparing an agenda. Then the chairperson should have contacted key participants to inform them of their roles in the meeting, told everyone how to prepare for the meeting, and alerted people who may be asked to accept responsibility for action items. All of this work before the meeting ensures that the meeting will progress smoothly, efficiently, and effectively. So, how is the meeting going? Is there evidence of this attention to detail?
> Is it logical?
Pay attention to what people say during a meeting. Do their ideas contribute toward achieving the goals? If so, this shows that they’re working as part of a team to help find solutions. Do their ideas build upon what others just said? If so, this shows that they’re paying attention to the dialogue. Do their ideas demonstrate originality, creativity, and knowledge? If so, this shows they’re working hard to add value. Effective leaders possess strong analytical thinking skills.
> Is it helpful?
Evaluate the comments and behaviour during a meeting. Are the participants working to support each other? Are people contributing to the safe environment that is essential for open creative thinking? Are people adding high-value contributions (instead of stories or jokes that distract everyone)? Note that chronic unproductive behaviour betrays either fear, a lack of effective work skills, or misunderstood expectations. People who perform poorly in meetings may need constructive coaching.
> Is it controlled?
Leadership involves more than watching people talk. Thus, observe the dynamics of the meeting process. Is the chairperson leading everybody through methodical steps that take them to a result? Is the meeting being conducted in such a way that the participants feel that it is a fair process? Is the chairperson helping others perform at their best so that the group can produce an outstanding result?
Someone who excels in the above areas should be considered for leadership positions. This explains why most executives consider a person’s ability to lead meetings when selecting future leaders.
Everyone wants to be led by a good leader, but let’s face it—some leaders are just no good. Whether it’s on the battlefield, the sports pitch, or the sales floor, certain qualities are universal about bad leaders; they tend to be…
1. Dismissive. My way or the highway is the attitude of some leaders, but their teams really hate it, especially when they’re doing something wonky or stupid—and they keep doing it. A bad leader refuses to listen to any of the players on their team, probably because they’re so…
2. Egotistical. Nobody wants to work for a pompous person who thinks they’re the king of the world. Leaders with a big ego tend to lay blame on others, and accept praise when others are successful. They also tend to be unapproachable, which scares people off and fosters poor communication.
3. Un-empathetic. Not caring about your employees is a surefire way to make them feel unimportant and unappreciated, which in turn will lead them to unplug from the cause and find a different one where their contribution is celebrated.
4. Grudge-bearing. A good leader forgets personal offense and moves on, especially if they want to create a functional environment. By contrast, a poor leader holds on to personal offense and lets it affect everyone else’s work environment.
5. Permissive of Negativity. A good leader creates a safe space for his crew, but a poor leader fosters dissension, strife, and argument. To be fair, there have been plenty of effective leaders who have played people against each other, but those leaders usually get violently deposed in a coup…and you probably don’t want that if you’re a leader.
6. Inconsistency. This particular point can drive people insane. It is impossible to create a functional environment when the person in charge is frequently changing what they want. You can never meet their expectations, and everyone’s time and money is wasted chasing the desires of yesterday.
7. Not transparent. Granted, a leader should not necessarily reveal everything to their team (for example, pay grades and salaries), but when it comes to operational goals, it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page. A lack of clear direction because of hidden agendas will frequently put employees up against a wall of confusion.
8. Overworked. An overworked leader is stressed out, snappy, and perhaps most importantly, shows employees that work-life balance is unimportant—a bad philosophy for human beings who often have personal responsibilities outside of work.
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So, facilitative leadership: is leading by committee … not!
It is not about getting everyone together and asking, “what do you and you think?” Everything cannot be decided by committee! Especially if your work involves things like law enforcement or the military. The front lines are not the place to take a ‘straw poll’. Even as I say this, and even in those aforementioned operations, there are times when a leader can, and should get people together to talk about how to improve the operation; by genuinely asking for input from all levels. That is what facilitative leadership is about.
For this process to work, the leader must be successful at creating an atmosphere where people not only feel comfortable contributing ideas and suggestions, but where the leader actually acts on that input.
Acting on input does not mean doing everything the group tells you to do. It does mean making it clear to the group that their input is valued by defining how that input will be used. Many times a leader will give the impression that if the team members give honest input, they will be given their ‘marching orders’. This is why the leader must clarify prior to asking for input how that input will be used. For instance, let the group know if you are:
1- Just asking for ideas and you (the leader) will make the final decision.
2- Asking for ideas and you (the leader) will discuss options with the group again prior to making the final decision.
3- Requesting input so final decision will be made together as a team.
4- Requiring input and the team will make the final decision after reviewing it with you.
5- Giving input to the team and the team will tell you what the final decision is.
These are just examples of how to explain your intentions when involving direct reports in the decision-making process. The added advantage of this clarity is that it is another critical step in building respect, trust and rapport.
This model is the strategic outgrowth of the changing role of leadership.
Back in the day, and hopefully this does not mean last week for you … the leader stood in the middle of everything and directed the team with one-way communication. Essentially, that leader would say, “jump” and the followers would need to know how high.
As this leader progresses she/he allows for two-way communication, but the leader is still in the middle directing the activities of the group.
Continuing this progression, the leader steps out of the middle – and becomes a part of the team. This also allows for better communication – actually between team members. The leader is still responsible but does not ‘push’ her/his people, they tend to ‘pull’, to get people to follow them – not to push and micro-manage them.
As the leader progresses even further, they can actually step away from the day-to-day aspects of the area. This affords even more communication between the members of the team. Again, you cannot do this until you have helped the team members interact with each other on a ‘level playing field’. This is why you should be familiar with the elements in this book that can help you build those essential skills for your subordinates – so you can be free to work on the more strategic elements of your job, instead of the tactical.
The skill required for this process is critical because the typical leader’s area of span and control is not retracting, it’s expanding! So you will be required to ‘run’ multiple departments, and that cannot be done effectively if you are ‘stuck’ in the middle of one trying to direct everything.
Now, keep in mind, when you step away do not disengage! Because you ‘cannot expect what you don’t inspect’. So, as you have allowed for the skills of your teams to be sufficient enough for you to ‘step away’ – you must be accessible and continue to coach and hold everyone accountable.
Facilitative leaders also have courage. This starts when we are very young …
A six-year old and a four-year old are upstairs in their bedroom. “I think it’s about time we started cussing” the four-year old nods his head in approval. The six-year old continues. “When we go downstairs for breakfast I’m gonna say “hell”, and you say”ass”ok!” The four-year old agrees with enthusiasm. Their mother walks into the kitchen and asks the six-year old what he wants for breakfast. “Aw hell, mom, I guess I’ll have some cheerios.” Whack! He flies out of his chair, tumbles across the kitchen floor, gets up, and runs upstairs crying his eyes out, with his mother in hot pursuit, slapping his rear every step. The mom locks him in his room and shouts, “you can just stay there till I let you out!” She then comes back downstairs, looks at the four-year old, and asks with a stern voice, “and what do you want for breakfast young man?” I don’t know,” he blubbers, “but you can bet your ass it won’t be cheerios.” -origin unknown
Courage is exemplified by that leader that has the ability to not fold under pressure. Take this situation; you have been coaching a direct report on leading an important project. ‘Fast forward’: the project does not reach its target. Your boss calls you in and asks, “what the h_ _ _ happened?!” Most people in that situation would start to explain about how they have been coaching a member of their team, blah. Blah, blah … wrong answer! A facilitative leader would have the courage to say something like, “I am responsible, and I will make sure, that doesn’t happen again…” now that takes courage. You don’t ‘turn the person in’ to the boss. You are ultimately responsible for your group’s output, so act like it!
Now, you do have some conversations with that direct report about what happened. Clearly there were some miscues during the ‘coaching’ process that need to be revisited. Keep in mind, during these ‘discussions’ that it is and was a two-way street. It is the employee’s responsibility to accomplish the goals and it is your responsibility to be sure your people are on-track.
Another essential ability a facilitative leader possesses is their capacity to ‘take counsel’. They have the ability to listen to multiple points of view, including those who typically do not agree with them. This is a powerful trait because you tend to have more complete input, thus making better decisions. To do this, a leader must be able to capture the key kernels of information. They have to be able to maintain bridges between people and create an atmosphere where people share information with each other – largely because they have earned respect, even from people who usually do not see things the same way.
When one has mastered these skills they are recognised as a facilitative leader.
Support Strategic Objectives by identifying roles and responsibilities necessary to support strategic objectives; defining roles, responsibilities, and degrees of authority, needed by individuals and teams; and designing policies and procedures for the management of delegated activities. The purpose of this is to review the distribution of roles and responsibilities at the senior level. The aim of the review is to ensure that the distribution is balanced and appropriate. This is also an opportunity to make certain that the senior, executive level management structure is appropriate for the strategic direction being taken. If mismatches are discovered at this point, then the leader(s) has an opportunity to adjust the organisational structure, at this level, to better match the demands of the strategies.
Make Decisions On Activity To Delegate, by: deciding which areas of work, routine activity, stand-alone projects, absence cover, key operational decisions, emergency or business disaster events, and strategic level decisions, should have responsibility or authority delegated to specific managers. This is an essential stage, but a difficult one. It involves forecasting and scenario planning, in order to determine which activities, and in which circumstances, should responsibility and authority be given. It requires the delegating leader (s) to analyse thoroughly the planned activity and potential events, in order to identify where delegation should take place, and to whom it should be given to.
Selecting Managers And Specialists To Delegate To, by: identifying the current roles, responsibilities and authority of those individuals and teams; evaluating the skills, abilities, and development potential of existing (senior management) individuals and teams; assessing the degree of responsibility and authority that can be given to individuals and teams; identifying coaching and-or training needs to prepare individuals and teams for delegation. Carefully profiling the existing senior management individuals is critical, because delegation will not be effective if it is given to an individual who is not capable of using the delegated powers effectively. Where gaps in capability are identified, training or coaching should be provided to fill that gap. If the corrective action needs to be long term, then the delegation should be delayed until that process is complete.
Agree Responsibilities, Levels Of Authority, And Objectives, by: identifying delegated responsibilities and levels of authority for each individual manager, specialist, and team; discussing these with the individual managers and specialists; agreeing on the degree of delegation; agreeing the objectives delegated to the individual. One of the most critical stages, this is where the details of the delegated responsibility and authority are explained, discussed and agreed. It is at this point that the leader(s) should aim to gain commitment to the delegated responsibilities and authority, to targets and deadlines, both qualitative and quantitative.
Clarifying The Boundaries, by: defining the limits, the boundaries, of the delegated powers; discussing and agreeing these boundaries; agreeing action that should be taken when the boundaries are reached. This must be treated as a separate stage in the process, and applies to both the leader and the manager being given delegated powers. The leader must understand and accept that delegation does not mean abandoning responsibility. The ultimate responsibility lies with the leader, the one delegating to others. Delegated powers must be managed and supported by the leader. The individual being given delegated powers must be clear about the limits of those powers, and understand that when that boundary, that limit, is reached, they should refer back to the one who delegated to them.
Remove Or Reduce Barriers To Effective Delegation, by: identifying organisational policies, procedures, structures, practices, or cultural aspects, which work against effective delegation; discuss ways in which barriers could be weakened or removed; implement changes or adjustments to reduce or eliminate identified barriers. Most organisations have visible and hidden barriers that inhibit and hinder effective management. The role of the leader(s) is to introduce direction, strategies, structures, policies, procedures, and influences into the organisation, so that managers and specialists can operate in a culture which encourages creativity, innovation, high-quality performance, and success. In parallel with this, the leader(s) must also encourage managers and specialists to take local responsibility for activities and decision making. To do this, barriers and constraints must be reduced to a minimum, leaving an appropriate level of controls in place.
Provide Support For Delegated Activity by: discussing and agreeing the level and nature of support needed; adopting a leadership style that provides appropriate availability, support and guidance to those with delegated responsibilities, but also allowing them the freedom to carry out the delegated powers without unnecessary interference; reviewing levels of personal support and adjusting that support appropriately; consistently behaving in a manner that inspires and motivates those who have been delegated to. There are two most common reasons for delegation to fail. One is that the analytical and decision-making process was not thorough enough, leading to the degree of delegation being inappropriate. However, the other most common reason for failure is that the leader delegates and then does not provide appropriate support to the manager being delegated to. Once the leader has delegated, they must then provide an appropriate level of personal support, encouragement, and resources to the individual. This support should include publicising the delegated powers to relevant individuals and teams internally; informing other stakeholders such as suppliers, customers, clients of the delegated powers; coaching, mentoring, providing training, as appropriate.
Reward Performance, by: openly praising consistently high quality operational performance and exceptional event performance; building performance on delegated powers into the organisation’s performance appraisal system. An important part of the process is that delegated powers are, by default, in the highest group of demands made on the individual, and when performed well, are deserving of recognition and praise. Rewards do not have to be substantial or monetary in nature. Recognition and praise will be appreciated by the receiving individual and by their teams and other observers. The leader who delegated the powers must ensure that, when appropriate, high levels of performance in delegated areas are achieved.
Monitor, review, And Adjust, by: implementing regular reviews of the delegation process and of individual instances; reviewing the appropriateness of current and planned delegation, against the most current strategic objectives; taking corrective action where necessary. The leader(s) delegating powers to others should implement a monitoring and review process that requires them to review the whole process, and individual performance. Individual performance should be monitored continuously, with formal review points at least quarterly. The overall process should be reviewed, at which point the success of the process should be evaluated against the original objectives and then adjusted to take into account changes in operational activity and strategic direction.
Delegated powers are explained, discussed, and agreed upon, and measurable objectives are set. The leader then builds on this by adopting a consultative, supporting, coaching, role, as appropriate for each of the individuals delegated to. Individual performance in applying delegated powers is monitored and adjusted as necessary. Finally, the delegation process itself is monitored and reviewed by the leader(s) and the senior management team, to ensure that it remains compatible with the strategic direction being taken by the organisation.
Leaders must delegate, but they must delegate effectively. The most successful leaders treat delegation as an essential strand of their leadership approach. Senior management structures, processes, and objectives are reviewed to ensure suitability for delegation to take place. Areas of work, activities, and routine and event-specific decisions are analysed, evaluated, and, where appropriate, the decision is made to delegate responsibility and authority.
All too often we are far more enthusiastic about talking than we are listening. Yet it is so vital if we are to communicate effectively. Most breakdowns in relationships are caused because people talk at each other without really making contact. Unless someone hears what has been said including the subtext the words have little value.
When we are actively listened to we feel valued and are far more likely to engage in negotiation and compromise.
Listening is about far more than words. Watching facial expression and body language is often a far more accurate barometer than the words that are being used.
Nice things being said where the smile doesn’t reach the eyes is an obvious example.
To be an effective listener it is vital that you listen actively.
10 tips to becoming a more effective listener
Make eye contact.
Read the body language of the talker. Are they relaxed, anxious, angry? Extremes are easy to recognise but often the message is much more subtle
Mirror the talker’s body language- subtly, a gentle dance rather than a caricature.
Show that you are listening, nod, make appropriate responses
Ask relevant questions, ask them to clarify if you are not clear about their meaning
Summarise: so what you are saying is……….
Use open ended questions, the who, what, where, when,
Be careful of the tone of your voice when you respond or ask questions. It is all too easy to come across as judgemental or as an interrogator from the Spanish Inquisition
Use empathy. Acknowledge difficulties, but be careful not to fall into the trap of going into anecdotes from your experience. “ I sense that you are finding this rather difficult” rather than “Oh I know, it happened to me but mine was bigger, more difficult etc”
Take a real interest, if you are simply going through the motions the lack of sincerity will be obvious to others. Leave your ego behind, concentrate on the other person.
Effective listening requires both deliberate efforts and a keen mind. Effective listeners appreciate the flow of new ideas and information. Organisations that follow the principles of effective listening are always informed timely, updated with the changes and implementations, and are always out of crisis situations. Effective listening promotes organisational relationships, encourages product delivery and innovation, as well as helps organisations to deal with the diversity in employees and customers it serves.
To improve your communication skills, you must learn to listen effectively. Effective listening gives you an advantage and makes you more impressive when you speak. It also boosts your performance.