One of the hardest challenges to deal with, when you have to engage people in working on something big is dealing with their boredom. Everyday we meet people who start with enthusiasm, just to find out that after several hours of “hard work” these same people are not more interested in the subject and want to move to something else.
It gets really ugly if part of those people are your company senior leadership team and you need to work on your strategy for growth But the same also applies for people in your team, your department, etc.
Imagine you have invited some people to work on a challenging project or task. You start the discussion. You start by explaining what the task or the project requires and you get nothing else, but a quit room with no questions and reactions on what you are talking. You get some questions from time to time, but they are more just polite ones, aiming to show that you are not talking in front of a zombie auditorium, and that is all. And finally , when you get to the break time, you see energized people, talking to each other and discussing lively different topics, except from the one you have presented. “How is this possible?” “Was the meeting a waste of time? ” you may ask yourself.
Well, If I have to be honest to you – YES. You have waisted your and the people you have brought together time. Think how many times meetings consist of a well positioned and structured presentations, following one after each other, while people sit in the room focused on answering e-mails, texting on different issues, etc. You have collected brainpower around the table, able to solve all problems, but you couldn’t focus it to deliver results. That is why, if you conduct such meetings, you need to change your approach. The old classroom ways do not work anymore. They are part of the past. You need to re-think the way you organize your meeting. You need to move from the material projected in front of others to actions boosting conversations, controversy and even conflicts, instead of just giving some updates on a powerpoint slide. People you have invited should not be focused on listening to updates, but working on solve difficult and challenging problems.
To get there you will need to create an environment in which people are vulnerable and brave with each other. This means to create an environment where people you have invited can show their weaknesses and engage one another with challenging questions and decisions. You must create an energizing focus for your group of people to ensure they will be engaged with the problems and will be accountable when solving them.
One of the working solutions to move to, if you want successful problem solving is to stop the slide projecting. If your meeting is a decision taking meeting send the information prior to the meeting and ask anyone who is invited to go trough it and form it’s own solution. If you have to run a decision making meeting you will need to focus on 4 areas:
Decision that moves the ball
You don’t need to waste energy talking on things you have already gave the information on. You need to move to the problems and challenges others have identified when looking at the information sent prior to the meeting. Investing time there is the most valuable element of the meeting and the turning point you must focused on.
The big picture
You will need to think about your company or a team as a one direction moving structure that consists of many small targets and strategies. The big picture is your long term goal. If you want to get laser focused, answer yourself the question: “What is the most important outcome to achieve during the next 6 to 12 months?”. Department and senior leaders in the company have the responsibility to make decisions and act in ways that break trough silos and align everyone with the strategic and cultural direction of the company. That is how they can ensure that the small department and team strategies are following the big picture.
The next level of leadership
One of the main roles of the leader is to engage others in decision making. During decision taking process teams grow as knowledge, skills and results and help the company grow. But just engaging people into a working group does not always lead to anything positive. If you want to make impact and change the status quo, you, as the leader, need to push yourself to the next level leadership. This next level includes development of succession plans, pushing decisions to a different and more challenging level, out of the borders and limits set by the team and the time now, including people into strategic discussions and decisions to ensure not only higher level of engagement, but also higher level of responsibility and accountability.
As the leader you will need to have the highest level of courage in this step. Talking with your team and others you engage in the process of changing the status quo for things that no one else talks about is an excellent way to improve team and company performance at all. The topics here can reflect the leadership style and behavior of other leaders, or senior people, even the CEO. They can be about performance, level of trust, etc. No matter the area you need to discuss, you , as the leader in the room need to engage with it and give it time to rise and be solved as a challenge. That is what an emotionally grown and courage leader must look like and that is that engages people to share more information without being scared of the after effect of this sharing.
If a leader wants to be seen as courage and emotionally grown person who sets the standard in the room, he or she will need to focus on ensuring fast decisions leading to a real change and not being afraid to discuss harsh topics. Positioning away from the harsh topics and not being ready to moderate meetings toward global results you need to achieve, lower people’s engagement and accountability to the problem you are trying to solve and weakens not only yours and your teams, but also company results as whole.