From Dysfunction to Impact and Influence in Leadership Teams
One thing that continues to surprise me with senior leaders is how many do not contribute to senior leadership meetings. Having worked with thousands of team leaders, I notice typical behaviours and one of these behaviours is to remain silent in meetings.
Of course, there are many reasons for their silence. Kate, one of the leaders I spoke to, let me know what affects her:
- Without meeting protocols, others talk frequently and for long periods, making adding your contribution a challenge
- The team atmosphere is competitive
- The purpose or outcome of conversations and meetings is unclear
- Others have already made the point she was going to make
- She thought others had more important roles than her, or they do not want to hear what she had to say
Others perceive non-contributors as either arrogant, know-it-alls, or that they are above the conversation. Others might see them as disinterested or as not having anything relevant to say. In other cases, some fall into the trap of over-contributing and have something, at times irrelevant, to say on every topic, and then some.
Many of these excuses are untested assumptions. Mistakenly, many leaders, including Kate, associate these with a lack of confidence.
Most of the leaders’ work is in groups, yet other than in the 1960s, there is little group-work training embedded in leaders’ development.
How do people influence in leadership teams? There are at least nine ways, which I will outline below. Successful leaders use many or all of these. Which ones are likely to work for you?
9 ways to positively impact leadership team meetings
1. Content and expertise
Many leaders have been subject matter experts in their careers and are masterful in contributing knowledge and expertise. They know stuff. The two main downsides of overusing expertise are those who report to them are disempowered, and their talents are under-utilised. Many take offense if someone disagrees with them or focuses on the practicalities of alignment and implementation.
Two tips for subject matter experts on senior leadership teams are to:
- discuss the implications of applying their and other’s expertise to shape quality decision making
- teach others how to think about the implications of using their expertise.
Senior leaders’ vital ability is to read the continually shifting context they are in and know how to navigate the way forward. Without context organisations lose market share, stakeholder relationships weaken, and staff delivers services or products that are neither relevant nor timely.
During the COVID-19, many supermarkets shifted to or emphasized online deliveries. Yet, customers had to wait days to pick up deliveries, courier companies were overloaded, and grocery items took weeks to deliver. The successful companies were the ones who offered preconstructed boxes of groceries with emphasis on swapping in and out goods, rather than choosing every item.
Eyes roll when a leader says, “When I was in ABC company we….”
A leader that learns to share their experience in compelling ways has the pathway to influence. “I learned that if we … during change projects, our chance of successful implementation skyrockets.”
Young leaders in the trans culture are sharing their experience of growing up and being in these organisations. Bella Simpson is simultaneously leading, educating leaders, and influencing greater inclusion. Learning to tell your story and sharing your experience as a leader creates alignment and requires vulnerability.
4. Vision and direction
Successful leaders who share vision and direction enact the central function of leading. In a world of continuous change and developments, sharing vision, holding to it, navigating, and clearing the inevitable roadblocks is the central function of leaders. Yet, many leaders find it easier to delve into everyday details and be distracted by operational urgencies.
Leaders who share results positively impact groups. These are reminders of what leaders have set out to do and how they are accomplishing these goals. Rather than being swept up by the inevitable day-to-day urgent matters, they focus on progress and achieving targets.
How often are you in meetings littered with red herrings, down rabbit holes, or cause angst by low interpersonal interactions?
Essential to every leader’s toolkit is the capacity to observe the process they are in and participate simultaneously. One metaphor assist is to be on the balcony then shift the dance on the dance floor. Providing a method for participation helps leaders know how to participate in relevantly. When groups or group members conflict, having a strategy for moving forward is essential.
One significant shift leaders can make to their contributions is to provide their insights on what is happening within the organisation, context, progress or implementation, strategy, or a myriad of organisation matters.
Hearing “What strikes me here is…'” is an excellent opener to sharing insights and implications for progress and outcomes.
8. Noticing other contributions
Leaders who share the contributions they see others make contribute directly to building bridges across business groups and taking responsibility for the development and visibility of others. One leadership team I worked with was in dedicated silos, causing duplication and repetitive problems.
We decided to begin each of their meetings by sharing what they had noticed someone in a peer’s business group do and achieve. In a short period, this built alliances among the leaders and raised many in the broader groups. This lead to rapid intergroup problem solving and speedier decision making in the leadership team.
9. Collaboration, and alignment
If all else fails, the easiest way to contribute positively to leadership teams rather than being silent is to let your peers know when your thoughts align with theirs. In groups that share stakeholders and customers, thinking will align.
Instead of thinking, “that’s my view, too,” or “someone already said what I was thinking,” add “I am with you on that.” Letting others know you share their perspective or agree with what they are proposing is more likely to create forward movement in a group than remaining silent will.Successful team leaders use many or all of these nine ways to contribute to decisions and direction. Which ones are likely to work for you? Click To Tweet
The best leaders use several of these nine ways to contribute to decisions and direction. Which ones are you using, and which might you take on to increase your influence in the leadership teams?
I’ve been offering help: All nine ingredients are critical for influential leaders. My best clients have asked me to shadow their meetings and provide effectiveness debriefs. I’d be happy to do that for you!
Diana Jones ©