Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea
The Principal Coaching Clinic #22
Are you boring your people to death?
Did you ever notice that the air just got sucked out of the room? Sure, you noticed it. More importantly, you caused it. I am convinced that principals and other leaders are capable of draining the energy from any room because for the most part, we talk too much. We love to hear ourselves. I have always joked that if you put ten principals in a room and have only one microphone, you would see one heck of a fight. For much of my career, I lived it. I had too many meetings just for the sake of having a meeting.
Let’s first start asking ourselves, is the meeting really necessary? If you answered this questioned honestly, I am sure you will agree that you probably could have transmitted the information in another way. However, there are distinct times that you need everyone in the room together. You will know these crucial times as they arise. However, by eliminating some needless meetings, you automatically increase the ownership of the intended audience. Those that were supposed to be at the meeting will now have to read the information in some other way, be it a hard copy or an electronic message. The participant is now responsible. This responsibility is something most will clamor for but when given it, many will blow it by simply not reading the material. Then they will surely look to blame other people.
I also feel strongly that when you do have a meeting, each participant has a responsibility to contribute. Each person must be an active participant. To get something out of a meeting, you must put something in to it.
I have a very simple two step framework that I ask each person to follow. Each meeting must have a start and stop time and each meeting must have an agenda. It is the leader’s job to get that agenda to everyone before the meeting. This allows time for adequate participant preparation.
I recall times I was running out of my office door to the meeting with the agenda ink on the pages barely dry. I wasn’t prepared. I did not practice my facilitation for the meeting. When you lead a meeting like this it destroys all of your credibility. If you ran a meeting like this, who could blame your staff from looking for escape routes. Never underestimate the importance of how you spend another person’s time!
Whenever meetings are held, especially ones where the participants are vested and passionate, conflict can be expected. How will you deal with this conflict? It is important that dissent happens and is aired, but it can never denigrate into personal attacks that are disrespectful and damaging. Allowing this to take place will destroy the meeting and the hopes of ever reaching a decision. It also could damage future relationships.
When you are leading the meeting, lead! It is easy for someone to hijack the meeting. Some may be vocal and overt in this process, but others can be sly and manipulative and can destroy a meeting covertly. By preplanning, you should know the agenda and the purpose of each agenda item thoroughly. Do not allow your leadership to be undermined. Remember, it is your meeting. Yes, discussion, dissent, and hearing from everyone is important, but you can never lose control.
It is critically important that as a leader, you keep your emotions in check. I wish that I could have always practiced what I preach. When I lost my patience or became emotional, I ended up sabotaging my own meeting. Some on your team might be experts at pressing the right button for you to lose your patience. Be smarter than your participants. Do not let them push your personal hot button.
I have always been disappointed when I watched people enter the room with their body language communicating a negative demeanor. It is written all over their faces that they do not want to be there. This negativity drains the energy from the room before the meeting begins. Just think of the impression one’s negative attitude has on the facilitator when he or she is looking at pouting and disengaged faces. Each participant must choose his or her own personal attitude of engagement and excitement for the meeting.
Arriving for the meeting promptly is critical. Nothing is more annoying for the facilitator or the entire group than when participants trickle in. This especially goes for the leader. Do not keep people waiting. This is both rude and disrespectful.
I used to be able to regularly predict those who would be late. When you are attending a meeting, take careful note of traffic patterns to the meeting location. Always be prepared for those parking lot meetings that are apt to happen. A real irritant for me would be for a person to walk in late, carrying a designer cup of coffee. This communicated to me that the person could stop for a coffee, yet could not be on time for the meeting. When I addressed this, the tardy participant wondered why it was such a big deal. This attitude was disappointing at best, and it just fueled a negative culture.
Please keep your cell phones tucked away. Nothing is worse than looking out at the group and seeing everyone reading their e-mail or texting. Take care of impending questions from your home base before you attend the meeting. I am also aware that people would text each other in the meeting—yes criticizing me and my meeting, while I was leading the meeting.
People get tired of the meeting bully. These bullies tend to hijack every meeting and are strategic passive-aggressive manipulators. There are only so many ways one can say no. I also knew a person who felt that if he yelled the loudest, he would win his point of contention. It was immature, but for him it proved effective because he was allowed to bully and many times get his way.
Side conversations are also quite annoying and distracting. Save your comments to your colleague until a break or after the meeting.
Just remember, your leadership skills will be judged along every step of the way. A meeting can very easily make or break you. Get your head out of the sand!