Story: I remember attending my first executive meeting at a new organization I joined. As the rookie member of the team, I was going to mostly listen. What surprised me was the lack of real conversation among the participants. The CEO deftly chaired the agenda, but it was mostly “crickets” relative to any meaningful discussion. The Executive Vice Presidents were PowerPoint magicians of course, with their update reports full of detail. However it was like an unwritten collusive agreement had been reached between the execs to present and escape without any substantive debate, challenge or amendment. The burden was all on the CEO to find the real story in the PowerPoint fog, with everyone taking their turn in the ring. Over my tenure, that environment and tenor changed dramatically. We learned to “fight well” and this behavioral progression was vital to the success of the organization.
Key Point: The “conversation is the relationship and the relationship the conversation.” I believe this behavioral tenant coined by author Susan Scott, is one of the most daunting and important statements for people to reflect on and apply both personally and professionally. People who know me find that I challenge all teams with this principle. A high performing team intentionally embraces it. Subsequently, effective team meetings of high functioning groups are boisterous, rollicking affairs that involve fierce conversations. The trust and psychological safety is foundational, and while hopefully well facilitated to avoid chaos, group sessions take on a character of where “real stuff” gets discussed, decided and done. While there are moments where people may not be at their best, become defensive, and messy, top teams learn to fight well. They become devoutly committed to respectful straight talk and getting after the right issues. So if you are part of a group where the actual conversations happen before or after the meeting, and/or fluffy niceness prevails, I contend that you have a group more than a team. Collectively you will likely never accomplish anything extraordinary.
Actions you can take:
- If you lead a group, learn what it takes to have fierce, rich, meaningful conversation where the advancement of the greater good prevails. (This is hard, takes time and you need to model what you expect).
- As a group participant, learn to master facilitating and contributing to rich conversations, including having constructive disagreements with your colleagues. Become self-aware of how you bring value to the dynamics. Help the team fight well.
Scrappy in leadership!
One Millennial View: Meeting on, gloves off. A professional, good fight at work can be fun, productive and leave everyone fired up to continue forward in a positive direction. If you’re surrounded by people that agree with you 100 percent of the time, you’re not part of a team, you’re part of a cult.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis