BridgeLite Blog

Leaders Leading WITH Leaders
February 1, 2011

Team Tug-a-wars!
Team Tug- Wars

Team Tug- Wars!

We talk  about how to lead followers – but what about leading leaders?

Or, more specifically, how do we effectively team with other leaders  to drive changes, hammer out a new initiative, raise funds, promote an idea to the Board – or – participate effectively as a Board member?

We see it all the time.  And, we cope by joking and complaining about the  “power struggles,” bullying, and begin to label our teammates with not so nice labels.

When working with a team of strong willed, independent thinkers, convinced that their way is the only way, here are some survival tips:

1. Listen 80%, Talk 20%

It’s amazing what we learn when we genuinely listen. Not  speaking or focusing on our next brilliant utterance, but listen to what is really being said by others.  Valuable team time can be squandered when we are not really listening to each other. And, it’s easy to move into conflict when we begin to make assumptions about what we think we are hearing when only half listening. Try applying the 80/20 rule to listening in team meetings and see what the true landscape is.

2. Ask Clarifying Questions – Don’t Assume.

There is a reason that the word ASSmption begins with those first 3 letters…. Take time to clarify what you think you hear, especially if the comment seems out of line with the discussion or what you expect. It also helps if the question is asked with respect, without hidden agendas and in true question format. For example:

Do ask:, “Fred, are you saying  you believe the delivery should be next week as opposed to this week?

Don’t ask: ” Fred, you can’t possibly mean that the delivery should be this week as opposed to next week!”  [Besides being a statement as opposed to a question – the real statement is the underlying tone – “Fred, you idiot! You can’t possibly mean that the delivery….” You get the idea.

I see this in teams – alot. The not so subtle “clarification” that is really intended to coerce the other party back to the speaker’s way of thinking. The attitude in which a clarifying question is asked is just as important as the question.

3. Focus on the problem that needs to be solved – not the personalities.

Tug-of-wars in meetings can pop up without much warning when the focus is on each other  rather than the problem to be solved.  If a team is debating more than required to uncover data that helps the decision making process, shift the focus. If in a room together, shift focus to the problem on a whiteboard or flip chart. If in online meeting, highlight in meeting tool and/or verbally restate what you think the problem to be solved is- sometimes, just restating the problem statement, will refocus attention. Arguing is guaranteed to diminish as you partner with each other to solve the issue at hand.

4. Remember, as a servant leader – it’s not about you.

Skilled leaders, remember that it’s not about “winning” or “losing.”  It’s about driving the new initiative forward. Enabling the change to occur, etc. The best outcome is the one where something gets done, all feel engaged, energized and respected.

Where can you shift focus this week and team with your leadership colleagues to make a difference?