You and I are looking for ways to be more efficient at what we do. People are looking for leadership that helps them be the best at what they do.
Meetings offer one of the best opportunities to display--and evaluate--leadership.
Getting together makes a lot of sense in a world that values teamwork more and more. When groups operate well, we leave those meetings with energy and a desire
to move forward. Inefficient meetings? we dribble out as if drained of our life-blood and dreading the next meeting.
Both are indicators of leadership.
Since solid leadership is a big deal, this post is a bit longer than usual.
Change your Meetings, Boost your Leadership
1. This sounds simple but the best question you can spend time answering is: Does this really require a meeting? Often the answer is "no" and that decision will make a lot of people very, very happy.
2. The second question is: Who really has to be there? I can't tell you the number of meetings I've helped set up and then had to ask the client, "Why is Ralph invited?" The answers range from, "I think he'd be offended if I didn't include him" to "Ralph is on our distribution list". If I went and talked with one of the Ralphs of the world, they would more often than not scream, "I wish (s)he'd stop wasting my time with those stinking meetings!"
Who are your Ralphs? Nuke 'em. Everyone will be happy and more productive.
3. What's the real purpose of the meeting? Will there be a decision required at the end, is it educational, or do you want to discuss and refine the elements of a project? If you know your purpose--and tell everyone in advance so they can prepare accordingly--your leadership aura will glow a lot brighter.
A Solid Model to Follow
When I started out back in the early 1970s, Tannenbaum and Schmidt developed a leadership decision-making model I found helpful in organizing meeting agendas. They cited seven modes of leadership; I've narrowed it to
five for simplicity.
They noted that all meetings include two components: participation by the members and authority
of the leaders. Before each meeting the leader has to decide how much
participation and authority he or she desires. In other words, the
leader decides what to communicate and how to best communicate in a
1. The Tell Mode: Let’s say you have a new policy
to communicate and no one can change the policy. You simply want all
members to hear about the policy at once in order to create the most
understanding. According to the T&S Model you desire the most
authority and no participation from the group. In some cases when the
Tell Mode is in play, you’d opt to send an email or other written
communication in lieu of a meeting.
2. The Sell Mode. Let’s continue the example
above with the same policy you wish to communicate. This time,
however, you want the group members to buy into
the new policy. Even though you cannot change the policy, you want
to ”sell” the members on aspects of the policy. Instead of just
telling them, as in the Tell Mode, you are selling them.
3. The Test Mode. In this case, unlike the
previous two examples, there is an ever so slight chance the policy can
change. You toss the policy out for input as a test. If the group
totally rebels, you can change the policy. This is the first instance
along the continuum where there exists a possibility for a change in
the decision. As a meeting manager you must ask ahead of time, can
this decision be changed? If the answer is maybe, you are at least in
the Test Mode. If the answer is no, you must either be in the Tell or
4. The Consult Mode. We have now moved down the
continuum of participation in which there exists more participation
from the members than authority from the leaders. In other words in
the Consult Mode, the leader gives up a lot of authority
to encourage group participation. Why? This time the leader desires
to hear from the group members as consultants to the decision. This is
the first instance in the model where the leader has not yet made a decision.
The members share ideas and suggestions, but the end decision lies with
the leader. The leader keeps the final authority and the group knows
that. If you, as the leader, go into the meeting with a decision
firmly made, you are not in the Consult Mode. You must either be in
the Tell, Sell or Test Mode. A Consult Mode leader spends a lot of
time in the meeting listening.
5. The Join Mode. The final stage along the
continuum is the polar opposite of the Tell Mode. In the Tell Mode
participation was zero and authority was highest. In the Join Mode
participation is highest and authority is zero. The leader gives up
all authority and joins the group to make the decision together.
These are the most unruly meetings. When members know they are in the
Join Mode, however, these meetings can also turn into the most
For meetings to operate effectively, leaders must decide before the
meeting which mode suits their communication needs. Tell, Sell and
Test Mode meetings take less time than Consult and Join meetings. It's easy to see where leaders often make mistakes. They enter meetings in
the Tell or Sell Mode but sort of pretend they are in the Consult or Join mode. As a result, the group wastes a lot of time talking about things that go
You can bump up your leadership presence by simply changing the value and impact of your meetings.
Wouldn't your next meeting be the perfect time to start?
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