Last post I wrote about Ram and Rory, two managers with different styles and skill-sets. One was most effective in one-on-one meetings, the other was a great facilitator of team meetings. In the real world, leaders must be good at managing at both the individual and the group level – regardless of their preferences. A Full-Span approach requires you to keep your attention on each person, and the collective, at the same time.
This week, I offer some practical coaching tips for how to do that effectively.
Maintain trust and protect confidentiality. A good general rule is to keep conversations happening at the level where they first appeared: If in a private meeting, don’t mention it to the group without the express permission of the individual. If, after a group discussion, one person tries to re-open the conversation with you privately, ask if they can bring their thoughts forward to the group as a whole. If you want to discuss what your team is doing with a peer, tell the team you will be doing that. You don’t want them to hear about it from someone in the next department.
It helps if you carefully choose the right place and the right time for discussions. Never raise personal issues in the group: Learn to take things “off line” that should be discussed in private. During problem-solving meetings, stop others from gossiping or complaining about absent colleagues. Focus on issues never on people. Overall, expect behaviour that shows respect for the dignity of each person – whether alone or in a team meeting.
When you are with the group, be conscious about what role you are playing – the facilitator (who makes the work of the group easier) or the leader (who guides the group and has final say). During a meeting, you might be moving between those roles to get things done. Recognize in yourself when you feel group pressure to lead prematurely. When something unexpected arises in the meeting, some leaders feel compelled to immediately offer commentary or even make a decision. You have the option of listening with interest, and choosing not to respond in the moment. Saying, “I hear you” is not the same as “I agree with that.” Give yourself, and the group, time to process emergent data.
Hone the conversational skills of each group member, so they can become more self-facilitating when together. Help people to get right to the point, gently interrupting repeaters and helping them summarize. It will help your team meetings if you teach people to be clear about their intentions. When a new topic opens up, ask the speaker, “Why are you raising this now, here?” and, even more directly, “What would you like to ask of this group?” By doing so, you also ensure that team members make best use of the group’s time and keep private concerns for their one-on-one meetings.
Some group members need to know the details and the plan before they can comfortably discuss the bigger picture. Others are the opposite – they want the whole context before they can dive into details. Vary the way in which you approach topics (start some with details and others with broad context) and, whatever you start with, let the group know you’ll be covering both aspects. In one-on-one meetings, tailor your conversation to meet the needs of the individual.
Jill Malleck, MA, PCC, offers individual leadership coaching and coaching for teams.