Recently I sat in two different team meetings with two different leaders. Though the content of the meetings was similar, the meetings themselves left me with distinctly different feelings about the goals and direction, the organization, and the leaders themselves.
I have wrestled over the last few days as to why these two meetings resulted in such a different set of emotions from me, and I suspect different emotions from the other team members as well. What was unique about each meeting that garnered such different results?
After pondering this for some time I think I have boiled it down to this:
Let me state the obvious: how each respective leader conducted the meeting made all of the difference as to how the content of the meeting was received. By “conducted” I do not mean the mechanics of the meeting. In other words, it wasn’t that one leader had a well-planned agenda and the other didn’t. It wasn’t that one leader kept the team on task and the other didn’t. It wasn’t starting on time, ending on time, the time of day, or whether snacks were provided. It wasn’t that one used a white board and the other a power point presentation. And by “leadership voices” I certainly don’t mean that one leader was a baritone while the other was a soprano.
No, it was something entirely different. Something about the voice of the Leader set the tone for the meeting.
If I could narrow it down even more, the tone, the pace, and results of the meeting really boiled down to one simple phrase that the leader repeated throughout each respective meeting. One simple phrase changed everything else.
One leader said, “You need to …” or “We need to …”
The other leader asked “What do you think …?”
One was directive. One was collaborative.
One shut others down. One opened others up.
One phrase resulted in a quick and neatly packaged meeting. One was a little sloppy, involving discussion, debate, and even disagreement.
One communicated value in team members. One de-valued the contributions of team members.
One phrase expressed confidence in the team. One phrase expressed lack of confidence.
One phrase built trust. One phrase undermined trust.
One phrase garnered engagement. One garnered dis-engagement.
One left people feeling encouraged. The other left them feeling discouraged.
One made the team feel important and appreciated. The other left them feeling … merely employed.
One effected ownership of the decision by the team. One effected mere obedience.
One garnered cooperation and cohesion. The other, though on the surface appeared unified, actually brought disunity. Even the attendees that didn’t agree quickly got behind one voice. While, attendees of the other meeting didn’t express their opinions until they were behind closed doors and outside of the hearing of the leader, and only with members they knew would agree with them.
One voice communicated, “I think I’m the smartest guy in the room.” The other voice communicated, “We are in this together.”
The reality is that
One voice communicated humility.
The other voice communicated arrogance.
I know some leaders reading this are probably thinking, “this isn’t a democracy. We don’t need to take a vote. I’m the leader, they should just do what I say.”
It’s interesting that in neither meeting was the position or authority of the leader in question. But, the posture they took, their voice, had a definite impact on the well-being of the entire team.
I have to ask, is mere obedience the only thing you want from your team? Is that the end game? Don’t you want their creativity? Don’t you want their innovation? Don’t you want their engagement. Don’t you want them to want to come to work?
Don’t you want their hearts?
The leader’s voice is really about posture. The leader’s voice is about their view of themselves and their view of their team.
One simple phrase can make all of the difference.
Leaders, have you listened to your own voice lately? Have you ever played back the tapes in your head of conversations you’ve had with your team? Have you ever really …listened …to yourself? Have you considered what unintentional messages you are communicating to your team? Have you ever thought through how to really value, engage, and encourage your team? Have you ever wondered if there was a better way to get the best from your team?
Getting their best might not be a result of awards, raises, or even promotions.
Your influence might primarily be … in your voice.
“Fools have no interest in understanding;
they only want to air their own opinions.”