This fall, I worked with many senior leaders across several organizations to help them get clear on their company’s strategy and then understand how they need to step up and lead with greater accountability.
I typically use the core ideas from my book, The Leadership Contract, as the backdrop to the sessions I lead. I find they force leaders to think about some critical questions that many have never really considered, let alone discussed with their peers.
One of the interesting observations I have been noticing through this work is how engaged, and even engrossed leaders become in these discussions. I see leaders opening up, sharing their experiences and learning from one another. I also witness a positive buzz and energy in the room. It’s so exciting to see this happen time and time again. Leaders leave these sessions inspired, motivated and they recommit to driving change within their organizations.
Out of curiosity, I’ve frequently asked these leaders whether they take the time to have these crucial discussions with their peers at work and not just in a session with me. The answer is always a resounding “No! “
These leaders tell me that they spend their days head down, focused on executing their priorities, working with their teams, managing crises and putting out daily fires. Many also express feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, and even lonely at times. As a result, they are not able to find small pockets of time to pause and reflect on how they are leading, let alone find time to chat with a colleague.
I believe this is a huge missed opportunity. We need to find ways to help leaders periodically come together to have what I call meaningful leadership discussions. When you can have them, you will find it restores your personal energy and enables you to be a better leader.
I learned about this idea during my graduate studies from my professor Dr. David E. Hunt. He was a pioneer on the topic of personal and professional renewal. He died earlier this year at the age of 94.
Hunt found that in many professions, people can get so engrossed in their work that over time, this can lead to feelings of isolation and even burnout. He also found that if people can come together with their colleagues to discuss their work and share their challenges, it can lead to new insights and renew their energy. This, in turn, helps sustain their performance and effectiveness.
What about you? Do you take the time to have meaningful conversations with your peers? Or are you always just focused on dealing with your workload?
So, if this idea intrigues you, here’s what I would suggest you do.
- Determine your peers. Find a small group of like-minded leaders. Those who you believe would benefit from sitting down to have conversations about their leadership.
- Arrange the sessions. Set up a series of 60 to 90-minute sessions every six to eight weeks. These sessions can be held face-to-face or virtually. It doesn’t matter. I have seen equally strong outcomes with both approaches which ultimately means that geography is not a barrier to having meaningful leadership discussions with your peers.
- Define ground rules. Begin by discussing some ground rules for the conversation. Also, ensure that your colleagues agree to the confidential nature of these sessions. Sometimes important topics may arise that are sensitive in nature. It is essential to respect and maintain confidences in these situations.
- Pick a facilitator. It’s helpful to pick someone to guide the discussion. Your facilitator ensures that everyone has a chance to participate and manages some people from dominating the discussion and prevents others from just sitting back and merely listening.
- Have the conversations. Begin the discussions by focusing on a specific topic that is meaningful to the group. The four terms of the Leadership Contract provide a structure that helps drive great reflection and dialogue.
I see tremendous opportunity in our organizations for leaders to come together to learn from each other, support one another and renew their energy and commitment to their roles. A simple way to do this is by holding regular sessions for these conversations to take place. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. If you are already doing something like this, let me know as well.
This week’s Gut Check for Leaders blog asks: Do you have meaningful leadership conversations with colleagues?
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© 2019 Dr. Vince Molinaro (Leadership Contract Inc.)