Meetings that Can Change Everything: Part II

Published August 9th, 2011 in Blog, Leadership, Mentoring, Motivation

Have you ever purchased a car, left the lot and suddenly noticed all the cars on the road just like yours? Do you think they weren’t there before?  (It’s almost as if they’ve appeared out of nowhere–released into the car wild, right after your purchase.)

Of course those cars were always there. If you didn’t see them, it simply means you weren’t looking for them.

You can experiment with this concept right where you are: Look around yourself for a few seconds. (Go ahead swivel all the way around. Stand up if you must to get a better view.)

Once you have done that – look again. This time look for everything that is red.

Chances are (if you’re playing along) reds are popping out all around you. Who knew there was so much red! It isn’t magic, it is attention. What you look for, you notice. What you search for (even subconsciously), you see.

Your brain really is amazing. Constantly bombarded by impressions clamoring for your attention, it has a fantastic filtering feature. Now here’s the best part: You can use those filters intentionally – to solve problems and seize opportunities.  Like a guided missal, you can send your brain (and your team) on a mission. You can create a lazar focus to search for and find your “reds” and “cars.”

Think about it for a moment. What are the reds and cars in your environment? What should you and your team be looking for and noticing? Perhaps it is an opportunity to lower costs or improve service; maybe it is catching what is falling through the cracks or what is taking too long. Your “reds” and “cars” might be ideas to build a stronger, more resilient team, communicate more effectively, or handle conflict more productively.

This entire car-shopping-red-seeking discussion leads to a powerful teaming and meeting tool. We can create extreme focus around what we are looking for, working on and trying to solve – with a single question.

I like the idea of using questions instead of answers to create extreme focus. Questions inspire involvement and involvement is the fast track to ownership and commitment. As Zig Ziglar is famous for saying, “People act best on their own ideas.” (I’ve also heard they don’t argue with their own data.)

Questions push back on the crush of mandates and demands. Sometimes I think there is way too much “telling” going on in the world. Managers and team leaders can get caught in that trap. Parents can too.

We can get so good at telling; we might forget a simple concept: People need to be honestly involved to be authentically engaged.

Here’s another reason to ask rather than tell. The answers might just amaze you. Others will see things you don’t. They will bring new perspectives and insights. Something else will happen too: Well-posed questions are like a compass – steering people towards their “North” – to the future and solutions. That’s energizing!

What are the questions you will ask yourself, your team, or even one member of your team to create extreme focus around performance, results and solutions? As a manager, you might find your questions inside of a performance problem. Here’s a thought: Instead of telling in that performance situation, try asking employees the questions you wish they were asking of themselves.

As you explore this concept, you will find questions invite creativity and accountability. They help people focus on what they can influence or control. Instead of complaining about the problem, they are searching for the solution. That’s powerful because the brain really is amazing; if you give it a problem to solve – a question to answer, it goes to work. Suddenly we are noticing what we did not see – solutions, options and answers.

If you decide to hold an Extreme Focus Meeting of your own, here are the steps:

  1. Choose a problem or an opportunity your group (or family) is facing and turn it into a question. For example, if the opportunity is to improve customer service, you might ask: “What could we do to make it easier for our customers to do business with us?”
  2. Gather your team for a moment and pose the question. It’s important to personalize this challenge. (The question isn’t, “What can the company do or what should management do – it is what can you do – what can we do?”)
  3. Let the team know you will meet again this afternoon, tomorrow, or next week.  Between now and then, the assignment is clear: Bring at least one solution, idea or commitment with you when you return.
  4. Meet at the appointed time and collect the ideas and commitments. Encourage people to explore and experiment with their solutions.
  5. Recognize and reward people as they follow through. Make progress visible and celebrate the victories.

Don’t be alarmed if your first meetings fail to yield brilliant, captivating ideas. Keep asking! Over time, the quality and quantity of ideas will grow. Confidence, energy and commitment will also rise.

In the end, you may find what I discovered. Getting to the answer or solution is a good thing.  How you get there matters too. Actually, how you get there may be what people will remember the most.

In Part III we’ll talk about another meeting that can change everything. Until then, I wish you all the best as you search for and find your “reds” and “cars.”