Coaching to Core Ideals – Environmental Engineering of Success

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.

The IDEAL LEADER is ACCESSIBLE

  1. Physically available to the right people at the right time.
  2. Adept at creating forums where discussion and ideas get shared.
  3. Emotionally, mentally and intellectually available

Leading is about engineering success at many levels within an organization. Leaders are focused often only on the “output”. This is only part of the equation. The larger and more complex an organization becomes the more vital it is that I coach leaders around process. Leaders are responsible for the entire environmental system. Leaders are responsible for results or the output that is needed to create success. Success is certainly measured often with financial metrics, but results can be other tangible and intangible defined outcomes.

As an “environmental engineer” you need to quickly learn basic systems theory. The diagram below will provide your master’s level description.

INPUT => PROCESS => OUTPUT

<= FEEDBACK <=

You have to make sure that you have 1) the right inputs, 2) defined output, 3) effective processes, and 4) a grounded feedback. This post will speak to value of the process of creating forums to gain feedback and desired output/results for success. Each process should have a goal and each goal serves its accompanying process as clearly connected to the success desired.

A forum is a PROCESS where conversation can take place and people can be heard. Being heard is a basic human need. Regardless of what that content is…it is important that those you lead experience being listened to by you and others within your organization. I was intrigued that the definition of forum also included the words OPPORTUNITY and MARKETPLACE. Forums are about opportunity and creating an environment that supports not only the values of a leader, but the values of those they lead. A savvy leader knows that meetings/forums are an asset and not a necessary evil that is endured just to get—“the damn thing over with”.

Could you agree with this next idea? The extension of your internal forums into the marketplace makes powerful sense for many leaders to consider. In fact, the quality of the conversations you practice as an organization or team will directly impact the quality and effectiveness of conversations in the marketplace. How many times have we as leaders wondered, even aloud to a battery of subordinates—“Why do our customers feel that we don’t appreciate them?” I

s there a forum in your business that discusses “appreciation and acknowledgement” of each other and the customer? There is great benefit in getting people together in dialogue to share ideas, learn together, and develop relationships that establish accountability to the most important outcomes needed to succeed. There are several types of forums that leaders use to communicate their ideas. Meetings are just one of the important forums that can be a place where important knowledge, information, and direction setting goals can be shared.

Unfortunately communicating or sharing goals does not ensure they are understood and acted upon proactively. My coaching to clients and organizations is the following. Leaders are responsible for creating effective forums that nurture a well informed and aligned community within their business. Become adept at this skill and it will lead to proactive action, accelerated learning, and accountability.

The word “forum” has its roots in the Roman culture of public spaces usually in the middle of a city where speaking and debate took place. It was an important part of the Roman culture. In these forums (or meeting places) ideas, beliefs, and relationships were built. They had social significance for those that were a part of the community. With the Internet and mobile technology we can now create virtual forums like discussion boards, social medium, and blog posts as needed to respond to needs of businesses and customers.

These forums are valid ways for virtual and geographically dispersed teams/organizations to be engaged and connected to important with leader’s dialogue. AND it is often a huge miss on a leader’s part to not take advantage of using a forum to dialogue with their people and organization. It’s not always what does get said that hurts a company as much as what doesn’t get said. The unsaid things (have fun with this one), especially around times of stress (from growth or downturn) in the business, are missing links to understanding.

Managing transition and stress requires keeping people’s minds “right” around how to interpret what is going on in their organization or marketplace. Even more interesting is that when a leader doesn’t communicate people will make crap up. We are “meaning makers’ and we are constantly trying to make sense of our environment. Missing conversations are as bad as or more damaging than poorly held discussions.

One of the most potent and powerful learning experiences I have had as a leader and coach was training on facilitative leadership. Not all of it was about managing meetings, but there was a significant portion of this training around the whole domain of—how we meet. The process of meeting involved managing relationship, process, and results simultaneously. The core premise still resonates with me some 16 years later now. Meetings (or forums) are a microcosm of the larger organization. If you observe how a team meets you have a good view of the macro environment or culture of an organization.

What have you observed as a leader at meetings? Let me make a short list…

1. No agenda and lack of desired outcomes for meeting

2. No process for making decisions or even lack of what decisions needed to be made and by whom.

3. Too much for time allotted or too little time for so much…take your pick.

4. No clear roles defined for the meeting…like a simple “time keeper” makes a huge difference along with a note taker that captures commitments made, so that we can hold each other accountable

5. No clear purpose for “why” we are meeting in the first place.

I could make a list 3 times longer, but you get the point in most likely in your own personal experience. Death by meetings as a phrase even became a book by Patrick Lencioni! It’s a good read and the hyperlink will give you a good summary. There is even a clock that keeps track of the cost of meetings in time investment.

Content of a meeting is extremely important. However, I have seen very good content lose out for lack of meeting process and facilitation. Forums (like meetings) done well are energy builders and not energy suckers. They are forums of opportunity and not just opposition! Some people believe that modern day corporate environments are structured in ways that prevent productivity. I cannot necessarily disagree with that idea…yet coaching is about possibilities and I don’t see much opportunity in that point of view.

My coaching point here is make meetings an asset not “ass” set. Why waste precious time, money, and resources of your people…and maybe even worse is the time you squander as a leader. You could be out with customers or employees doing meaningful work and make more progress. Better yet engineer the environment you need to create a successful conversation within your business and marketplace.

Coaching Points:

  • Leaders are responsible for creating effective forums.
  • Engineer the environment you need to create a successful conversation within your business and marketplace.
  • Forums can be energy creators and leaders should use it build momentum towards meaningful action.
  • Building an aligned community within your organization will lead to proactive action and accelerated learning.
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