Have you ever sat in a meeting wondering what the purpose of it was? Have you ever had a conversation with a manager and decided it was all rather pointless? Most people have at some time in their lives.

This got me thinking about how the CCL view of leadership can be translated into a very practical and day-to-day tool to help managers in their conversations with, well, anybody. CCL views leadership as a series of outputs; when you see evidence of direction, alignment and commitment, then leadership is happening. Stay with me, and I will show you what I mean.

What does this look like to a first-line manager? Let’s look at most meetings, they tend to run like this story from a new I.T. supervisor:

‘My manager told us of the problem, and then we dived in and started to talk about down-time, fixes, bugs in the software, ways of re-writing the codes, and so on. Half the team lost interest, and we ended up after two hours no further on than when we started!’

Here’s a diagram of what should have been happening. 

Goal:   Most meetings have a goal (or should), however this needs to be revisited several times in the meeting, and a check made that everyone is clear and moving towards the same goal. Stating the purpose once at the start is not enough because most meetings change direction.

Work:   People start to work on various tasks and look very ‘busy’, but this is often non-productive. This is where most of the time is spent, and most of the manager’s focus is making sure lots of ‘work’ is done to solve the immediate problem. However, people often end up working on separate problems out of alignment.

Climate:   Nobody checks that others are engaged, have a chance to contribute, or are even interested. People switch off if they have no part to play, or feel marginalised and ignored. It is a rare manager who asks people how they feel a meeting is going and ask about their commitment.

A manager who asks simple questions about goal, work and climate will find the chance of a successful meeting, one-to-one, or discussion, will increase.

Leadership is not all about a grand vision or a large strategic initiative. It can be seen in the little things, small meetings, conversations on the way to the coffee machine, and private discussions.

Makes it all rather easy doesn’t it? Or if you prefer, you could hear people leave the meeting asking:

‘What was that all about? Another waste of my time!’

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