How Can You Win by Sharing Challenges and Problems?

In today’s business environment it is often instinctive to hold your cards close to your sleeve, keeping problems and challenges to yourself, for fear of being perceived as lacking. But in reality, we all have challenges and problems in business, and “no man is an island.” We must learn to engage and collaborate with each other if we are to succeed in the new business climate.

One of our models that I use quite often to help business leaders overcome this mindset is the Collaborative Leadership/Team Alignment model, which starts with an offsite team meeting that demonstrates the essentials, identifies areas that need improvement, and is followed up by series of follow-up meetings to make sure the results are sustainable. When leaders are interested in learning, we can work with them easily to bring the elements of collaborative leadership into everyday business, using a Four Meeting Process model that brings in all of the elements.

One of the strongest elements of this model is that in order to create and move into high performance, it is necessary to learn to communicate and to connect with team members at all levels. One of the connection areas involves setting up an environment where it’s safe in leadership meetings to discuss challenges and problems as part of a report to team leaders and peers, without feeling threatened. In addition, time is allowed to create an environment and process for receiving ideas, and for having ideas that might not be seen as the best solution right away. In other words, a place to safely risk creative and innovative thought.

As an observer of senior leadership meetings, I have seen reports read that outline accomplishments with no reference to current challenges. In general, the challenges may be discussed with one or two other trusted colleagues, but are not presented as an ordinary part of a leadership meeting. As a collaborative leader, it becomes important to make wins and challenges a regular part of meetings.

The Collaborative Leadership/Four Meeting model sets the framework for greater team engagement, and provides an opportunity to build trust, allowing for partnerships that create a sense of confidence and connection. During the second meeting, the focus is on peer-to-peer accountability partnerships. In the third and fourth meetings, the team learns to give both wins and challenges, and sets up a format for receiving input regarding challenges that are occurring for each member of the team. This becomes a regular function for the team, rather than something that occurs as a crisis.

A great illustration of this is contained in the book, American Icon, by Bryce G. Hoffman, about Alan Mulally, the out-going President and CEO of the Ford Motor Company.

As I was discussing this book with a colleague, I was told that he used a version of the Collaborative Leadership/Team Alignment model to begin the amazing turn-around in his own company that has occurred over the last 8 years.

Here is a description from a Forbes article, Why Ford’s Alan Mulally is an Innovation CEO for the Record Books, written by Sarah Miller Caldicott, that describes the use of this process well:

“At his very first weekly session, Mulally’s direct reports showed green lights with just a few yellow lights sprinkled in. Mulally calmly indicated that this could not be possible; the company was in a financial straight jacket and steadily losing market position. He urged them to roll up their sleeves and ask new questions, putting away their boxing gloves. Lots of red lights showed up at the next Thursday morning meeting. By personally modelling candor and a willingness to openly speak about complex, taboo subjects, Mulally built a safe operating environment for his direct reports.

When Executives regularly looked for vulnerability among their peers and practiced self-preservation over collaboration. Mulally changed all that, making executive meetings a safe environment where data could be shared without blame, improving collaboration and setting the stage for innovation and success.”

I was very pleased to see how this model of meeting and sharing both wins and challenges was used in a large global arena, and had the effect of changing a culture. It verified the power of this part of the Collaborative Leadership model.  The safety for interaction and ideas in a team environment is vital, and using opportunities to create more connection builds to this point.

Also, this addresses the concern I have developed as I sat in on executive meetings, and witnessed the lack of connection among top peer leaders.  Mulally addressed this so well, and using this format will give you tips on beginning that change in your current culture.

Be sure to take a look at our Four Meeting Model as well for tips on creating more engagement and performance from your teams.

Do you have a leadership question, challenge, or success you would like to share, please be sure to leave a comment. I would enjoy hearing from you! – Patricia