Leaders: Are You Making the Important Connections?

How is it that days go by with certain priorities still looming and undone? My forthcoming book, Jumping From the I-pod to the We-Pod: Breaking Through the Barriers to Essential Collaboration is our format for making connection the number one tool for getting things done and projects completed.

Leaders are expected to have ideas and solutions. One of the most effective tools for creating solutions is to have the benefit of connections that you can count on for discussion and clarity. In most organizations the time for connection is not a priority; but I am advocating making this a priority so that, when needed, there is a quick and clear ability to communicate and move forward with clarity.

If you are a leader who wants to break through the barriers to essential collaboration, there is an important practical step you must take: make regular appointments with colleagues who are your peers, as well as the team members that you lead.

One of the basic issues in organizations is the lack of connection between peers. Some thought leaders suggest that the team of which you are a member, your team of peers, is the primary team, while the team you lead is the secondary one. In my experience of working with teams, especially leadership teams, I have found that most leaders are more concerned about the team they lead rather than their team of peers where the ability to create more strategic results and innovation exists.

When meeting with colleagues, asking questions can be more important and more effective than any information you might impart. As a mentor to the team you lead, the way to move a team agenda forward is to create questions to ask each team member which, when answered, gives them an opportunity to share themselves and their knowledge with their colleagues, and to build trust. Often leaders approach team members with an issue beginning with phrases that create defensiveness instead of problem solving. With peers, the opportunity to problem-solve and to move the organizational agenda forward is available; if you give it priority and time to develop.

In the team development model used for Jumping from the I-Pod to the We-Pod, much time is spent in breaking the barriers to essential communication and collaboration. One of the biggest barriers to overcome is fear or mistrust, so asking questions and seeing the answers as a fund of knowledge for success can be quite powerful.

Essential Collaboration is necessary for building and sustaining the business, as well as for innovation. In order to have conversations that create essential connection, it is important to make asking questions or inquiry a major part of your agenda in order to get to the heart of the matter. These are not challenging questions, rather they are requests for information that help you understand what is important to the other person.

As a coach and consultant it is my job to ask questions to assist you in identifying the priorities that are important and the actions that will bring the results.

For example, recently I was talking with the new CEO of a large non-profit organization. As we explored the coming year with his team, I began asking him some questions. You can imagine that leading in a new context can seem overwhelming at first, and I was talking to an experienced CEO who has led other organizations. His leadership skills were developed, however, because this was a new place with a new culture, discovering how it operates and what changes are needed to bring it into the current context was essential.

Challenging people is not the first step; finding out what is important to them is. The following questions helped my client clarify his priorities and next steps:

  1. How did you get started?
  2. Where do you wish you were making faster progress?
  3. What are the most exciting parts of the job?
  4. Are there things you need to de-emphasize or stop doing?

These questions are ones I often ask as a coach as I assist executives to look at strategy and priorities, and they are questions you can ask yourself as you prepare for conversations with colleagues and your direct reports. Often questions like these allow you to move “out of the box” and become more aware of what is important and what actions need to be taken to move forward.

Please share your own thoughts and experiences by posting a comment.  I’d enjoy hearing from you!