If you’re leading an organization right now, you know the last few months have been no joke. Your leadership abilities are probably being tested to the max, and nowhere is that more relevant, visible, and important than how you are leading your team.
In part 2 of our series 8 Practical Ways To Lead Your Team Through Every Crisis, I’m going to pick up where we left off and show you three ways you can use meetings to keep your team from fraying apart. If you take these steps, you’ll not only keep your business alive, but you’ll also activate and empower your team to do more than any of you thought possible.
If you missed part 1, go back and read it. It is packed full of ideas for you to create alignment in your team, even in challenging times.
Meet 1-on-1 regularly
Face time is massively important right now—specifically 1-on-1 time. We are not made solely for work and tasks, and productivity. This crisis isn’t just affecting our companies. Your team members are likely facing substantial disruption in every area of their lives, and so are you.
Many are feeling the isolating effects of social distancing and remote work. Several months in now, any novelty has worn off for just about everyone. There is at least a low-level of anxiety underlying much of life. More realistically, you and your team are probably experiencing more stress than ever, and it’s been that way for a long time.
The best way to combat the isolation is for you as a leader to schedule 1-on-1 time with your direct reports. The best way to combat the isolation is for you as a leader to schedule 1-on-1 time with your direct reports. Click To Tweet It doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Fifteen minutes, once a week is more than enough time.
How to make 1-on-1 times work
Here’s the key to making these times work. Be quiet. Don’t walk in with an agenda and start rattling off the tasks you need to complete. Instead, let them do the talking. Let them choose the topics. Try encouraging them to talk about them and their life outside of work.
If that sounds awful or like a waste of time, before you write it off, try it. Pick one team member and spend 15 minutes per week with him/her where they have the floor. If you don’t see an immediate change, I guarantee you’ll see a noticeable difference in the first month.
Worst case scenario, you’ll have “lost” 1 hour; that’s it. What’s more likely is you’ll find the exercise incredibly productive and personally fulfilling. You’ll wonder why you never did it before.
Structure your meetings for consistency
Since the beginning of this crisis, I’ve been encouraging business leaders to structure their meeting environments intentionally. The combination of external crisis and physical distance is a recipe for disaster in meetings. In good times it is hard to run great meetings. In a crisis, it requires a high degree of intentionality. If you have not structured your meetings or are still having trouble getting your meetings to work well consider using this set of meetings created by Patrick Lencioni
Whether you are in the same room or virtual, you need to get together each day for 5-15 minutes to check-in, coordinate the next day, and keep everyone moving in the same direction. Start with any items that are past due. Then, hit anything due today or tomorrow, and then check for any significant roadblocks or fires that you need to work today. Resist the urge to solve everything in the meeting. Most things can be handled more effectively outside of that meeting. The daily check-in is just there to help you stay in sync.
This is where the magic happens. Get your whole leadership team together, review your standard operating metrics, review your progress toward your new goals, and systematically tackle any issues starting with the most important. Feel free to delegate the less critical tasks to team members to keep the meeting at 45-90 minutes (Your first couple meetings will likely be closer to 90 minutes as the team is finding its footing amidst all the change).
Things are changing rapidly across every part of society, and that’s going to affect just about every part of your business. But you can’t fix everything in a single 90-minute meeting. When a strategically important issue comes up that requires careful focus and planning, don’t try to cram it into the Weekly Tactical. Schedule a separate meeting to focus on that one issue. These meetings typically last 2-3 hours and can be unbelievably productive.
These don’t need to be offsite, and amid a crisis are often an unaffordable luxury. However, even if you can’t get away with your team for a few days outside of the office, you need to plan and review it strategically. During your ad-hoc meetings, take the time to discuss what is working and what isn’t working. Make sure you have a clear vision of success. And make sure your whole team is on board. If you put your offsite on hold in March or April, you’re probably starting to feel the drift. It’s not too late to course-correct. Pull up your calendar now and get it scheduled. You’ll be glad you did.
Encourage open disagreement and require absolute commitment.
I’ve talked about this concept before in this article. I specifically want to speak to how “Disagree and Commit” another gem from Patrick Lencioni plays out in a crisis.
First, in crisis, our fight or flight response can hit quickly and without warning. This is super complex because everyone’s reaction is different. As the leader, you’re trying to get some team members to chill out and others to perk up and get in the game. And you’re trying to do all of this while leading the meeting, making decisions, and trying to move the company forward.
Further, some of your leaders will skip the drama and go straight to autocratic, do-as-I-say rule (fight). Others will get overwhelmed and sit back, hoping the team will reach a consensus (flight).
Both of these reactions are ok to a point. However, in a prolonged crisis like the one we’re in now, they can get incredibly toxic. The fighters go into overdrive plowing over all the flight-ers, who have resentment building up inside. It can get ugly.
There is another way
But it doesn’t have to be this way. As the leader, you can keep the relational fires and painful bureaucratic decision making at bay with Disagree and Commit. Encourage everyone in the meeting to voice their honest opinion, their 100% truth. Then, at some point in the meeting, YOU need to stop the discussion and make the decision.
Finally, having had an opportunity to voice their concern, every team member has to show an unwavering commitment to the decisions. In a crisis, you don’t have time for politics and positioning. Your team has to present to the entire company a united front. Standing together will help you move through the most difficult decisions with the least collateral damage and the most momentum.
Wrapping it up
We need you right now more than ever before. Collectively, we need business leaders across the country to step into all this uncertainty and show us the path forward. I hope this series has proven useful to you in your endeavor to lead well!