Lessons From Executives: Leaders Need to Spend More Quality Time With Workers

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Executive Coach and Leadership Unleashed President David Peck encourages leaders to meet with their key people regularly, and offers eleven steps to help make their time together enjoyable, productive and rewarding.

Leadership Unleashed has found that most leaders fail to meet regularly with those key to their success.

An absence of meaningful conversation between boss and worker creates distance, significantly increasing attrition among the highest performers, and diminishes organizational effectiveness, according to David Peck, Executive Coach and President of Leadership Unleashed, a leadership coaching firm based in San Francisco.

"Every time I start work with a new executive client, I ask them a few questions right up front: do they meet with each of their key people regularly? Do they meet periodically with other people in their organization? Do they spend most of the time in meetings listening?" Peck said, "Also, thinking back, have the meetings proven to be effective, as measured by results?"

Most answer 'no' to some or all of those questions. Further, among those who take the time to meet with their people, there's significant room for improvement. Peck added: "Whether or not they are aware of it, my client (the leader) is usually doing most of the talking, the meetings aren't designed well, the other person isn't sharing key details, or the topics covered are low priority."

The most effective leaders take the time to learn what's going on with their key people on a human level, and to coach their people regularly. However, many leaders think coaching means "telling." In contrast, Executive Coach Peck says "Coaching is listening. That's hard to do if you don't structure your time with your people carefully."

What are the "best practices" in meeting with workers? Leadership Unleashed proposes leaders think of those meetings as so-called "Sacred Time," and have prepared the following key elements that go into highly effective, productive discussions:

1. Leader takes charge of scheduling the meetings and adhering to the schedule.

2. Meetings are held on a regular basis and considered a high priority / not canceled or rescheduled unless the sky is falling.

3. Meetings are set up as interruption-free time for both people: computer, phones, email, and pagers/PDA"s turned off, and the door is shut.

4. Meeting length is determined by content, based on both people's assessments of what's needed to be discussed..

5. Meetings one on one, face-to-face, or voice-to-voice

6. Leader asks only high-priority supportive, results-oriented questions, for example:

  •      "What's the most important thing we can talk about today?"
  •      "What do you need?"
  •      "What are you up against? / What are your biggest challenges or headaches right now?"
  •      "What are you not addressing that, if solved, would help the situation more forward?"
  •      "What am I avoiding or not seeing, that, if addressed, would help you be more effective?"
  •      "Tell me one thing you don't want me to know."

7. Leader avoids asking "why" questions, particularly about the past.

8. Leader keeps the time frame being discussed in the present and the near future.

9. Leader monitors their own listening -- that is, they keep quiet over 80% of the time. If tempted to speak, they can ask themselves to "WAIT" and listen (W.A.I.T. - "Why Am I Talking?")

10. Leader lets pregnant silences be okay -- as Susan Scott puts it, they "let the silence do the heavy lifting."

11. Leader and direct report periodically evaluate together the effectiveness of these meetings, and make adjustments as necessary.

By taking such steps, Leaders will find their time with their people both highly effective and rewarding for all involved.

About David Peck: David Peck founded Leadership Unleashed to help leaders see themselves and their organizations in a new way, turning that new perspective into far more satisfying results. David's prior experience includes 16 years of leadership and consulting with Charles Schwab & Co., PriceWaterhouse Consulting, and the Putnam Companies. David completed his Leadership Coaching training at Georgetown University's International Coach Federation-certified program, and he is a member of the International Coach Federation and the Professional Coaches and Mentors Association.

About Leadership Unleashed: Leadership Unleashed was founded to help individuals, teams, and corporations achieve specific, meaningful, and sustainable results. Leadership Unleashed focuses on recognizing each leader's challenges and understanding each company's unique business strategies. Leadership Unleashed weekly Monday LeaderTips are e-mailed to leaders and professionals worldwide.

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