Last month we discussed Jim Collins’ four steps toward positive change. Those steps are:
- Lead with questions, not answers
- Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion
- Conduct autopsies without blame
- Build in “red flag” mechanisms
Today, I’d like to focus in on steps two and three, both of which have to do with opening up lines of communication so that teams can analyze past mistakes, set goals, and take action as a cohesive unit.
First off, let’s talk about how to engage in dialogue and debate without using coercive tactics. Believe it or not, this is an issue that a lot of upper-level managers struggle with. It can be extremely tempting to want to bring your team around to your way of thinking rather than opening yourself up to outside input, but the best ideas emerge when teams are allowed to converse on equal footing without fear that their ideas will be dismissed or given a lower priority because they didn’t come from the boss.
One way to achieve open communication with your team is to start meetings by acting not as a leader but rather as a moderator, presenting a problem and asking for potential solutions rather than presenting any yourself. Let the conversation flow between your team, let them engage in debate and argument without inserting your own opinion until absolutely necessary. This way, you can encourage your employees to take charge of your goal planning initiatives.
Once you’ve established good communication with your team, work on conducting autopsies without blame. As we move further into 2015, your business is likely setting goals in the workplace and looking for ways to improve on past performance. This probably means discussions about what went wrong in years past, and these conversations can be extremely informative and helpful, but only if they are conducted in the right manner.
Analyzing past mistakes is an opportunity to learn, not an opportunity to throw around blame. By assessing past mistakes without passing judgment on who may or may not have been responsible for those mistakes, you and your team can begin a critical and constructive conversation about how to move forward with appropriate goal setting in the year to come.
And of course, the skills of open debate and conducting autopsies are important for more than just goal planning. These skills are essential for enacting goals, because every goal is bound to have its fair share of setbacks and problems. With clear communication, an affirming attitude, and a focus on solutions rather than blame, your team will be empowered to act more efficiently and effectively until your goals are achieved.