What happened when I started asking other people to set the agenda

I am sure many of you are like me. Maybe not in the "enjoys potato chips smashed inside a peanut butter and jelly sandwich" kind of way (I know I'm probably on my own there). But perhaps you're similar in that you want to walk into a meeting knowing exactly what needs to be accomplished. Personally, I need a bullet point list of objectives before things get rolling. I even recently went so far as to ask my chief of staff to implement a 'meeting protocol' that involved not only mandating agenda items, ensuring all relevant parties were in the meeting, but ensuring that I had the specific objectives and talking points that I needed to make the meeting a 'success.'

Okay, I may have gone overboard and should add that being flexible is a good character trait in the business world, too.

A funny thing happened while I was in a meeting with two of my favorite senior advisors. They were sitting there asking me to use them more, it was a ‘help me help you' moment — and after I heard them, I am not sure what compelled me but I asked them what THEY thought we should talk about. And the answers were better than what was on my agenda (which I promptly put away).

I thought to myself - ‘that was interesting' — there's always a statistical anomaly so I gave it another shot later that day. I was meeting with our head of investments and I asked, "What do you think we should get in sync on?" — and it worked again!

For those of you that have growing teams, I encourage you to try this out, I think you'll like what you hear.

How to start

  1. Trust that your team knows what is important- they are the ones on the ground, in the projects, managing your resources — trust that they can bring the relevant issues to the forefront, and frankly, maybe even better able to do so than you can as a leader.

  2. Know what to ask. Instead of going into a meeting with a list of agenda items to cover, go in with a list of questions to ask such as, "What are the bottlenecks?" "What are we out of sync on?" "What is causing you pain right now" "What are the most urgent and important things for us to discuss in this moment?" "How can I be leverage for you and your team" "Where are you not getting support that you need?"

  3. Bring the right energy. (Add article on energy) Being inquisitive isn't just about asking questions, it's about actually wanting to know the answers — actively listening, reflecting, and probing. If you don't bring the right energy your team will notice and you not only won't get the openness you want and need as a leader, you won't get to the best topics!

The Benefits

  1. Get to the root cause faster. Your team may often be in a better position to help you get to the root cause of an issue faster. As a leader time is everything, so I encourage you to increase efficiency with this tactic.

  2. Build intimacy with your team. By asking your team about what they think is important, you are sending all sorts of messages like, "I care about what you think," "I value your opinion," "I trust you know what we should talk about," "You may know BETTER than me what we should cover." Showing that type of vulnerability will build intimacy and credibility with your team. That intimacy will drive productivity.

  3. More perspectives and topics you might not have heard or covered help you grow as a leader. From your CFO bringing up treasury management items, to your project managers bringing up a new software or methodology to use — you will grow and so will your company.

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