Today someone asked me how I know when to let things unfold and potentially be a little messy, and how I know when it’s time to step in and redirect. How do you know when to let things unfold and when to reign them in?
I think it all stems from servant leadership. Servant leaders lead with the intention of serving the group. When you’re in a meeting, are you speaking in the interest of yourself or are you serving the group? Sensing the energy of the group, and thinking about what the group needs before jumping in can radically change the outcome of your meetings.
Do people need to speak? When I’ve tried to move a discussion to close before people are ready, I see frustrated looks. My attempts at efficiency resulted in more time spent in after-meeting discussions. When a group needs to continue the discussion you can feel that unfinished energy in the room like there’s a bubble of things waiting to come out. Look for whether people still need to speak their truth. If people haven’t had a chance to voice their concerns, you may sense that the group is not ready to move on. Let things unfold.
Is the discussion spinning? Sometimes a group falls into a downward spiral discussion that’s going nowhere and they don’t know how to get out of it. The energy starts to feel stagnant in the room. There are several forms of this, the most common being the ‘rabbit hole’ where the group is distracted by unimportant details. Another cause of spin is when the group is missing a piece of information necessary for a decision, but they keep discussing it anyway. When you sense this energy, the best way to serve the group is by helping them move on. A simple observation like “This discussion is unproductive until we find out X, let’s move on and pick this up once we have more info. Who is going to take the action to find out X?”
Is there conflict? Conflict is its own animal, which warrants its own set of posts. But in short, if there’s conflict in your meeting the best way to serve is to help the conflict stay productive and keep it from being damaging. What I look for in conflict is whether new information is coming out or if people are saying the same things over and over. I have found it super helpful to write the points on a whiteboard to keep the group from repeating the same points. If new information is coming out, let the conflict continue. When the group starts to repeat points, it’s time to determine what drivers the group is aligned on, and resolve the conflict based on the common drivers.
How have you served the group in meetings? Let us know!