I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve heard every leadership principle in the book. I’ve read countless books on leadership, attended leadership conferences, and taught leadership for the past 8 years. I’ve run offices for a quarter billion-dollar marketing company and taught others how to do the same. I’ve taught countless college students how to lead others and more importantly how to lead themselves.
But maybe we are missing something? I mean, a lot of us have the knowledge to be a leader, right? We’ve read books and listened to others on how to be a leader, but why are we having a hard time reproducing leaders? Leaders that impact and really make a difference. Why aren’t we where we want to be? I think we are in a paradigm shift where “knowledge is power” isn’t really what it used to be.
In the past, people who knew the most were often the ones to receive a promotion. Knowledge and information was a scarce resource. The problem with that logic in 2018 in the internet age is that knowledge is plentiful today, maybe too plentiful. Everyone has their own philosophy of leadership, and anyone can access hundreds of different How-To manuals on being a better leader. I’m finding the problem doesn’t always come down to students and people not knowing how to be a leader; rather, they aren’t in an environment that helps them thrive and use their knowledge as a leader. This article was written to give some practical advice and ideas to help create an environment where all types of leaders are involved in meetings, on campus and into their career. Implementation of these keys will help produce more engaging leaders who are more impactful in college and to those around them.
Have the Newest People be Involved in Every Opportunity Possible
Often, I see organizations or schools use people to accomplish tasks. But great organizations use accomplishing the task to develop people, not the other way around. What’s more important? Developing leaders or the task? I would hope you answered, “Developing leaders.”
So many times, we want the most experienced person making the decisions and having the most say. They’ve been there and done that. It’s safe. But often we are missing out on fresh ideas and an opportunity to build our leaders. Newer leaders can lack the confidence to speak up or get involved. Let’s make giving them an opportunity to be involved a priority. They will learn more, feel important because they are, and share fresh ideas. As a leader running daily meetings with large and small groups for 5 years, I learned to let others speak up first. I let them bring up ideas because often they have the same ideas I had anyways. This will increase their confidence and create more impactful leaders.
Another important and powerful statement I want to make is this: Before we coach people to step outside their comfort zone and try new things in an effort to discover who they are, we must first create an environment where failure is not fatal. Students and people have to believe they are operating in a judgement-free zone, a place where attempts at leadership or changes that end in failure draw coaching, not criticism, out of their mentors.
In closing, it’s great to do things by yourself to make sure they are done right, but its more impactful to do it with others.
Tips to Involve Introverts and Soft-spoken People
Do you have people in meetings that never speak up? I know I’ve had that problem in the past. Extroverts, or as I like to call them, Expressives and Dominants, share every idea they have and often dominate a meeting if we aren’t careful. For example, if they have 7 ideas off the top of their head, they are most likely to shout them out immediately. Introverts, or as I like to call them, Analyticale or Amiables, think of the 7 ideas in their head and choose carefully before answering at all.
Here’s how we make all types feel important and engaged:
-Have an agenda sent out prior to any meeting or discussion so these types of leaders can come to the meeting ready to share their ideas and answers. This will help them engaged.
– Have a one-on-one conversation with them before the meeting. Telling an introvert or amiable how important they are and that we want to hear their ideas will empower them to give their input. This will also raise their confidence so they are more likely to answer. If time is tight, throwing them a sincere text letting them know they are important and their ideas are wanted will go a long way. When was the last time you received an encouraging text from someone telling you that you’re important? I’m guessing it’s been a while. You can see how impactful that would be.
Here’s the important thing to understand: These types of people just want to be heard. They don’t need their ideas or answers to be used. They just want to feel heard and validated for bringing good ideas. As long as they know this, they are happy, so don’t feel the need to implement their ideas unless you genuinely want to.
Ideas to make sure Dominants and Expressives don’t take over a meeting:
-Ask the Amiables/Analytical people to share their ideas first by calling them out by name. For example, “Our discussion today is where our Christmas Party should be held. I can’t wait to here your ideas. Sheila, why don’t you start us off with yours.” And go from there by asking by name. You don’t have to worry about the usual people who speak out to not speak out later. They always do.
Only Have the Leaders Attend the Meetings They Actually Need to Attend
Often, people feel like there isn’t a reason for them to be in the meeting. I say this confidently because every student raises their hand at an APCA event when I ask who thinks half of their meetings could be done over an email or they don’t need to be there. Everyone raises their hands. I mean everyone. I’ll have to keep this short since I don’t have a lot of space to explain in detail. When I run meetings, I only have people in the meeting that absolutely need to be there. When the students are invited, they know their voice is wanted, and they feel important.
Always Have a Specific Agenda before Every Meeting
I always have an agenda handed out or emailed to attendees before each meeting with how much time is allotted for each topic. I tell them what type of meeting it is (Discussion with no answer today, Discussion with an answer needed today, etc.). I also give people the opportunity to opt out if they feel like they can’t bring value to the meeting. It’s also important to know that I only invite people on my leadership team that I trust and want to carry the vision and culture. If there is no trust, there can’t be a strong sense of unity. And without unity, there can’t be a strong organization. Value unity above everything else. This sometimes means dismissing a bad apple in the group.
Also, if there is no specific agenda for every meeting and how much time is needed for each topic, the meeting will usually be hijacked by a random topic. Has this happened before in your meetings?
We Teach What We Know; We Reproduce Who We Are
Our students or people under our wing can never outgrow the fish tank they are placed in. By fish tank, I mean the environment and leadership they are under. Actions always speak louder than words. One of my favorite quotes is, “I can’t hear what you’re saying because your actions are speaking too loud.” Most of us want to be shown, not preached at. But I feel like most leadership, or at least corporate leadership, screams, “Do what I say, not what I do.” It’s hypocritical. We want others to grow or get outside their comfort zone without us doing so. Let me challenge you as a leader to be aware of your own personal growth. I want you to ask yourself daily, “Am I taking next steps as leader?” If not, and people aren’t engaged in their own leadership, that could be a good reason why. I want us to be the change we seek in the world. So, let’s not just teach what we know. Let’s reproduce in ourselves what we want in others. Actions always speak louder than words. Do yours?
To clarify, this isn’t about being perfect but owning our imperfections as leaders. Remember, we want to create an empowering environment where failure isn’t fatal or frowned upon. This includes the head honcho of any organization. I hope these tips help you and your organization build more impactful leaders while running better, more efficient meetings. Schools usually bring me in for a leadership series, freshman orientations, and as a keynote speaker. Feel free to reach out at DavidSchaubSpeaking@Gmail.com or check out blogs, videos of me speaking, and my two new books at DavidSchaub.Org.