Not Everyone Needs to Give their Input

by vernsanders on August 12, 2011

I’m somewhat of a sucker for reading things about leadership, and I recently came across this interview of Susan Neely in which she answers several questions about “how to” leadership skills (complete post here).

She was asked the standard question first, and the last two sentences jumped out at me (emphasis mine):

What is your leadership philosophy?

I’m a big believer in, “How do you make the team reach its full potential?” Everybody who has a stake in something, from the board of directors to your staff, you want the person to be deeply committed to the vision and strategy. Figure out how everyone can contribute. The challenge…is to come up with a result that isn’t the lowest common denominator, having everyone give input. The key is to create a team that is committed to excellence and appreciates what one another can offer.

As a veteran sitter-in-on-meetings in church and non-profit committees, I couldn’t agree more. I have been subjected to countless hours wasted because those who were in charge of the meetings felt it was some sort of constitutional right for everyone in the room to say something (anything) before we could gain closure on a discussion topic.

Here’s a clue, people: some of the folks in the room don’t have anything useful to contribute to many discussions! And before you go postal on me, I’m not (NOT) saying that most people in a meeting are stupid or inarticulate (but now that I mention it…no, they aren’t…really). What I mean is that some people don’t care if the flower arrangement goes on the right hand side of the pulpit or the left or directly in front. I mean they realllllly don’t care. They don’t care if you buy a 64 channel mixer or a 128 channel mixer. Some people would like the meeting to be done in less than 3 hours.

Tip: before every meeting (especially based upon experience in prior meetings), put the non-controversial, likely to be approved anyway items into a consent agenda. If someone objects, you can always move an item from that consent agenda to a discussable item.

Then she was asked about something that really interests me (again, emphasis mine):

How do you decide whether someone is right for your team?

I follow the Nordstrom philosophy: Hire aptitude, and teach people everything else they need to know. They will have professional skills, degrees — but beyond that, look for aptitude. I want someone who is entrepreneurial and gets the job done but who also has the ability to work with others. Sometimes you’re the leader, sometimes you’re the follower, but there is a deep commitment to getting the work done.

In directing choirs, I’ve found that it is more often “find enthusiasm (or committment)” and then do the teaching, but in any volunteer situation I believe that it doesn’t matter what your pedigree is if you are teachable.  It has become one of the most important criteria I look for when I am hiring an associate, because these days you can almost always find people who have the skills and “book learning.” More important to me is whether the person can be taught what the goals and visions are for the ministry, and whether or not they can work without a lot of hand holding. This latter comes because these days the ministry requirements don’t allow for a lot of micromanaging or other time suck activities (like unproductive meetings).

Tip: Not every leader feels this way. If you don’t, fine. If you are evaluating a new position, take the time to find out whether or not your outlook on this matter meshes with your new boss(es). Trust me…it will save a lot of grief in the long run.

Do you micromanage? Do you think that is necessary? What about long meetings so that you can make sure your associates know you are in charge? Or…perchance, do you hate those traits? Can you guess my bias? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Ipod shuffle status: 3122 (San-Ho-Zay – Freddie King)  of 7875 [can't tell you the number of times I played this tune (as a keyboard player playing the guitar part) growing up playing in rock bands as a kid]

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