I was working with a finance manager one day and watched him step outside the box and invent a brand new way to take his team to another level.
He’d brought the team together for a meeting. After the initial checkin, he told them he had something he wanted to say that wasn’t on the agenda. The room got quiet. Phil then began telling his team that he’d been doing some reflecting about what could be done to take this team “to the next level.” He said he was thinking of what little things could be done that could make a big difference.
“One thing I realized,” he said, “is that I interrupt you too often. Sometimes I get so excited about my idea that I don’t really take the time to listen to yours. And I don’t like that I do that. I’m going to change that.”
The people around the conference table said nothing. You know what they were thinking, right? Sure…he says that, but will he follow through? Or perhaps, It’s about time!
Then Phil stood up, as he went on to say, “I really mean what I’m saying. I’m making a full commitment to cut my interruptions to a minimum.” As the group stared, Phil took off his jacket, removed his tie, and then began unbuttoning his shirt. The group stared as Phil removed his shirt, revealing a tee shirt he’d had made up for this occasion. On it was printed, “I will not interrupt my team!”
Everyone chuckled, and then Phil took it to another level. What he’d already done was terrific, but his next act took his leadership to another level. He began passing out a one-page handout to each person. On the sheet of paper was a drawing of the outline of a tee shirt. “Now,” he said, “I want you to think about one thing you could do differently that could help take this team to the next level. It’s not just my responsibility – we are one team, and we all share the responsibility. So think about it – what could you do to help this team improve, if you chose to? Write it down on that handout.”
For the next few minutes, people thought about it and scribbled something on their handout. Then Phil asked them to share what they’d written. The ideas were simple yet profound. I could come to meetings better prepared. I could stop trying to prevail in every conversation. I could bury the hatchet with Jim and move on. I could speak up more often. Around the table they went, as each person shared what he or she could do that would help the team be more effective.
When they were finished, Phil simply said, “We all know what we could do. Now, let’s just do it.”
And you know what, that’s just what they did. It’s pretty hard to declare what you could do differently and then not do it.
Afterwards, I teased Phil a bit. “You know what you’ve just done? You’ve pulled off a full-blown team building in fifteen minutes.”
Phil couldn’t have been happier with the results.