How do you help senior leaders grow to manage large, talented teams?
As employees progress in their professional journeys and grow from being ICs (Individual Contributors), to managing small teams, to leading large teams of mature professionals – what can the L&D (Learning & Development) function do to support this progression?
Communication is the currency of the human system that the team is. There are different ways in which communication takes place within a team. But conversations – oral exchanges of ideas, information, opinions, sentiments – between the leader and the team are pivotal in the communication-space of a team. The power of conversations resides in the fact that they set off complex psychological dynamics within the individual and the team; much more potent than any other form of communication.
This is a two-part series on how to help senior leaders unlock the power of conversations with their teams. In this first part, we introduce you to the 3 approaches that leaders need to consider for mastering conversations.
But before we get to this, let us try and empathize with the leader’s journey.
As high-performing employees get promoted from an IC role to a people leader role, they need to make a mindset shift from being focused on self to getting work done through people and preparing the team for tomorrow’s challenges. This is a journey that takes concerted effort over a long time. Even as they grapple with the challenge of learning how to lead people, nascent leaders are working under the pressures of delivery and meeting business goals. To meet targets, it is natural for many to default into the telling mode with their teams, or what we call ‘the consultative’ mode. This strategy might even work for them initially – they meet targets, get bonuses, and see promotions.
But as they climb the ladder and confront complex business realities, working with larger teams of mature professionals, this consultative mode of leadership stops paying dividends. This is when team performances slow down.
This also presents an opportunity to the organization to support senior leaders to build new skills and mindsets that will help them elevate their leadership capability.
3 Approaches to help Senior Leaders Unlock the Power of Conversations with their team:
1. Creating a safe space for their team:
Senior leaders must concede that they will not have all the answers all the time. They need to equip their team to think and act collaboratively and creatively if they are to overcome the myriad challenges that they will face in these volatile times. It becomes important to have the team contribute ideas and question each other freely. Creating a safe space where individuals feel confident in sharing their thoughts without the risk of judgement is essential for open conversations to happen.
The creation of a safe space begins with the leader of the team. And for that to happen, the leader must understand the benefits of a safe space, develop the muscle to manage themselves and moderate the group, and most importantly, develop the ability to suspend their judgment at least while the safe space stands.
2. Leveraging coaching type conversations:
A coaching type conversation is one where questions emerge from a space of curiosity and deep listening. When leaders employ this style of conversation, they stand to gain a deeper understanding of their team and unlock hidden potential by helping individuals develop their own solutions.
While the skill of having a coaching conversation might be easier to learn, the challenge is helping leaders assimilate the ‘being’ of a coach. This means being okay walking in the space of unknown – an uncomfortable feeling for many especially since we are trained to always ‘know’.
3. Deciding what ‘type’ of conversation to have:
In a work context, team members may approach their leader with various needs. It is incumbent on the leader to decide which approach to take to navigate the specific conversation.
It begins with leaders becoming aware that they in fact have choices when it comes to conducting a critical conversation. These choices are to either have a coaching, consulting, or mentoring conversation, or to route the conversation to HR. Once they become aware of the choices, they must learn the modalities of having these different types of conversations. And finally, be able to choose an appropriate mode and toggle between them if need be.
Meeraq has worked with several clients to equip their senior leaders with skills and mindsets required to unlock the power of team conversation. Our experience has taught us that these programs are often transformational for the leader, not only in their professional context but also their personal lives, such is the fundamental nature of conversations and their potential to impact the way we think and behave.
If you are curious to know more, follow us on LinkedIn where we will publish part 2 of this series. Look for a deep dive into each of these 3 approaches and find out what it takes to successfully help leaders Unlock the Power of Conversations.