Why and when do we become a spectator in our team meetings from being an active player?
It was lunch break and day one of our leadership team overseas, my boss called me aside and said, “maybe you can be an active listener during our peer presentations, our peers have done better than last year, Our team is trailing in numbers, and this is not the time to be giving suggestions to others.”
Next few sessions, I sat through frustrated but pretended to make notes to keep my focus away. I always had a perspective on my peers 🙂 and felt I was depriving them of my valuable inputs and criticism. In my head, I was thinking, “what the heck, man, just a few quarters ago, I ran the most profitable unit, and I know a thing or two about running a business.”
However, my new silent act wasn’t missed by our CEO and HR Director. They swung by during breakfast the next morning and asked about my reticent avatar. I confessed to them about my own performance context and why it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on other businesses. I resisted my temptation to blame my boss 🙂. They asked me to keep aside my mental blocks and participate freely in the true spirit of institution-building. Their take was that we rarely meet as a leadership team, and the ideas the feedback was valuable in a neutral setting. Otherwise, each leader is in their own bubble of their team and could do better with peer feedback.
That CEO and HRD are a rare breed. I wondered what my peers in that forum must be thinking when I gave them feedback, questioned some assumptions, and criticized some of the strategies. I am pretty sure my peers must be filled with thoughts like
a. We know how to run our businesses
b. Our performance speaks for ourselves. How about you?
c. Can you clean up your house before you ask us anything?
In short, "mind your own business" is the real world when we aren't performing ourselves.
In my time with another employer, we had a different culture. One of my colleagues was usually at the top of the performance table. Her unit used to drop a few million dollars to the bottom-line constantly, and in a way, she used to fund the loss-making units in our organization. Naturally, our bosses felt she had the right for the mike, and invariably they would go to her for any inputs in our regional meetings. In that organization, it was explicit/implicit that you can speak up if you have the performance. This is not new as we have got pretty much used to this atmosphere from our schooling days where the teachers paid more attention to students who scored more. By now, many of us have gotten used to the fact that we flex our muscles when we are considered performers and shut our trap when we know that we are also in the also-ran category.
I am sure this performance halo must be spilling on to the discussions we have with our peers too. Have you evaluated the conversation dynamics with your peers? When you are performing
Are you more opinionated and in the telling mode?
Do you ever observe your dominating tone and how you cut off your peers because you feel better?
On the other hand, when your team hasn’t delivered would you
i. Skip meeting peers if you can?
ii. Avoid eye to eye conversations or
iii. Nod your head in agreement to get over the conversation?
iv. Postpone confrontations even if the situation warrants a pushback?
I am wondering how it would feel like to be in a team meeting where
1. Participants aren’t marked based on their performance
2. Conversations aren’t powered through the roles/hierarchy
3. I don’t have to sulk because I had a bad quarter/month
4. We aren’t worried about who will attack us next, the boss or the peer?
5. Or worse, someone is going to ask me to shut up because of my underperformance
6. I get the license to attack/criticize someone because I had the fortune of a great performance
I don’t have the answers but many queries for sure.
And finally, do we ever have the peace of mind to offer suggestions to our peers or bosses when we ourselves feel guilty about our contribution?
Throughout my career, I dreaded going into meetings when my performance was down, I thought somebody in that meeting will openly ask me to Mind My Own Business if offer a suggestion.
So far, no one has questioned me, But I dread they would! Isn't that how it is supposed to be?
August 4, 2023
Fast forward 5 years, and your company announces an alumni meet on social media; what's the likelihood you will be attending?