For many of us, being invited to contribute more broadly to leading a business, at times beyond our domain expertise, is the greatest compliment we can receive in our work. I lead a global function within an organization and contribute to several cross-functional leadership teams that manage the business. I work with a team of others that do the same – lead a part and contribute to the whole. What this typically equates to is that in a given 2-hour team meeting, 10 minutes will be planned for review of the KPIs, updates and decisions that need to be taken for my part. It is important to be well prepared to effectively manage your part of the agenda, but it’s been my experience that this time is usually cut in half through the normal course of the meeting. Or, if you’re allocated more time, it’s not because it’s going really well. The most effective colleagues I have worked with over the years adapt to accomplish their objectives AND actively contribute to the rest of the meeting.
Being able to accomplish your objectives in this normal course of business should be anticipated and is a team member’s responsibility. If it’s our meeting then we are accountable for the whole agenda. How we engage in the rest of the meeting can be analogous to how we operate within the organization. We can just show up, we can only focus on our tasks and lament when our agenda isn’t granted priority over others, or we can view ourselves as a member of the team accountable for the whole agenda and make a difference in the rest of the meeting. Having the perspective and preparation to succeed in the rest of the meeting can be developed in both process and content.
To be effective in the process, we have to develop our perspective and skills. Our perspective (i.e., attitudes or paradigm) on the team, our role on the team and our individual and shared objectives informs what we endeavor to do. We also have to be skilled in our preparation and interactions to show up on the job beyond intentions.
Here are a few resources I’ve found helpful:
- 4+2 Model – How HR leaders earn the invitation to operate centrally within their leadership teams to engage and enable their leaders to capably drive the talent agenda. 4+2 Model presentation from the Talent Management Institute at UNC
- HBR article, How to Respond When You’re Put On the Spot
As we learn the various facets of the work of the team and the relationships and dependencies that exist between them, the content (i.e., business acumen) of the team’s work can be the most daunting gap to bridge. When transitioning to a new role, the content is new and you will have a lot of questions. One example to illustrate this is in how a company manages finished goods inventory. In order to contribute to the rest of the meeting for a team that has to manage finished goods inventory effectively, the questions you have to understand include:
- Why is it important? What happens if we have too much? What happens if we have too little?
- Where does it come from? Is it sourced or made internally? What are the lead-times to receive more? What is the capacity of the supplying producer?
- What causes or triggers it to be sourced?
- How do we pay for it? How do we get paid for it?
- If we have too much and need to reduce, do we have the right commercial team to increase consumption and what does that do to our production workforce and for how long?
- If we have too little, do we have the right talent in the right quantity to ramp up?
Beyond the perspective and skills to effectively contribute to the rest of the meeting, we need to understand the content of the meeting. Curiosity is the key. Do not believe enduring ignorance will go unnoticed. By noting what you do not understand to research and seek mentoring from your colleagues to better understand their part of the business, you can both improve your knowledge and build your relationships.
It’s a choice. You can fixate on your part of the agenda and hope the space you’re given fulfills your expectations or you can take accountability to contribute to the rest of the meeting and make a difference.