Here is a powerful but deceptively simple exercise to help leaders connect more fully with their teams. No matter how some leaders encourage their teams to be speak their minds, there is always at least a residual hesitation for them in doing so. It’s hard for the leader not to jump in with his or her opinions and harder still for team members not to try to second guess what the leader’s opinion would be.
In this exercise, the team are asked to discuss a significant challenge. The leader is present, but outside the circle. He or she can introduce the topic, but after that cannot say anything except for “Thank you” or “I’d like to hear more from Hazel”. The team appoints its own moderator, who summarises the conversation. Mobile phones are banned from the room. The team discuss both their own role in addressing the issue and what they expect form the team leader.
After the session, everyone reflects on their learning. If appropriate, the team discuss the issue again, this time with the team leader participating. He or she begins by reflecting back the original conversation – demonstrating that the team has really been listened to – and, if appropriate, offering additional context the team didn’t have.
Among the benefits of this approach are:
- The leader gets to see the team dynamics when he or she is not making their presence felt
- The team gain more confidence in their own collective voice
- The leader learns to listen more and control the conversation less
David Clutterbuck 2022