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It never ceases to amaze and scare me just how easy it is for two or more incredibly bright, successful people to walk out of a meeting with a completely different view of what was just agreed.
I remember this happening when I was Head of HR at World Challenge. It was 2008 and like many businesses at the time, the leadership team were together in the boardroom discussing what we had to do to navigate the difficult financial situation that lay ahead of us.
To this day I’m convinced that one of the things we agreed was to place a lot more rigour around recruitment. The new process was that all recruitment had to be approved by our MD, before coming to my team. I thought that was pretty clear.
Within two hours of that meeting ending, two of my colleagues had each passed a recruitment request to my Recruitment Officer… without approval from the MD.
When I asked why they had not followed the process we had agreed just two hours earlier, their response was that they thought it didn’t apply to them and that process would kick in after their current recruitment needs were met.
I’m certain they didn’t adopt that position because they thought they were special, nor do I think they were trying to be deliberately subversive.
They just left that meeting with a completely different view of what was agreed. And that was allowed to happen because, as a team, we were nowhere near good enough at clarifying commitments and testing for understanding. Which is something that all world-class teams do.
As a leader in the Army, I was taught to ask questions of my team to ensure they understood the plan.
If they could answer my questions correctly, I was confident we could execute the mission. If they couldn’t answer my questions, I knew that my briefing wasn’t clear enough and had to go over it again.
In the business world we tend to ask if anyone has any questions and take the inevitable silence to mean that everyone is in agreement and understands. But all too often, that is not the case.
My recruitment story at World Challenge is a minor example. But what about the bigger examples of the misunderstanding that inevitably come out of the meetings you lead and attend?
What is the true cost of misalignment?
– How much does that cost you financially?
– What is the impact on engagement and motivation when someone has worked really hard on the wrong thing?
– What does it cost you in wasted time and effort?
If you want to become a truly great team, it starts with getting the basics right. One of which is running great meetings.