Ask and Tell

The first time I sat on a Board of Directors, it didn’t go particularly well. In hindsight, I think it’s because I took too long to contribute. I took on the role of the quiet newbie for the first year of my term, which only left me two years to make whatever impact I could. That impact was minimal for several other reasons, one of which was not having a team around me that was interested in leveraging the contributions I could offer. They communicated quite clearly that they were fine without me.

Now that I work with dozens of Boards. I see that pattern repeating itself too often. People who are individually accomplished are not finding ways to put their skills to best use collectively. We don’t see many teams that are truly greater than the sum of their parts, do we?

Great groups figure out how to balance asking and telling.

It starts at the individual level. Skilled collaborators have mastered the dance of listening and asking good questions, alongside offering their perspective and skills confidently for the group’s use. In turn, the group as a whole, or more specifically often the Chair, has figured out how to bring people up to speed quickly and make space for their brilliance to shine.

This blend of curiosity and candour is key to highly effective teams.

Having diversity around the table is not enough. That diversity truly needs to be brought to the table so that various ways of thinking and breadth of expertise can actually be made visible and thus become resources for the group to use. When, courtesy of a clear mission and skilled facilitation, those elements are channelled in a common direction, powerful things can happen.

Are you holding back? Not offering what you have or know? Or maybe rarely inquire about what others bring to the table, thereby creating spaces where those offerings are not invited or appreciated? Wishing you a wise balance between curiosity and candour on your teams this week.

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