“So did you talk to Jack?” I asked.
Carolyn was smiling, “I sure did. He was really helpful. I thought he might reject me.”
“And did he give you some useful suggestions?”
“He kept asking me questions. It was kind of weird. He wasn’t insulting, or condescending, it was like he expected me to ask myself lots of questions.” she shared.
“What kind of questions?”, now I was curious.
“He asked me a lot of WHY questions. Why did I schedule the meeting? Why did I invite all of the people? Why was the meeting scheduled for an hour? Then he asked me some really interesting questions. How much did the meeting cost? How important was the result of the meeting? How urgent was the timing of the result to the execution of our overall plan?”, Carolyn shared, “and then he dropped the bomb.”
“The bomb?”, I was intrigued.
“He asked me how much of the work I planned to do as a group in the meeting could have been done by invited individuals before the meeting? It was like my head exploded. I realized that the cost of meeting as a group of 12 people for an hour was high. I realized that without a clear agenda, there was a high probability of failure, of spending 12 man hours and not actually accomplishing anything valuable. I realized that my plan was to waste people’s time and that by not carefully scripting the meeting, I was disrespecting the people I had invited.”, she was smiling.
“So he completely called you out. So why are you smiling?”, I was now genuinely interested.
“Because he didn’t really call me out. He just got me to realize that I had not DONE THE WORK to maximize the output of the team. As he asked me questions, I realized all by myself that every meeting is like a mini team. That as the facilitator of the meeting, I was accountable for the output of the team. I suddenly realized that every meeting was an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and ensure that I was seen as a go to person.” Carolyn was suddenly so energized, it was radiating from her.
“Wow, I never thought of it like that.”, I shared.
“Neither had I, and Jack didn’t even say it. He just asked questions in a way that made me discover things that I had never thought of. At the end of our conversation I asked him if he would help me improve my meeting planning – would mentor me in that.”
“What did he say?”, I asked.
“He said that he thought that he already had, but that he would be glad to meet periodically to discuss related topics.”, she laughed, “And I just laughed. I thought I was going to him to learn about meetings, and I ended up learning about leadership. I thought he would dismiss me because I had done a poor job of leading this meeting, and I gained a mentor. This was the best conversation I had all week.” As she left my office I had to ponder how she was so lucky.