“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
We are honored to partner with and support many people and organizations who are working hard to make things better in this world, in so many ways. For this I feel lucky beyond belief.
One of my favorite parts of this work is the time we spend with leadership teams, helping them become clearer on where they want to lead their organizations (or teams) and how they want to lead, including how to work together more effectively, efficiently, and productively. We often take them through The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™, based on Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. This helps them build trust, master conflict, achieve commitment, embrace accountability, and focus on results.
This work generally brings about tough and necessary conversations – conversations where people are, at times passionately, opposed. As I’ve facilitated hundreds of these discussions, I’ve noticed time and time again that Eleanor Roosevelt is right. Great teams discuss ideas; average teams discuss events; small teams discuss people, or rather they discuss them in the wrong way.
Now obviously, an effective leadership team must discuss events – What upcoming events must they prepare for? What can they learn from past events? The events are the “what” of what is going on, and we need to know them and acknowledge them. But we can easily get stuck in the events and the details and miss the bigger and more important picture of ideas.
An effective leadership team must also discuss people – Do they have the right people in the right roles? Are their people being given what they need to develop and succeed? Are there “people issues” that need to be addressed and resolved? However, it is easy to get stuck in disagreements with people or clashes of personalities or talking about people in disparaging ways – gossiping and complaining – and this always damages a team and its trust.
What leadership teams often fail to spend enough time discussing are ideas – What more (or less) is needed from us now? How are we showing up to lead our organization? Where do we need to innovate? What are our values and beliefs and how do we want to be? How do we need to focus more on strategy and what does that mean? A strong leadership team spends much, if not most, of its time pulling up out of the weeds – out of the what and the who – and making sure that the what they’re doing, and why and how they’re doing it, are correct, powerful, and aligned with their values and organizational strengths.
This also holds true in many ways for our individual work with our coaching clients. We may need to hear about specific situations, events, and people in order to understand the context our clients are sharing with us, but most often the best, most powerful coaching is focused on ideas and mindshifts. On helping our clients see what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and who they are becoming, as well as who they want to become, what they want to be doing, and what might be getting in their way.
It is so easy to get caught in the details and events. At times it’s even easier to be caught in personalities and people and real or imagined affronts (and sometimes gossip). But when we pull further up and out and discuss ideas – discuss what we’re doing and why we’re doing what we’re doing and how to do it better, as well as where we want to go and who and how we want to be as a team and an organization – we are great.
How have you learned to focus on ideas rather than details, and how has it helped?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.
If you want to focus more on the what and the why, contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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