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The Talking Manager: How to Lead a Discussion

Is leadership the "ability to lead a series of discussions that lead to action," as someone expressed to me recently? Her point was simply that a leader leads by getting other team members involved in decision making.

But I think this definition leaves out a basic requirement: leading. Being a great talk show host doesn't get the work done. As a leader, you have to structure those discussions to get your team from Point A to Point Z.

Here's one way to take that journey, courtesy of Harvard Business School professor Robert Pozen. Instead of starting off the next meeting with, "Here's how I think the project should proceed," pose your thought in the form of a hypothesis. "I think the project should play out this way, but I want to hear your thoughts."

This approach has the benefits of placing some fences around the conversation (the project), and identifying the goal to be achieved (a project plan), while still encouraging a spirited debate and, hopefully, consensus.

Pozen notes, however, that you as the hypothesis maker have to be open to challenges, and be willing to accommodate better ideas from your team.

Do you have a better technique for getting a team involved in the discussion?

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(Photo courtesy Baltic Development Forum, CC 2.0)