Three Strategies for Getting Leaders Unstuck

A colleague of mine came to me with a crisis: in the 11th hour, her board had suddenly balked at approving the 2017 work plan. (You’ll notice we’re well into 2017) From her perspective, their onboarding had been thorough, communications had been clean, evaluation findings had been shared repeatedly, the board members were super savvy people…and yet the board wanted to “slow down” and “have a strategic conversation” before moving forward. My colleague was frantic as momentum for her programand support for the participants enrolled in itwas at risk.

It’s not uncommon for groups of leaders to get stuck. That’s the nature of group process. At some point fear questions (What are we doing? What’s it all for? How do we know it’s working?) build up, and if not addressed, can derail good efforts. Here are a few strategies I suggested for getting the group unstuck:

  1. Tell them a story. There comes a point where pushing more data just won’t work. In fact, we unconstructively let people off the hook when we keep feeding their data appetite. When people can’t seem to hear what you’ve told them, try getting them to feel it. And nothing does that better than storytelling. Make your story/stories realistic, connected to context, moving and memorable.
  2. Put them in the driver’s seat. A common trap is for both the client and the consultant to feel like it’s the consultant’s responsibility to figure everything out. It’s not. Most people learn by doing. So have the group wrestle with design and application. Give them something to work through, let them bring in their valuable perspectives, let them try to solve for X.
  3. Cocreate the future. Make room for them to change destiny (within reasonable limits). People tend to buy in to what they helped create. Instead of creating a rubber stamp situation, open a discussion about priorities, where they think the wins could be. Later you can help build out the specifics.

That last part tends to be what gives consultants (or anyone charged with wrangling VIP stakeholders) heartburn. Giving up some control, showing some vulnerability. Absolutely there is a skill to this, and an element of personal risk.

That was my $0.25. What are some strategies you’ve used for getting groups of leaders unstuck?

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