In the book, The Competent Leader, Peter Stark & Jane Flaherty discuss how to develop consensus in chapter 13. One phrase jumped out to me as I read through this great material. “Focus on the aim frame.” What they are referring to is that too often in meetings where consensus is sought, participants are focusing on everything but the same goal – the aim frame. As they write:
“When groups have a difficult problem to resolve and are trying to come to a consensus, it is helpful for the manager to focus the group in the aim frame. Focusing on the aim frame asks the group two questions. The first question is “Where does the group want to be with the decision or what is the ideal outcome?” The second aim frame question is “How do we get there?”
I like this concept. It’s true! I’ve seen it at work. I’ve seen it in relationships. I’ve seen it in professional sports.
As a manager/leader, think about a team member you lead right now that needs some development. They need to grow to the next level. It is so easy as the “boss” to point out shortcomings or, as we like to call them, “opportunities”. We can call for lists of action plans to address these. The team member then brings back their action plan, works it, and what do we do? We call for another round of action plans to address shortcomings. How do they end up feeling? Damned if I do/Damned if I don’t. Without a correction (from you), this employee is at risk of choosing “I don’t” and you lose them.
What if you take Stark’s & Flaherty’s idea of the “aim frame” and work with the team member to ask those 2 critical questions:
- Where do you want to be 3-6 months from now (could be a new skill, a mastery of a current duty, etc)?
- How do we get you there?
This is realistically setting a specific goal and then creating a plan to get there. Both of you need to come to a consensus of the goal. Buy in on both sides is critical. Are there shortcomings that need to be addressed? Of course! But those can be tackled on the way to achieving the goal. As their manager, you work along side of them coaching them, counseling them, steering them to keep them on track. But you are keeping the goal in sight. You are reminding them that the goal can be achieved, but they have to keep up their end of the agreement (so do you!).
How will your team member feel about himself/herself with this approach? Challenged. Valued. Proud (as they achieve steps along the goal path).
How will they feel about you? Empowered. Valued. Respect. Trust.
Focus on the aim frame and what the difference it will make in the lives of your team and your own life.