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Building A Leader Community – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

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From the Post, Building A Leader Community Within Your Organization

Starting a leadership community can take time and effort. In our fast-paced society, time is a factor that we don’t have a lot of. It is crucial that when you approach other leaders to talk about forming a leadership community you need to have a clear, concise, and engaging reason to ask for some of their time. The key is to approach them with a plan that outlines what’s in it for them as well as you.

Reasons or needs

If you have read this article perhaps you have a reason or a need for your department or organization to pursue this idea. If you don’t have a journal, you will want to start one for this.

Step 1

From your point of view or perception, list the area(s) and rationale, using the collaborative and professional areas below as a starting point, where you see an opportunity, reason, or need that would benefit from the development and guidance of a leadership community. 

Collaborative reasons

  • Team Building and Bonding: A leadership community can help foster relationships and collaboration among team members.
  • Conflict Resolution: When conflicts arise, having a leadership community can provide a forum for discussing and resolving issues in a constructive manner.
  • Mentoring and Coaching: Experienced leaders can mentor and coach newer or less experienced employees to help them develop their leadership skills.
  • Professional Development: A leadership community can facilitate learning and skill development through workshops, seminars, and training programs.
  • Decision-Making: When important decisions need to be made, a leadership community can provide a diverse perspective and input, leading to better choices.
  • Change Management: During times of change or organizational transitions, a leadership community can provide support and guidance for both leaders and employees.
  • Innovation and Problem-Solving: Leaders can brainstorm and collaborate within a community to find innovative solutions to challenges.
  • Employee Engagement: A leadership community can work on strategies to improve employee engagement and job satisfaction.
  • Performance Management: Discussing performance evaluations and feedback within a leadership community can lead to fair and consistent evaluations.
  • Crisis Management: When a crisis occurs, having a leadership community can help in formulating and executing a crisis management plan effectively.

Professional reasons

  • Professional Growth: Being part of a leadership community allows individuals to continuously develop their leadership skills and knowledge, which can enhance their career prospects.
  • Networking: It provides opportunities for networking with other leaders, both within the organization and in the broader professional community, which can be valuable for personal growth and career advancement.
  • Enhanced Problem-Solving Skills: Collaborating with other leaders in a community can improve an individual’s problem-solving abilities by exchanging diverse perspectives and insights.
  • Increased Confidence: Active participation in a leadership community can boost one’s confidence as one gains peer experience and recognition.
  • Personal Fulfillment: Many people find personal fulfillment in contributing to the growth and success of their colleagues and the organization.
  • Leadership Experience: It provides an opportunity to gain leadership experience in a supportive environment, which can be especially beneficial for emerging leaders.
  • Exposure to Best Practices: Being part of a leadership community exposes individuals to best practices in leadership, allowing them to apply these principles in their own roles.
  • A Sense of Belonging: Being part of a community offers a sense of belonging and camaraderie, reducing feelings of isolation or stress often associated with leadership roles.
  • Personal Growth and Well-Being: Engaging in a leadership community can lead to personal growth, a sense of purpose, and overall well-being as individuals work together to create a positive work environment.

Step 2

Identify three to five peer leaders whom you would like to approach with this idea. These leaders can be from the same department or if you want a more diverse environment invite a leader or two from different departments. Before you spend too much time developing this idea, make sure there are leaders who would be willing to take the time to do this. 

Share with them your thoughts, observations, and your rationale. Ask them what they see happening within the organization or what would be important to them as well, this helps with the buy-in. Ask them right up front if this is something they see value in and would be interested in participating in. 

Step 3

Once you have identified your leadership group invite them to an initial brainstorming meeting. Before the meeting make sure you develop an agenda. For the initial meeting keep your agenda very focused and limited to two or three items of discussion. This is a meeting for everyone to share their thoughts and ideas so the content for the meetings starts to emerge.

These questions can stimulate a thoughtful and informative discussion about the rationale and benefits of establishing a leadership community:

  • Why is it important to establish a leadership community within our organization? This question encourages participants to explore the specific organizational goals and objectives that underpin the need for a leadership community.
  • What are the key challenges or issues that a leadership community can address in our workplace? This question delves into the problems or opportunities the community is meant to tackle, helping to identify the rationale behind its formation.
  • How can a leadership community benefit the personal and professional development of its members? Discussing this question allows participants to explore the individual growth and career advantages associated with participating in a leadership community.
  • What effect can a leadership community have on organizational culture and employee engagement? This question invites reflection on the broader cultural and employee-related benefits of having a leadership community in the workplace.
  • In what ways can a leadership community contribute to the achievement of our long-term strategic goals? Participants can consider how the community aligns with the organization’s strategic direction and contributes to its overall success.

Rules of engagement

If the group decides to move forward, create an agenda template so there is consistency. As a group, decide what areas the group wants to address. Use the list of collaborative and professional opportunities found in step one. Share the responsibility of the meeting facilitator so it doesn’t become a burden to one person.

Meeting rules

I always suggest having a few simple rules for the group. Here are the five rules I always use. You can use these or change them. 

  1. All titles are left at the door. This is a meeting of leaders dedicated to developing a leadership community.
  2. Create a safe space to have open and honest discussions without repercussion or judgment.
  3. Confidentiality, what is discussed in the meeting stays in the meeting.
  4. Practice active listening, trust, empathy, and respect for one another.
  5. Set strong boundaries around what topics are off-limits. 

Step 4

Once you start meeting on a regular basis, make a commitment to each other to be there at the meetings. If you want this to work, you need to be as consistent as you can.

Voice of experience

You might be surprised by how many people ask if this is group therapy. As my leadership community groups develop over time and trust builds between us I would start the meeting by asking the question, “What do you bring to the meeting today?” This is an opportunity for members to share what they are experiencing like anxiety, excitement, burnout, frustration, etc. It gives them space to share how and what they are doing, and it helps with well-being especially when other members begin to realize they are not the only ones feeling that way. 

Even though this meeting has structure it is still organic in the sense that meeting time will naturally evolve to meet the needs of the group based on current situations in the office. You might find yourselves discussing how to best approach annual reviews during that time period of the year rather than another time of the year. 

Give the meetings some space to breathe. You might often find yourselves drifting off-topic and addressing something different, let it happen as long as it’s productive. Do not let this turn into a time to complain about everyone and everything, that is not the purpose, the purpose is to be proactive as a leader. 

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