Participating in meetings or steering boards of a larger cooperation or committee can be a source of frustration and anger. The leaders on the board are disappointed because their expectations are not met and the experts are frustrated because the leaders don’t seem to understand most of the things they are trying to explain. Truth is, most difficult problems can only be solved with the help of both strong leaders and brilliant experts. It’s time for both sides to learn how to work together!
Let’s first have a look at the roles of leaders and experts.
The leader’s job is to decide WHAT to work on to guarantee the sustainable, global growth of the organization or group. As an example a leader might see the possibility to improve the situation for the whole organization and create many jobs, by selling the world’s best cake. Sweet. Please keep in mind that the leader might come up with this proposal even if he is not able to bake a decent muffin himself.
Experts know HOW to do things. What motivates them are the world’s most complex problems. They look for opportunities to apply their expert skills. Creating a cake that would be eaten around the globe by 80% of the world’s population is a fun challenge any baking expert would willingly accept. Let’s start baking cakes! Please remember that the expert’s mind is focused on cakes, cakes, cakes and NOTHING else.
The fun starts when leaders and experts meet. It’s time for the leaders to check HOW the experts are interpreting WHAT they ordered. Both sides know a lot about a topic the other side has no clue about.
Sounds to me like a typical classroom situation: A teacher standing in front of his students, bringing alive the topic with a passionate glow in his eyes. The beauty of the classroom is that its sole purpose is to transfer the knowledge from teacher to students.
The beauty of a meeting between experts and leaders is, that both sides are at the same time teachers and students. The experts know all about cake, the leaders have an excellent feeling WHAT the global cake lover is hoping for.
Steering board meetings can be fun if both sides try to see themselves as students in a classroom. Listen attentively, observe and ask questions even if you are afraid to look like a fool. Ask the experts if they would show you how to bake a muffin. Ask the leaders if you could go with them to the next customer visit. Don’t show off with your knowledge. Forget for a moment about status, relax and laugh together. Be realistic how long it will take to understand the other side. Trust in each other. Don’t try too hard.
And always remember: Sometimes when you try to teach others, they end up teaching you. Let them teach you! You might end up teaching them.