MarianBaldini
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MarianBaldini

I Want to Start a Movement: Spectators Are Not Encouraged

A few months ago, I attended a virtual conference focused on the key learnings from the pandemic. One of the presentation lessons was led by a huge corporation that shared how technology made it easy for organizations to host large meetings. What they learned, however, was that many of the people attending those virtual calls were not essential to the meeting’s overall purpose. They were spectators, managers checking up on their staff’s work.

Spectators are someone who watches a performance. For example, when you attend a concert, you are a spectator. Spectators only watch and at work, they are rarely helpful. When you are learning a skill, you want a teacher or a coach to guide you and give you immediate support. You want someone to help you see yourself. After you learn the skill, the next step is to be certified and recognized as capable and confident. Finally, you want to exemplify independence.

Most of the time, spectators make no sense. As a manager, sitting in on a meeting gives your staff the impression that you do not trust them and you are not confident that they will do the right thing. You are planning to jump in and take over the meeting if it is not going the way you expect or want. If you take this approach, you can expect not to see your staff’s talent. You will see someone waiting to be told, waiting for you to do the work, and looking forward to going home. Not only will they not apply their skillsets, but you will become less likely to see their true talents.

In the book, Turn the Ship Around, the captain was watching his employees work and stopped himself from stepping in. The captain knew that his workers would be out of sight most of the time. He needed to trust them to make the right call when he was not watching. It is the duty of management teams to help people develop skills and enable them to implement their competencies.

Managers, stop and ask yourself, “Were there meetings on my schedule this week where I was a spectator?” If you find one, ask yourself, “What can I do instead?”

If you are going to lead a meeting and you think there is a spectator invited, have a conversation with that person. There is an alternative approach that is just right for both of you.

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Marian Baldini

Marian Baldini

Ms. Baldini is the CEO of KenCrest, a human services agency that provides services to children and the intellectually and developmentally disabled community.