Meetings, meetings and more meetings are a constant feature of the modern organisation, providing a challenge for leaders as to how and where they spend their time.

It can be really easy to have every workday filled with back to back meetings, and little time for interaction with your team. You become the invisible leader.

Many years ago, I worked in a team where the people leader was commonly referred to as the ‘Phantom’ because they were never present. While it was said as part of light hearted banter, the undertone was a lack of respect for the person because whilst they had the title of leader, they didn’t display the behaviour and actions to back it up.

Early in my corporate career, I too was often guilty of being invisible. I could easily get sucked into meetings that ran all day, sporadically see my team and therefore only communicate late at night, and via email. It wasn’t good. The team hated it.

When you look at your working week, what portion of it is spent in meetings, and what portion of it is spent with your team?

To lead well you have to be visible, and you are only visible if you are present and spend time with your team.

If you are spending your whole day in meetings and never interacting with your team it’s almost impossible to be a good leader.

Good leaders build habits and structures around them to create the capacity to spend time with their team. They are deliberate about what they do and when they do it. This means they:

  • Set aside dedicated time each week to spend with their team – either collectively or individually
  • Phone their team members, rather than always emailing them
  • Have agreed boundaries with their team members about ringing and emailing outside of standard working hours
  • Have face-to-face meetings and regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings, which aren’t cancelled at the last minute
  • Ensure they know each member of the team on an individual level, including their personal aspirations and understanding what matters the most to them
  • Have regularly scheduled team-building activities where the team spends time getting to know each other and building connections

All these actions also go beyond just having the so-called ‘open door policy’. It’s the leader being ready and willing to talk. Providing space and time for discussion. Giving the people around them permission to challenge and ask questions, and finding ways to involve their team, and listen to their ideas and concerns.

This takes time because good conversations take time, just as good leadership takes time.

Consider, what you may need to do to create capacity in your week to spend more time with your team. Do you need to delegate more? Do you need to say ‘no’? Do you need to better manage your work schedule? Do you need to prioritise differently?

Perhaps it just starts with looking at the past month and seeing how much time you’ve really spent with your team.

In closing, reflect on the words of the French Film Director, Robert Bresson, who said: “Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen”.

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®.

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact [email protected].


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