“Change your thinking. Change your behavior. Change your results,” said business strategist and leadership development expert AmyK Hutchens. “Your life is happening one conversation at a time.”
The author and think tank facilitator spoke on “Igniting Brilliance in Your Leadership” as part of Monday morning’s General Session at the PRSA 2017 International Conference in Boston.
“As leaders, we are responsible for the quality of conversations,” she said. “And it’s our job to raise the quality of these conversations. We’re also responsible for the dialogue and the quality of thinking inside our organization.”
Hutchens noted the importance of critical thinking before the words that you say or the actions that you take, and understanding how our brains process information.
In our 90-mph world, everyone is coming together and saying things at once — “We need a clear strategy.” “Let’s make money.” “It needs to be less clear than that.” “Can it be illegal?” — and we have to make sense of it all, Hutchens said.
“Align brilliance inside the organization for buy-in,” she said. “When you use this formula, you can come up with a solution together: Go from engagement to buy-in to commitment to productivity.”
Start with strengths and assess what’s working in the partnership, she said. Set objectives, make a commitment and focus on finding solutions together. Think about taking responsibility and adding value. Then you can address concerns and tweak your plan as needed.
The brain is capable of selling two things: good feelings and a solution to the problem, she said. We have to look to our own decision-making and emotions to make the world a better place.
“We love to be asked and we hate to be told,” Hutchens said. Remember this when managing people, and ask yourself these questions:
- How might we define a healthy company culture?
- How might we judge great leadership?
- How might we define a great team?
- How might we define great performance and productivity?
A matter of perspective
“What do we really want?” she asked. “We crave trust, vulnerability and knowing that it’s safe to ask for help.”
It’s essential to understand that other people may know things that we don’t, she said, and that’s OK.
“We need diversity of thought, diversity of experiences and diversity of perspective,” she said. “I want people to think differently and challenge perspective. Your No.1 job as a leader is to set your people up for success. What can we do for you? It’s called ‘servant leadership.’ What are we doing to grow the next generation of great leaders?”
Hutchens is tired of people bad-mouthing millennials. “They are brilliant, go-getters, want to be challenged and want to be invested in. Every generation brings new energy, innovations, ideas and challenges,” she said. “We need to flip the corporate ladder on its side and just invest in people, with each rung as a different project.”
She also noted that there would be higher engagement among employees if there are “more project-solving meetings and not just data dumps. For every meeting, one-fourth should be about data and three-fourths should be spent trying to solve problems.”
Hutchens borrowed a line from the U.S. Armed Forces that she thinks resonates for everyone: “You are more loyal to the team that you play on than to the team that you lead.”
Team players are defined by productivity and performance. “We need a unity of command in our business. We need to leave a meeting with one voice and one message. If someone disagrees, then there needs to be a conversation about it,” rather than dispersing after the meeting and complaining about it at the water cooler.
“Get people to start thinking better. Just because you’re sure, doesn’t mean you’re right. Ask yourself: “What am I missing?” Hutchens said. “We need to be asking the bigger, badder, better, bolder questions.”
Amy Jacques is the managing editor of PRSA’s publications, Tactics and The Strategist. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.