Not long ago I had a conversation with a client about something that happened in a leadership team meeting. A small (but important) act of bravery on their part, and something I think all leaders should be aware of.
Setting the scene
As part of my clients’ monthly leadership team meeting, detailed data is presented showing a breakdown of time spent across the agency. This utilisation data (defined as the amount of an employee’s available time that’s used for productive, billable work, expressed as a percentage) is a critical metric for the organisation to track. It’s a measure of billing efficiency that helps the company understand if it’s billing enough to cover its cost plus overhead. The rates help in forecasting, resource optimisation, identifying possible overservicing and much more. It’s a simple measurement that has powerful effects on how the business runs.
It’s important to know that this data is led by the analysis and interrogation of employee timesheets.
During this meeting, there was some hesitation from the individual presenting the data – his issue being that he felt many people were not filling in their time sheets correctly, or at all – and so in part the data may not be as valuable as it could be.
A case of, [insert expletive here] in, [insert expletive here] out.
So what to do?
The small (but important) act of bravery
As you all might expect, expressing this problem resulted in a resounding group moan. Questions about how this kept happening, frustration about the less than perfect data.
It was here that my client stepped in, calling out the group by simply saying,
‘it’s worth adding that three of those people who don’t fill in their timesheets regularly are in this room.’
Now, you could argue that the leadership team are not affecting the day-to-day figures as much as other employees, or that they are more fluid and flexible with their billable time – but this call out was important and revealing, mostly because it demonstrates a behaviour of high-performance teams.
In short, my client’s call out showed that they were prepared to say difficult things to have the honest conversation that is required for a productive meeting. It also showed my client trusted the team to know they were coming from a good place.
This small act was also reminder not to get sucked into group think, and to consider when we might be avoiding pulling our punches for fear of offending others.
Something to keep in mind during future meetings.
Every Wednesday I book out an hour to hold a FREE agency leaders surgery. I’d be very happy to lend an ear. You can help yourself to my calendar, here. Speaking to a diverse group of agency leaders helps me stay current and contextualise the issues I’m seeing with my clients. So please see this conversation as a genuine collaboration where we both hope to learn something new.