Have you ever been in a planning session or other group meeting where multiple ideas go up on flipcharts and each group member votes for the best idea by marking the appropriate place on the chart?
If I had a dollar for every adhesive spot, post-it note and checkmark I’ve put on a flip chart in such exercises, I’d be rich!
Unfortunately, no one has paid me for marking flip charts. So I’m not rich.
At least not in money.
But I’ve gained a wealth of experience watching servant-leaders in the workplace during the course of my career.
And from that wealth, I want to share a servant leadership tip with you:
Last Spot On.
You see, I noticed an interesting phenomenon watching all those flip chart exercises over the years.
When the boss went up to the flip chart first, and applied her or his adhesive spots (sticky-notes, marks, whatever), two things often happened.
First, all the butt-kissers would rush up and stick their spots right alongside the boss’s spots.
Second, some people who might have otherwise voted differently – noticing the swarm of spots around the ones from the boss – would feel pressured to vote along with the boss and all the just-mentioned group members.
But, isn’t that OK? Isn’t that an efficient process for coming to consensus?
Or maybe it’s one little way that bad leaders intentionally exert power, reinforce their authority, chill dissent and keep people from learning and growing. Or at the very least, maybe it’s an unintentional way leaders slip into group-think.
Which, in either event, is not what servant-leaders do in the workplace.
Indeed, there’s a more servant-leader-like way do this – Last Spot On.
It works like this.
You get the ideas up on the flipcharts, just like always.
But then, each prospective voter (including the boss), alone and in silence, marks her or his sticky spots to indicate where they will be stuck.
After that’s done, the group members stick their spots on the flip charts according to the way they marked them while alone. This forces people to make choices without reference to how others vote.
Last, when everyone else is done sticking, the boss gets up and applies her or his spots.
Last Spot On.
Ha! The butt-kissers are foiled.
And the other folks? They are left free – indeed, some have been pushed – to think for themselves.
Sure, it’s a small thing.
But I believe that servant leadership in the workplace is more about small, day-to-day behaviors and less about the grand and dramatic.
What do you think? Do you like the Last Spot On method?
Let us know.
As always, we appreciate your views.
And don’t forget to download our latest ebook, Servant Leadership in the Workplace: A Brief Introduction. It’s free!
Of course, stomping out dissent is a hallmark of a bad boss: “3 Ways to Approach Dissent in the Workplace”