No group anywhere exists or functions in complete isolation. Somewhere, somehow it connects with and interacts with other groups. Leaders of units, departments, divisions, regions, or entire companies still need representation.
Perhaps the most immediate function of representation is in grievances or problems. But a leader also serves as stand in when defining his group’s role in the grand scheme of things.
Here are 5 keys to effective representation:
1. Be certain that your group understands that you represent them to everyone else and not the other way around. Your group must be confident that you have their back. Why? Because you need them to be honest and forthright with you. If they start withholding information, they will also start withholding ideas. This goes back to the two models of leadership defined by MacGregor – the X & Y models. Some of both are needed, but Y leaders get more done and have more highly motivated associates. So if you want a well-functioning team you yourself must be a team player too. To borrow from church liturgy, the leader is like a priest in that s/he pleads the case for his/her group before others and communicates the wishes of higher ups to the group.
2. The phone lines run both directions. If there is one predominant failure in this task it is that leaders represent the group’s concerns to others but fails to report back as to what happened in that representation. Do not make you group come find you and ask you what happened. If you want accountability, be accountable.
For GETTING information:
- Listen carefully. Pay attention to what is being said on every level.
- Get all the facts.
- Make notes if it is more than a simple on sentence conversation.
- Repeat back what was said to ensure you understood.
For GIVING information back:
- Get everyone’s attention.
- Explain what you said and what was said to you.
- Ask for them to tell you what they have heard, what they interpreted it to mean, and what will happen next.
3. Other groups or divisions will likely derive their understanding of your group by what you do and say. It is your privilege to accurately portray the role your group plays and how it contributes to the whole.
4. When you represent the group, be sure to play your cards carefully. Reveal as much as necessary to keep your leader informed of the facts. Don’t forget to explain how your group feels and why they feel that way.
5. If, in your representation, a decision was reached, be sure to understand how that decision was reached and communicate that back to your group.
What secrets have you learned as representative of your group? What problems have you encountered while trying to represent them?