In this same meeting of senior leaders last week one person said that it feels like "a participatory leadership take-over"! This lead us into a great conversation about when and when not to apply a participatory approach. This type of discernment is essential to expanding our leadership to integrate greater engagement. Everyone seems to want do it - but the right conditions are critical.
If in doubt - make a check list!
2) We have time to do it well. Ineffective engagement usually comes from bad preparation. If we do not have time to get all our ducks in a row and plan well, consider another approach.
3) The content will help us move forward together. Some content is best dealt with by a small group of decision makers rather than a large engagement. This could be sensitive material or it could be so ground shaking that all it will do is paralyze staff or stakeholders. A client of mine talks about walking the line between engaging her staff on critical issues and her staff becoming like 'deer in headlights'.
4) People will be able to see themselves in the results. What creates a credible engagement is people seeing themselves reflected in the decisions and actions that follow. Can you can integrate the outcomes is a visible way? What is infrastructure needed to to support the outcomes? Who is accountable to the outcomes of the engagement?
5) You are willing to say you don't know. An essential piece of leading an engagement is being vulnerable. If you are not willing to be vulnerable and say you don't know, don't do it.
What my mate Chris Corrigan has to say about it:
If you apply a solution to a problem without figuring out what kind of problem it is, you can make a catastrophic failure. The two most common instances of this are applying expertise and analysis to complex problems, and over-complicating simple solutions such that the bathtub overflows while you are convening the team."