I was bummed for the person I saw from my chairlift while riding up the Colorado mountain. I’d been where they were now—overmatched and ill-prepared—on a double black diamond run. Facing a maze of moguls on what seemed like a near vertical pitch, the skier was paralyzed on the extreme slope.
There’s a reason why ski resorts post the difficulty of their ski runs for their guests. Matching your skill to the terrain is essential for success. The veteran of the mountain knows no two ski runs present the same challenges.
The meetings in your company pose various challenges as well. Each has varying degrees of difficulty.
Here’s a useful ratings guide:
Green Meeting: This is a single-function gathering, where participants benefit from shared experiences and mutual objectives. It’s not unusual for people in the meeting to consider each other friends.
Blue Meeting: Those assembled come from different parts of the organization or include customers. Participants are focused on a shared project or deliverable, often have a clearly defined charter, and have similar or identical motivations.
Black Diamond Meeting: This is a cross-functional get-together where members have different objectives and are incentivized or rewarded differently. Often, people prioritize the importance of the meeting (and the work that must be accomplished) differently.
Double Black Diamond Meeting: This meeting includes the cross-functional work described in black diamond meetings and adds the complexity of several teammates attending virtually, often calling in from far-away time zones. As well, participants in this meeting may get their pay check from different sources, meaning different companies, and their motives, are involved.
Successful leaders know that no two meetings present the same challenges. That’s why they adapt their leadership based upon the needs and difficulties of the meeting they’re in.
To ski a double black diamond run requires enormous psychological guts. Leading a double black diamond meeting necessitates the ability to create psychological safety for all involved – and quickly. Fail to do this, and your meeting isn’t a gathering of the team, but merely a group of people who’ve come together to have a discussion.
That’s why successful leaders in any meeting prioritize ensuring the team defines itself. Because when a team sees itself as one, they’re more likely to act as one.
You’re standing at the edge of the world, peering over the tips of your skis into a deep, white abyss. Be ready.