A Seat at the Table

Brown Bag Lessons

by Eric Jaren

Founder, Brown Bag Lessons

6/14/2014 - Bellbrook, Ohio

 In 2011, General Charles Horner presented "Desert Storm 20 years Later" at the Air Force Association's Air and Space Symposium in Washington D.C. General Horner commanded U.S. Central Command Air Forces and all U.S. and allied air assets during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. 

The general reflected on leading the coalition forces during the air campaign against Iraq. He went on to say, it didn't matter whether an allied partner was a large country contributing 300 aircraft or a small country contributing 3 aircraft to the coalition. "Each country had a seat at the table and a voice to be heard."

The general added, "The truth lies not in rank but the merit of the argument."  When difficult decisions needed to be made, all countries (stakeholders) were invited to participate. His analogy resonated.  You never know where the best idea was going to come from.

I call this approach, "Integrity of the process."    

Although described in the context of the military, the general's approach translates perfectly to the corporate world in that all stake holders, large or small, have a stake in the game. This is particularly true if the stakeholders are not entrenched in a position and everyone is meeting in good faith to resolve a problem.

Alternatively, integrity of the process also means the leader must deliberately assemble a team comprised of "all" stakeholders. The leader does not need to identify the solution, instead he/she needs to build a comprehensive team.

This is critical when dealing with complex problems where not everyone will be satisfied with the outcome. Moreover, are times when no one will be satisfied with the outcome. Affected parties will look not just at the outcome, but how the team arrived at the outcome. They will look at the team to see who was assembled, and who was not. 

Integrity of the process ensures that a leader assembles a strong team and that all stakeholders have a seat at the table and a voice to be heard.