Leaders need to be good facilitators? Huh? (Part 2)

Last time, we started exploring leaders as facilitators. We looked at two crucial elements:

  1. Check your ego at the door
  2. Be wary of making suggestions

Now, let’s look at the remaining three crucial elements for leaders as facilitators:

3. Transparency is key

We’ve already established that it is crucial for leaders to create an open and transparent environment that encourages team members to assess and contribute with no fear or shame. They also need to be open to receive help from people at any level of the company. This will require a level of transparency that is easier to imagine than it is to establish.

In the past, we may have had bosses who said things like: “Don’t come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution!” When you think about it, that is exactly the opposite of what an effective leader should want. If people have problems, you want to get them out on the table so you can help find solutions. When your people bring you an issue, you need to go out of your way to say, “That’s OK,” and provide positive recognition that encourages truth and inspires trust.

4. Actively involve others

Leadership no longer just comes from the top, but it often flows from peer-to-peer or from the bottom up. The problems that we face today are not well defined and simple, otherwise there will be a best practice to follow or someone would have figured them out a long time ago. The challenges that we face nowadays are highly complex.

Remember, leaders today are no longer the experts in the room. We need to know how to take advantage of the collective wisdom of the many very smart people at our company to help solve them. It is in this light that the “Leader as Facilitator” is distinguished from the “Leader as Boss.” Leaders need to be the driving force behind the search for solutions that they are incapable of producing based on their experience alone. It’s almost like: “By all means, come to the team with problems… so we can all work together to help you find a solution.”

5. Recognize that knowledge is power

“Knowledge workers are people who know more about what they are doing than their boss does.” – Peter Drucker

Embracing that reality in the context of organizational power is critical. The boss can rarely force people to tell him or her the truth. They can, however, create a forum where truth telling is celebrated, rewarded and normal.

When we embrace all five crucial elements, when our people bring us issues, we’ll then be saying something like, “sincere thanks for the transparency! Also, please recognize this, it’s OK! Now, just to be clear, I don’t have the answer to your problem either. But, good news! We have lots of very smart people working here. Let’s get to work and find somebody who can help solve this problem.

Are you a “leader as facilitator” or a “leader as boss”?

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