(First published on LinkedIn – April 17, 2015)
Leading a team, division or an entire company is difficult. We are faced with dozens of decisions and often we find ourselves, at the end of the day, letting out a deep sigh, wondering where did the time go? By the end of the week, we are exhausted after answering countless questions, solving a myriad of problems, interviewing a number of candidates and attending a multitude of meetings.
The challenge for many of us in leadership roles is we have fallen into the trap of becoming “the solver.” While it happens for a number of reasons, we’ll never take our organizations or our own leadership skills to the next level until we become masters at facilitating conversations. We must actively work at engaging our teams, our employees, our clients and our vendors while we teach them our role is to question and guide and not always to solve. Trusting those around us to make the final decision is scary – and yes, sometimes missteps occur. It’s through those very moments that the best learning happens.
Great leaders help develop those around them, and by extension, the feel/culture of the company. By engaging in rich conversations that inspire innovation and creativity, we create a spirit of can-do, instead of one which encourages the “not my job” syndrome. Great ideas are waiting to be born and take shape inside our businesses. Amazing new hires will be found if we learn about that person through in-depth conversation, instead of firing off a series of surface level questions. Clients will let us know what they really want when we stop to listen to them and show them we care.
Take a risk – invite people in to sit down and talk. Get in the habit of asking for recommendations on how the team would like to respond to a situation, and then ask them what they think the risks are associated with that response. Let the team execute on their recommendations as often as possible. As we move into the role of facilitator and away from being “the solver”, the level of innovation and creativity will rise. Over time, the small stuff will stop bubbling up to us and we’ll be able to focus on the future.