A good leader is someone who can effectively facilitate. Having a team of people who are functioning at their best, operating in an environment where critical thinking to solving complex problems is encouraged, allows for a productive and satisfied team.
I've talked before about the merits of being a facilitating leader versus a directive leader. Now I would like to outline a useful strategy in order to consistently achieve a facilitative approach to managing people.
Distinguishing between Outcomes and Solutions
It's actually a fairly simple concept. It involves understanding the distinction between outcomes and solutions, and making your approach to all your communications outcome-focused, rather than limiting yourself to just one solution. So to make the distinction; A solution is a means to an outcome, there can be many possible solutions to get to the same desired outcome.
This distinction is critical to managers who are committed to being facilitative. Managers who are not outcome focused tend to prescribe particular solutions to their team. This results in staff who feel disempowered by not being engaged in the decision making process; promoting a limited and unproductive environment.
Change your mindset from focusing on solutions to defining outcomes. You can apply this simple distinction in the way you approach all your communications.
Going in to a meeting with your team attached to a particular solution in mind, limits all of you to debating the pros and cons of that particular solution. It can inhibit the critical thinking you ultimately want for a high functioning team, because you have immediately confined your team's thinking to be focused on just one solution. Leading the meeting by presenting a desired outcome on the other hand, encourages people to brainstorm possible solutions. The facilitating leader can now effectively and gently guide the process of exploring all solutions to come up with the desired outcome. And the people involved have thrived in an open environment where critical thinking is encouraged.
I have worked with countless clients who, once they started focusing more on the outcomes (the what) and less on the solutions (the how), have been genuinely gob-smacked with the quality of the solutions that their teams have came up with. More often than not, the solutions that resulted from team-work, were far superior to the solutions the individual manager thought of to begin with. It's a valuable, insightful process and a humbling and enlightening shift for any manager to make.
As a manager is important to regularly 'check in' with yourself to ensure you are focused on the outcome and not attached to one solution. In fact if you find yourself in the midst of debate and argument, check in with yourself immediately, as it's more than likely than you have slipped into attaching to one solution and debating that solution, losing sight of the bigger picture. Similarly if your team falls into this situation, bring them back to the big picture, the outcome you are working on to achieve.
The great thing about being an outcome-focused manager, is that you get to put your teams' collective thinking and skills into action to come up with the very best solution. There usually are multiple solutions to a problem and if you close off this critical process, and prescribe the solution you think is best, not only will you have disenchanted staff, you and your organisation could be missing out on a better approach to the outcome.
For more information on how I can help your organisation effectively implement a successful outcome-focused management style, please get in touch today.