At a recent team coaching session, a team member responded to an invitation to offer suggestions on how best to roll out a new change initiative with “What’s the point?”.When probed further, she mentioned that she had offered ideas on a number of occasions and was ignored.
Her frustration was not that her ideas had not been taken on board, it was that there were not even properly heard or considered.
We know that many leaders we work with are really keen to embrace a more collaborative leadership approach, but find it easier to hold on tightly to control. Fear is often to blame:
“What if I inadvertently raise their expectations? What if my hands are more tied than they think? Worse still, what if they come up with much better ideas?” Remember, Imposter Syndrome?
Leaders, here are 3 tips to help you get the most out of your people:
1) Be as honest as possible. If you cannot influence or change the path your team needs to take, tell them. As a leader in this current climate, you cannot know everything, be everything and do everything. Ask for help where you need it, and be human! We know that vulnerability builds empathy, connection and trust. Better still, when you as a leader are vulnerable, you give others permission to be vulnerable and speak up too.
2) Share the visioning process. Rather than present a fully baked idea to your team, how about bringing them along the journey? One of the feedback we get from talented employees in exit interviews is that contrary to what they were told at interview stage, their ideas were not welcome. Often, we hear about organisations that go on a recruitment drive to bring in “fresh blood” who can come in and look at things through a different lens, bring in more creativity and innovation etc. Months down the line, we hear that they felt that those new fresh ideas were not welcome. They were expected to fit in with “the way things are done around here”. Very often, they move on to other organisations or better still, head to a start-up company.
3) Know when to step back. In our experience, subject matter experts (SMEs) that move up to lead the team they were previously a part of, can often struggle to let go. Within their previous roles, lie their comfort zone. Eager to prove themselves, they can often fall back on what they know best, and consequently stifle those building up the new skills or experience.
Ever heard a new leader say, “I’m too busy to take on the new responsibilities that my new role brings with it?” Or an existing leader say, “I have to do so much of the day-to-day that I don’t have time to focus on the strategic stuff”. How about delegating and letting go?
Yes, you can do a better job, BUT your team members need the experience, the challenge, the mistakes etc to get to where you got to. Letting go is tough. Admitting this to yourself is a great first step. Letting your team members know that leadership is not always a smooth journey and asking for help, is even better!
Now, over to you…
What works for you as a leader, or as a team member?
If you would like to discuss specific challenges or review your engagement survey results and create a team development plan, get in touch for an informal chat.
Obi James is a Workplace Relationship & Team Development Coach who specialises in coaching workplace relationships and leadership teams, and has a track record of successfully helping clients to navigate systemic and cultural issues that emerge in relationships, mergers, acquisitions and organisational change initiatives.
Particularly skilled at creating safe environments for courageous ‘deep democracy’ conversations that allow individuals and teams to expand their views on complex issues, explore other perspectives and understand others’ views so they can build better collaboration, and achieve greater results.