Want Your Team to Innovate More?

It’s difficult to be a Leader.  Your job is to set direction, strategy and “what” is going to get done.  Your job is to inspire and compel the team to fulfill a vision. But this is where your job stops- sort of.  The difference between a Leader and a manager is that a Leader then assumes their job is to serve the followers to fulfill the vision.  This means removing obstacles, providing air cover, acquiring funding, resources and the like.  The manager thinks it’s their job- as first among equals- to also tell the followers ‘how’ to do the job.

The problem with this approach is that the manager is only working with one brain and 10-12 bodies.  The ideas and ownership stop with the manager.  No wonder they feel so overworked and fatigued and that no one is engaged.

The Leader knows to engage the followers that she will use the follower’s gifts and talents and ideas to fulfill the vision.  Every employee will take more ownership and risk with a Leader’s support and clear vision.

So, how do we move from manager to Leader?  Using a coach approach.  Remember a Coach is not a subject matter expert, and doesn’t give advice. They don’t have a dog in the race- meaning having their own idea chosen as the path forward isn’t their agenda.  (How many times have we worked for a manager who pretended to be open minded about proposals but there was only really one right answer- the one in their head!) They ask good questions, they listen, they uncover options, help choose a path forward and partner for decisions and next steps.  They demonstrate trust. 

Why trust? The employee or follower needs to be confident in submitting ideas and proposals.  They need to feel like it is ok to take a risk, or even fail.  Not ok with failing? Well- news alert- no one is, so agree on some “yellow flags” that make it ok for the manager to start participating more actively – and let the employee be the one to suggest them!

Here’s what a good Leader-coach conversation sounds like with an employee.

Leader:  We’ve agreed to be number one in this market- we have to hit 60% market share by January 1.   We are at 50% today.  What are some ideas on how to approach this?

Employees: We could do x or y and maybe even z.

Leader: Say more

Employees:  Well if we had 3 more people we could do x, if we had an extra $10K we could do y and if we had both, we could do Z.

Leader: I’m intrigued; how will we know the best approach? 

And so on…

The Leader asks questions that help the employees determine the right “how”, and the next steps.  They find out when tasks start and how we know the desired affect is happening.  They follow up with how they can provide support, when to check in, and when to approach the team because one of the agreed upon yellow flags is waving its ugly head.

Stay tuned to learn more about agreeing on yellow flags and the Leader’s role.