Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.
When you see or feel a problem that needs solving, it seems right to just work out how to fix it and tell your team what you’re going to do about it. It seems a very efficient way to do it. But efficiency isn’t your number one aim when working in a team.
Where possible, and when the problem isn’t critical and immediate, involve your team in solving the problem. Get their input on the problem, get their help to identify and clarify it. Get their input on possible solutions or options to overcome it. Then depending on the circumstances either vote, gain a sense of consensus, or you the team leader make a decision about a course of action. Make sure this final step is articulated and explained well so that there is no confusion or unnecessary angst.
There are plenty of upsides to this course of action. First, your team will help provide insight to the issue. They might know some information that you don’t, they might understand the contributing factors at a deeper level then you, they may think up a solution that you would never have come up with. Second, if they are involved in the process they will be much more inclined and onboard to implement the solution than they would’ve been had you simply dropped the course of action on them from on high. This sense of ownership will then function as internal motivation for the team members in making it work. Third, when you show your team that you trust and value their insight and input they will gain a real sense that you appreciate their effort and contribution. For team members who are feeling a bit useless or demotivated it may provide a bit of resolve that their time and contribution to this team is valuable and a good use of their time and talents.
Now sometimes this kind of process is simply not realistic for the situation or the expertise of the team members. In that case, have them involved in part of the process but not all of it. But get them involved as often and as much as is feasible. Not everything can be done and solved in this way, some decisions need more speed and a restricted input based on expertise or experience. But where possible problem solve as a team as often as you can.
Leadership isn’t that you always need to have the answers and make the decisions. Initiating the discussion and clarifying and implementing the way forward – even if the way forward is developed by others who know better then you – is leadership just as much as the authoritarian style, and often works more effectively within teams.