Strip #4: “To the best mediator, facilitator, delegator, and leader…you will be missed”
I hope this doesn’t seem too self serving, but after the last post where I was characterized as the chief leader into the weeds, I needed to build myself up a bit. 🙂
Not that this is really about me. Remember, we are mining this feedback for insight into what the team values. Whatever I did or didn’t do to bring it about really isn’t the point. Look at what this person valued, and the order it was phrased. Mediator, facilitator, delegator, leader. Each one deserves its own mention.
Mediator: “Group conversation” is really an oxymoron since verbal communication just doesn’t work well in group environments. Our brains can’t process more than one person’s input at a time, and they do a horrible job of taking 5 different opinions expressed in series, and integrating them all into a unified conclusion. To make things worse, most of us aren’t really listening to those 5 different opinions anyway. While they are being delivered, we are generally still thinking about what we want to say next. I’m much more effective shutting up and monitoring the “shape” of a conversation, where it’s moving and how it’s changing as each voice is heard. Once I think I have it, I’ll re-formulate where I think we are for the group, watch for the head nods, and then throw the reins back to them. I try to contribute very few of my own thoughts or ideas. I have plenty of other forums I can use to bring my them forward. The team re-orients towards its goal, presses forward, and the whole cycle repeats until we arrive at agreement. As tempting as it is to contribute, team meetings are for the team to be heard.
Facilitator: I hear this over and over again. The help my teams want most is for me to get things out of their way. They know what they want to do, they are confident they know how, but there are obstacles in the way that they simply don’t have the authority, access, or network contacts needed to remove them. When I get a barrier moved, the team excels. When I try to grab the wheel and show them how to drive over it, we often founder.
Delegator: If my boss is doing my work, what am I here for? Teams will naturally fall into this line of thinking…because it is logical and factual! Any remotely insightful team will come to this conclusion whenever you try and do their work. Such a simple principle, with so many different ways to screw it up. I think the reason is because our brains staunchly hide the truth from us every time we succumb to meddling. We get impatient and we get risk averse and both create un-admitted, unconscious anxiety, followed immediately by profound denial. But you say no one really manages this way anymore, right? Micro-management is such a well established no-no, there’s no way I’m doing that. Right. Well, like so many other things in life, there is a gap between what what we think we do and what we’re doing. It’s like faking orgasm. 20% of people say a partner has faked, and 80% admit to faking. You do the math (but not too carefully since my faking data is entirely made up and probably borrowed from Seinfeld: fake, fake, fake, fake).
When we let that anxiety create unconscious excuses to meddle, it is a breach of contract.
You heard me. The “social contract” of management, often unspoken but at the very core of what we do, is “more risk for more money” or power, or perks, or whatever. Most of that risk is wrapped up in the anxiety-provoking (yet absolutely essential) aspect of leadership that requires us to be responsible for the things others do. Yet many of us renege on that contract all the time when we fail to delegate. It’s a cheat. It cheats the company out of innovation, and it cheats the team (us included) out of critical professional development.
Bottom line: Help your team communicate, move things out of their way, and let them fly on their own. And no, I didn’t forget “Leadership”. It’s just that if you get the first three, you’re kind of already there on the fourth, aren’t you?
-These quotes are from a jar that my team presented me as I was leaving to accept a promotion. They are the impressions, thoughts, and ideas that they had come to associate with me during my time there. I’ve decided to share them, and what I remember of how they came to be, with my readers as I draw them at random-