Facilitative leadership is one of the key skills we nurture at Innovation Booster to help our clients future-proof their businesses.
Unlike the classic techniques documented in numerous leadership management books, which evangelize about being an inspiring, results-driven problem solver, facilitative leadership is about empowering your team to achieve the desired outcomes themselves. We see this as having the ability to create a movement, powered by personal balance and insight.
Because every person has a different character, personality, motivations and experiences, not to mention different strengths and weaknesses, facilitating others often calls for parking your own instincts and preconceptions at the door. By definition, this is a tough thing to do.
Having discovered this myself, the hard way, on numerous occasions, I am now a firm advocate for both being aware of and challenging your instinctual moves as a leader on regular occasions. To provide some perspective, here are a few examples of lessons I’ve learned through personal experience.
People don’t necessarily think the same way I do
I used to make a lot of assumptions about people’s motivations, barriers and needs. I was following what felt like the path of least resistance by assuming everybody else was seeing things from the same perspective as mine. As it turned out, these assumptions were often incorrect, and the mismatch of understanding led to many forms of resistance from the team, creating friction and an inexplicable inertia.
As I eventually recognized the error of my ways and opened the door to other people’s viewpoints, I realized that my previous failure to do so wasn’t just disrupting progress, but also suppressing the collective capacity. In a way, destructing the value they could deliver.
Repeating the same arguments using different words doesn’t always work
When you’re supposed to be leading the way and you need to get buy-in to a proposition, doing whatever it takes to hammer it home may feel like the only course of action. Having gone through many failures to gain ground and break down resistance, no matter how hard I tried, I discovered that the problem didn’t necessarily lie in the content, but in my connection with the audience.
I found out that asking them to explain their reasons for resistance allowed them to feel more involved, rather than being dictated to. By taking into account their feelings and experiences with regard to the proposition, the door to common ground was opened.
Keeping my feelings to myself doesn’t make the problem go away.
I’m someone who intuitively keeps my feelings to myself. Some time ago, I went through a period of being unhappy in my work, but was worried that sharing this with my manager would be hurtful to them and damaging to my career. When I eventually did pluck up the courage to do so, it sparked a conversation which revealed extremely helpful insights that enabled us to completely turn things around by altering my roles, responsibilities and focus.
This was an invaluable lesson that giving and receiving direct feedback is what gives people the opportunity to grow, rather than something to avoid in case they get hurt.
When caught in a tight spot, think of what you would do naturally, then do the opposite.
There was an occasion when I was assigned to teach our Entrepreneurial Innovation methodology to multiple teams at an automotive company. Most of them adopted it very quickly. However, two teams spent a great deal of time just complaining about their bosses and heavy workload. Effectively, they were complaining about not being able to control their own time, while wasting it for the whole group.
My default behavior would have been to keep pushing and trying to understand their situation. This time, instead, I decided to confront the team about their behavior and make them explicitly responsible for future progress. Going against my natural instinct in this way was painful, but it had the effect of completely changing their mindsets, resulting in the best project result to-date.
BRAIN, SOCIAL, POWER: a model that explains it all
The proposition I’m putting forward is contextualized in the Brain, Social, Power psychology model, which Innovation Booster works with. This is a based on the idea that when you attain the right balance of Power (ability to get things done) and Social effectiveness (unity), you will use your Brain to its maximum potential.
Facilitative leadership is very much about finding that balance. As I have explained above, individual instincts can often get in the way. The Brain, Social, Power model examines the motivations behind behaviors and describes how they can manifest in both positive and negative ways. With this as a framework, you can evaluate both your own behaviors and those of everyone around you, to arrive at a solution for achieving balance. Understanding your own defaults and challenging your instincts based on these insights can enable you to achieve great things as a leader!
Would you like to know more about this model and how to put it into practice, to help you achieve successful results as a leader?
Feel free to ask me about it by getting in touch with Emma.