Over coffee, a CEO told me about a meeting with his team that shifted the team dynamic significantly. It was a simple thing, really. He asked each team member to write down the one thing they most wanted to change in their department. They then shared their one thing with the team and the team put their heads together to design the changes. Within a couple of months, all the changes were successfully implemented. And the team began to take charge of fixing other things – they believed in their ability to change things.
What made the difference in this situation was facilitative leadership – the process of engaging others (either individually or in a group) in creating their own solutions, then enabling them to implement successfully. More than a set of skills or techniques, facilitative leadership is a stance or a posture. There are skills and techniques but I want to talk about the personal work of moving fully into this posture.
First, we need to let go of certainty. To facilitate the emergence of collective wisdom in those we work with, we will need to be willing to hang out in uncertainty, to know that we don’t know it all. Then there is the challenge of experiencing our own vulnerability. It’s been said that “Trust is a risk game and the leader must ante up first.” We have to put our own imperfections out there if we expect others to do so. And without that willingness to risk, trust can’t blossom.
If you’re willing to be with uncertainty and live into the strength of your vulnerability, you can bring the full power and creativity of your team to the complex challenges you face through facilitative leadership.