Question: Need guidance to become a more collaborative leader

I manage operations in a mid-sized company. One of the key feedback from my boss (the CEO) is for me to become a more open, participative leader.

Specifically, engage my DRs in the decision making processes... and be less "directive."

I want to be open with my team that I am working on this change, but also that it will take some time to find the new balance together.

How can I be effective in making this personal change?

5 Expert Insights

I'm sure there's lots of material out there on leadership development...this is a pretty normal transition, for example, for people who used to have a more "expert" role and are now more responsible for producing results from others.

But how about asking your team what that would (and wouldn't) look like to them.  Maybe start 1:1, and perhaps a group meeting as well?

At the heart of the conversation:
1.  How am I doing (on 1-10 scale)...score isn't that important, but it provides an anchor
2.  What am I doing already that's working to support me being an "open, participative leader"
3.  With the benefit of hindsight, what can I add to what I'm already doing that would increase the score?
4.  With the benefit of hindsight, what can I stop doing that would increase the score?

That "with the benefit of hindsight" phrase is important...makes it a joint discovery process, rather than blame-finding.

You might also ask your team members if they have any ideas on what they might do to support this transition.  Usually, when we see someone acting a certain way, we inadvertently participate in that system to reinforce that action.  So as you change, they'll need to change.  Just be thoughtful about how you explore this--you're the leader; you don't want to make sure it looks like you're delegating this job.

You might have parts of you uncomfortable with this process and new role, and there's tools to help that too.  But more a one on one conversation if you want to explore it.

I use a four part conversation model that engages the DR in the conversation.  

ASK:  Start with a questions about the situation.  See what they know and think.
ELABORATE: Add your thoughts or perspective on the situation.  Provide additional details so they have a full picture.
EMPOWER:  Ask for their suggestions on how to solve the problem.  Probe with curiosity.
COLLABORATE:  Incorporate some of their ideas into the solution and share credit.

This model also works great for the performance feedback conversation.
Good Luck!

The basic rule is this: Anything that someone OTHER THAN YOU can accomplish, even if you don't think they can accomplish it as quickly, elegantly, or effectively, as you: delegate it. You work on only what ONLY YOU can do.

In this way, every task or desired outcome is a learning opportunity for someone on your staff. You decide who. The concern, of course, will likely be the mistakes people make while learning, so here's a fun little, two- (or three-) part, secret to help you deal with that:

Part One -- For any given task or desired outcome, think through how'd you "mop up" should things go terribly, terribly, wrong.

Part Two -- Immediately delegate it to someone as a learning opportunity. (Best case, the delegatee will get it right, saving you precious time. Worse case, they screw it up, but you'll already know exactly what's needed to fix things, which, again, will still save you precious time.)

Part Three (if necessary) -- Mop up. "Yes, Mr. Most-Important-Customer, or Boss, Steve did not handle this as we had hoped, but I gave this assignment, specifically to him, as a learning opportunity. Why? Because I know that the work we do for you is just too important to not have more people know how to get these types of things done for you. Of course learning sometimes results in mistakes, as has happened here, but next time Steve will be that much more ready and able to address your needs if everyone else is busy. And that's the point. In the mean time, here's what I'll do to clean up what just happened..."

Voila! You've settled the matter, can easily circle back to the delegatee to talk about lessons learned, saved yourself a considerable amount of time, and are now ready to do it again (and again) with each subsequent assignment.

You're a genius!

You've received some very good suggestions and approaches from my colleagues.  And implementing any of them is often the added challenge for it's a matter of YOU finding the best way for YOU to implement and accomplish them.  I am a huge proponent of you working with a leadership coach to create your own plan of implementation.  I strongly believe that doing so will greatly enhance your ability to transition from where you are today to where you want to be as a leader.

Change is not about the Leader, it is about others. The Change Manager is also a Servant Leader, meeting the needs of everyone, not only involved in the change process, but also those outside the change process team who are affected by the new methods.

As was said above:  open up, listen, take advice, collaborate, communicate above and below self, involve; these are just a few. The key to change is to overcome the push-back, which requires focus on communicating the purpose and advantages of the change to everyone.

Good Luck!