In prior generations, the job of manager was often defined by telling people not only what to do
In prior generations, the job of manager was often defined by telling people not only what to do, but how to do it. The team member was not asked to think, they were asked to execute without question. In specific situations, for example in emergencies, that style is still appropriate today. However, the Authentically Curious Leader℠ understands that better results occur when different ideas and experiences are brought into a situation.
The Role of Today’s Leader
Today’s work force is the best educated in history. The newest generations of workers, the Millennials who are generally under 30, look to identify with a purpose at their work and expect to contribute. They want their experience to influence how things get done. This is in stark contrast to the Baby Boomers, generally over 50, who believe it’s important to “earn their stripes” before being consulted or offering opinions. Boomers are generally more willing to accept explicit directives.
So, how does an organization get the best productivity and best outcomes from these two very different ideologies? One method is training managers and supervisors to share desired outcomes and clearly defined governing criteria with their work teams.
Desired outcomes are a description of a future state. Governing criteria is how we will measure or evaluate the future state and the process used to get there. Let’s take a personal example: you and your life mate go to three different travel agents and tell them you want to celebrate your upcoming anniversary with a trip to New York. That is the desired outcome. And the criteria you give them is that you prefer to stay in hotels, like a Marriott Hotel.
Based on their experience and their read of your desires, each comes up with a plan. The first agent, who is assuming you are frugal, has you taking a ten hour bus ride to get to the city, and then has you staying in East Orange at a Courtyard by Marriott hotel inconveniently located. The second agent assumes anniversaries are special and arranges for a time-share jet and a suite at the five-star JW Marriott in midtown Manhattan. The third agent books a non-stop flight on Delta and a standard room at a midtown Marriott. Which solution is the best? The only criteria you offered is Marriott-like hotels, all the solutions meet your criteria.
In a business setting, criteria often have to do with timeframes, costs, resources required, quality, impact on other objectives, etc. The more thought a leader puts into criteria, the better and more robust the alternatives are likely to be.
There are three steps to encouraging engagement and getting the best thinking on a process or objective:
1) Set out a clear desired outcome.
2) Set out all the relevant criteria.
3) Solicit alternative solutions from all relevant team members based on the outcome and criteria.
4) Ask the team to evaluate the alternatives based on the desired outcome and criteria.
Your role as a leader, and valued contributor to the team, is to be thoughtful and precise about the desired outcome and criteria. Your other role is to genuinely invite and embrace alternative methods to achieve them.