Take a journey with me.
You go to elementary school and what do you learn?
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
How about High School?
Diagramming sentences, Algebra, Spanish, Chemistry
Most learn specific skills like accounting, finance, biology, or teaching.
Now, you start your first job. What do we expect from you?
We want you to take the technical knowledge you´ve learned and become an expert in a part of the business. This works well for you because you have been training to become an expert since elementary school.
Okay, now let’s fast forward a bit to when you get promoted. Now, what skill sets do you need?
Leading, coaching, providing feedback, setting the vision, building relationships with peers, creating goals, and motivating others to name a few.
When did you learn this skill set? Most of you have to learn on the job. Unfortunately, many of you try to stay the expert and have a hard time sharing your load with your staff. Your training has suggested that being the expert is the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, as you become a leader, you cannot be like the Staples Easy button and answer everyone’s questions. If you try to be the answer person, then your cube or office becomes a revolving door of people buzzing in to ask questions and get their problems solved. You will find it harder and harder to get anything done, the days get longer, you start to resent your work and even your promotion and wonder if you might need to leave the organization. Sound familiar? I have worked with numerous clients that this is their history. How do we change this?
My friend Petra Platzer and I discussed this scenario in a recent Voltcast radio show episode (listen here). We discussed the shift from expert to strategic facilitator. The most important part of this shift is your mental framework. A strategic facilitator is someone that can look around the organization and figure out some critical questions:
1. How critical is the work?
2. How urgent is the work?
3. Who is best qualified to do this work?
4. Who is ready for a development opportunity?
5. Do we have time to train someone on this work?
An expert usually thinks they have to do the work or they only delegate the work that is “below” them. A strategic facilitator looks to empower others, seeks to find the person and/or group that can provide the best solutions and then helps the person/team reach a successful outcome. They also recognize and reward the person who does the work and provides feedback on how to improve in the future. This leads to a more motivated and engaged workforce.
What keeps experts from moving to strategic facilitator? Time, competence of others, urgency, easier to do it yourself, you like to do the work, giving up responsibility, the fear that someone else might do it wrong, etc. Yes, these are all possibilities, but if you do not learn to facilitate actions then the expert becomes overwhelmed, tired, stressed and burned out.
How are you doing at being a strategic facilitator? Need help learning to be a better delegator? Check out this episode of the Voltcast radio show with me and Jennifer Owen-O’Quill to get some ideas. Thanks and good luck in your transition.