Monday, August 8, 2011

Help is Available!

You've been given a responsibility. Your deadline is looming, the demands are significant, and you're not sure how to solve the problem. Alone at your desk, you wonder if you even have it in you to figure this out.

Many developing leaders (and not a few veterans) go through these times of anxiety. I have been there many times. It can be easy for leaders who take responsibility and who passionately care to feel like the world is on their shoulders and that they are all alone.

The good news is that help is available - and more than likely, it's just waiting to be asked.

When faced with problems bigger than ourselves, one of the first places we can turn is to our team. Bring the situation to them, define the criteria that must be met to reach a workable solution, and ask how they might do it. Consulting your team on these tough problems has several benefits:

1) They own the solution. People have greater commitment to their own ideas than to someone else's.

2) You are developing leaders. Team members are empowered by learning what problems must be solved and how to solve them.

3) New ideas. All of us get stuck inside our own head. There is no substitute for a group of smart, committed people getting together to share ideas.

A few guidelines before getting your team involved on tough challenges:

1) If the team solves the problem, the gets team the credit. Taking personal credit for your team's ideas is a quick way to lose all credibility.

2) No team? No problem. Pull together a small group of experts you trust. If you don't overuse the privilege, people are often willing to share their thoughts.

3) Don't abuse your team. Don't use this approach to shirk legitimate decisions you should be making, to play politics and blame-shift, etc.

4) Be clear on the decision making process. How will the decision be made: consensus, majority, or consultation and the leader decides? You should clarify this before discussion begins or it can undermine the integrity of the process.

Team problem-solving can be one of the most rewarding aspects of leadership. Next time you face a problem bigger than you, see if it's bigger than your team. I bet it's not.

David M. Dye

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David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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