Leaders as Facilitators

Dr. Arlena Jung

Warum gewinnt das Bild einer Führungskraft als Facilitator immer mehr an Bedeutung? Mit der zunehmenden Komplexität von Kundenanforderungen können Firmen sich immer weniger auf herausragende Einzelleistungen stützen. Um qualitativ hochwertige Ergebnisse termingerecht liefern zu können, braucht es die Ressourcen, die Expertise und den kollegialen Zusammenhalt aller Teammitglieder. Firmen brauchen Führungspersonen, welche die Fähigkeit besitzen, Mitarbeiter zu befähigen und ganze Teams zu Hochleistung zu motivieren.

Wie aber gelingt es, ein leistungsorientiertes Miteinander auf Augenhöhe zu etablieren? Welche Haltung, welches Führungsverständnis braucht es? Welche Führungskompetenzen und -instrumente sind erforderlich? Ein leistungsorientiertes Miteinander auf Augenhöhe etablieren, bedeutet in der heutigen Arbeitswelt als Facilitator zu führen.

Employee Oriented Leadership Means Facilitating Self-Efficacy

A continual shift in values can be observed since the beginning of the 90s to more autonomie. A key factor in this development is the desire to conitnually develop and improve. On a deeper level this value shift is about empowerment and the experience of empowerment and self-efficacy. Employees no longer want to be cogs in a machine. They want to take an active part in shaping the organizations in which they work, earn their livelyhood and form relationships.

At the same time the desire of be individually mentored and coached seems to be increasing. Mehr autonomy and an the same time more individual mentoring? I time and time again hear executives telling me that wanting both at the same time is like wanting to have your cake and eat it too. My not always popular response: This is only true if you look at the situation through with an antiquated understanding of organizations.

In the old world of lonely heros autonomy meant making decisions and overcoming difficulties alone . In the new world it is about meeting challenges and taking on responsibility as a team . Teamplayers not lonely heros are what companies need to meet the challenges of complex and volatil markets.

Companies need employees that thrive on working in teams. These employees get their drive and inspiration from working collaboratively. They enjoy the mutual support of team work, celebrating shared achievements and continually growing and improving as a team.

Mitarbeiter, die diese Form der Zusammenarbeit wollen und ja auch brauchen, um motiviert und engagiert zu bleiben, sind keine Einzelkämpfer. Sie preschen nicht mit Ellbogenmentalität nach vorne und nach oben. Diese Mitarbeiter wollen und brauchen Kollegen und Vorgesetzte, die sie stärken, ihnen Halt, Sicherheit und Orientierung geben. Im tieferen Sinne geht es um ein Bedürfnis nach Zusammengehörigkeit und Zusammenhalt kombiniert mit der Lust und der Freude an das Erleben der eigenen (Selbst)Wirksamkeit. Meiner Erfahrung nach ist es just diese Kombination, aus Zusammengehörigkeit und Lust und Freude an (Selbst)wirksamkeit, welche die besondere Energie und Qualität der Zusammenarbeit in Hochleistungsteams charakterisiert.

A species of employees is emerging that is perfectly matched to meet the needs of our current work conditions - that is if leaders manage to provide environments in which this species of employees can thrive. This, however, is anything but trivial.

Leaders as Enablers and Mentors

In a volatile, competitive market a high degree of Resilience and agility is required of employees. Responsibilities and roles change with each new project. Unexepcted developments continually mean challenges for which there are no standardized solutions. Only if employees have a deep conviction that they have what it takes to deal effectivly with these challenges will they remain constructive and cooperative in periods of high stress. Only then do they have what it takes to remain engaged and take on responsibility in critical situations.

Enabling employees means helping them continually improve their professional skills. Enabling them in the role of a facilitator also means encouraging them to continually take on more responsibilities and make their own judgement calls. Instead of providing them with solutions a facilitator uses his experience and expertise to guide his employees in defining their own qualitiy criteria, setting their own priorities and developing their own solutions.

Enabling employees in the role of a facilitator means creating frameworks in which both their need of support, security and orientation and their need for autonomie and participation can be met. In the role of a facilitator I see myself as a travel companion giving my employees the mentorship and support they need on their journey to more self-efficacy and competence.

Navigating Engagement as a Leadership Instrument

Engaged and motivated employees do not make a high performance team. A decisive factor is the degree to which they identify with project and company goals. Only when inviduual activities are aligned do the qualities of a high performance team emerge. Assuring this is the task and responsibility the team leader.

In the role of a facilitator team leaders do not fulfill this responsibility by delegating, commanding and controlling. Instead they navigate engagement. Based on his experiene and expertise he continually decides what issues and topics need attention.

When is it important to make time and space for the individual team member with his concerns, interests and ambitions? When should project and company goals be the focus of attention? When is it important to discuss quality criteria, clarify consequences and discuss problems? When should solutions be the focus of attention? And when is the time to come to clear decisions?

Navigating engagement in the role of a facilitator does not mean convincing team members of a certain path let alone dictating solutions. Much the opposite. It is about engaging them in finding the solutions and coming to shared agreements about the best path and thereby enstilling a sense of shared responsibility.

The Art of Engaging in an Open and Goal-Oriented Dialog

Leading as a facilitator not only means consequently abstaining from management by command and control. It menas the willingness and willpower to continually work on forming a strong working relationships. The commitment and cooperativness of strong working relationships is carried by the experience of being involved in an ongoing dialog. The ability to engage ones team and colleageus in an open goal-oriented dialog is a central leadership tool for leading as a facilitator.

During content-related disputes the leader eases into a interested mode of inquiry. With this mindset he transports the expectation that differences in opinion be viewed seen as a resource.

In his role as a facilitator he is not eager to sweep aside differences or press through his conviction. At least not initially. What motivates and drives him is understanding and appreciating: What is new, relevant and interesting about the respective perspectives? How can these views be used to enhance the quality of processes and outcomes or develop innovative ideas and approaches? The art of engaging in a productive dialog is sometimes also about understanding the underlying issues: Why are my employees and colleagues currently so preoccupied with these specific issues? What underlying concerns need to be brought out into the open and addressed?

His way of engaging in a dialog is an invitation and at the same time imlies and expectation: Dialogs are not conducted in order to win the argument. Rather they are an opportunity for developing innovative ideas together.

Endless polarising debates with many little egos screaming for attention are gradually replaced by colleagues willing and interested in hearing and understanding eachother. Dialogs are characterised by the common desire to work together on finding innovative and constructive results.

When decisions need to be made leading as a facilitator means finding integrative solutions. He is committed to finding solutions that accomodate all standpoints. For this he is willing when necessary to depart from well trodden paths and test new approaches. His way of engaging in a dialog is carried by the conviction to every problem there is more than one possibel answer. Every decision is seen as a chance at success. It is, however, also seen as a chance to learn and improve based on the outcomes - positive or negative.

Engaging in an open, goal-oriented dialog is a question of mindset. It is, however, also a question of mastering communication techniques and moderation skills.

Managing Conflicts - A Key Leadership Competence

Leading as a facilitator means acknowledging that employees are people and that when people live, play or work together tensions and conflicts will occasionally arise. He is willing to address tensions and deal with them proactively.

He, however, does not see it as his responsibility to accomodate to all personal needs and desires. In the way he deals with conflicts he shows understand but at the same time communicates the expectation that all team members work together on finding workable and at times pragmatic solutions. Each and every team member is held accountable not only for delivering high quality results but also for contributing positively to the the quality of the working relationships in the team.

Using Leadership Tools Effectively

Leading as a facilitor means having the ability to

  • engage with each employee individually, encouraging and enabling him
  • direkt the attention and focus of the team effectivly
  • engage the team in an open and goal-oriented dialog
  • deal proactively with emerging conflicty

Leading as a facilitator, however, also requires the ability to let leadership tools do some of the work for you.

Letting leadership tools do some of the work for you means knowing how to use agil tool and practices that help teams

  • coordinate tasks
  • define quality criteria
  • evaluate processes and outcomes.

In order to introduce these kinds of tools and practices the leader needs to have a clear understanding of the underlying principals and success factors.

Appreciation Entails Transparency

Leading as a facilitator means appreciating the individual competence, skills and capabilities of every employee. And this in turn requires the willingness and willpowert to transparency. Transparency is a indespensible to a working environment based an mutual respect and appriciation.

Why? Transparency is a prerequisit for orientation, a sense of security and trust. Transparency is also a prerequiste für identification and engagement and engagement the prerequisit for purpose.

I am only able to set my own priorities and take the initiative in solving problems as they arise if I am able to see my tasks in context of the bigger picture. Only if my supervisors actively assure transparency do I feel recognized as a thinking, feeling human being that has the desire zu understand and actively shape the world it which I live and work.

Leading as a facilitator means letting go of a hierarchical understanding of leadership in which it is the privelige and responsibility of those "on top" to understand the bigger picture. As a facilitator I see it as my responsibility to continually help my employees see their individual tasks in context, understand their value and relevance of their contribution and make their own judgements calls on quality criteria and priorities.

Training Your Leadership Skills

We have developed a leadership workshop specifically for leaders who want to

  • strengthen responsibility, intiative and solution-orientation on team level
  • establish an agile mindset in their teams
  • deal effectivly with teh challenges of a complex and dynamic market environment
  • master the challenges of the transition to an agil company.

Erfahren Sie mehr über unser Führungstraining „Die Führungskraft als Facilitator und Befähiger„.