Here’s part six of the set of postings I’m doing on collaboration. The last post focused on inviting others into the process.
Here’s another essential dynamic of collaboration:
Leave Holes in the Mission
Many leaders believe they need to figure out all the ins and outs of the mission so that when they share it with the team, it is a complete picture, ready to implement. Once again, this approach diminishes collective discovery and long-term collaboration. Instead, leaders should highlight to the team what’s missing from the emerging mission, not what’s already surfaced. It’s important to share where you’re stuck and say, “I DON’T know.” “I need your help.” “I’m lost on this part of our mission, what do you all see?” In order to make mission a discovery-based process a leader needs to ask for help (and then really want that help). There are plenty of issues in a mission that are tricky to solve or require collective brainpower. Leave the holes open so that the team can help fill them in.
Leaders that need help. Leaders who know everything, are lonely. Peter Senge put it this way:
Few leaders understand the depth of commitment required to build a learning organization. In practice, it is disorienting and deeply humbling, because our old mental models were the keys to our confidence and competence. To be a real learner is to be ignorant and incompetent. Not many top executives are up for that.
(Learning Leaders, 1999, p. 12)
To be ignorant, at least in part, means that leaders need others. When a leader leaves holes, dilemmas, questions unanswered, and tough spots in the mission, it allows for other to play a real part in shaping it. The more your team knows you need them in the discovery phase, the more they will be with you all the way through implementation.