I don’t know. I fail a lot. I need help.
We all play to win: our planning and energy is put to good use as we move our organizations and teams to a better place every day. Our work is filled with the best intentions, but sometimes we take on too much. We feel the need and responsibility to know everything, down to the minor details, to ensure our plans are perfectly executed.
This can be especially true of leaders. The problem is that those seemingly good intentions can end up curtailing a team’s abilities and results. There is no better illustration of this as when a leader identifies innovation as the organization’s next “project”. Often, a leader feels the need to have all the answers, to carry the weight alone, and to come up with the new ideas for growth. The leader is the hub, the energy source, and without them, the project doesn’t exist.
The problem is that, in a situation like this, the team can disengage. What value can I, as an employee, bring to a project that is being micro-managed by the leader of the organization? Projects, tasks, and the overall plan falls short of their potential. This ends in a two-part failure: first, the failure of the project. One person cannot innovate alone; the project will eventually prove overwhelming as deadlines pass and progress slows. The second part of this failure is even worse: by holding everything close to the vest, the leader excludes employees from contributing to the project and the team members disengage as a result. Try selling everyone in your organization on the project when you’ve excluded their input — it just doesn’t work.
In Innovation Engineering, we teach three fundamental principles that all Black Belts (Innovation Engineering practitioners) understand and guide their work. I think this applies to leadership as well:
I don’t know, I fail a lot, I need help.
There. I said it. Is that ever a weight off my shoulders! Now, I don’t have to have all the answers! It’s OK if my idea doesn’t work! I need the help of others to succeed! I can rely on MY TEAM to help drive this innovation project, and they’ll learn and grow in the process. It will strengthen our team as we work together to face challenges, try out new ideas, and develop solutions.
That’s the beauty of Innovation Engineering: no one is expected to have all the answers. Even I, as the Black Belt, am not a guru. We’re all learning as we go, drawing on our own experiences and diversity and research to contribute to the team. No one person is the absolute expert.
I’ve learned a lot during my Innovation Engineering. One of the most important lessons is that no one person can innovate on their own. It’s amazing to see what can happen when the reins are loosened and leaders and employees innovate together.