In our Viral Change™ Programmes, members of the community (company) of activists, invariably ask questions such as, what shall we do with people who are negative? What do we do with those colleagues who are not engaging with me in the conversation? How can I keep the motivation of my peers going? Etc.
In the early days of Viral Change™, we worried about this a lot. By ‘we’ I mean us as consultants, the sponsor/client, the project team members, all the above. We felt compelled to have ready-made answers, a library of FAQs. So, we did.
But quickly we learnt that our answers were not as good as the answers of the champions/activists themselves, and, if they were, champions/activists paid more attention to the answers coming from ‘people like them’, that is, other champions.
We soon switched the emphasis and diverted those questions to the community itself. Answers came back in the form of ‘this is what I did’ or ‘this is how I would do it’, followed by a stream of other people agreeing (‘me too’) or disagreeing (‘that would never work for me, however…’).
It was much better!
There is a broader reflection on leadership here. The leader is not an FAQ machine, an answerphone. The leader however must have enough insights about what is going on and how people do and solve things to say ‘this is how other colleagues of yours have dealt with it’. And then, it is OK to say, ‘I would also suggest’. But the power of the peer-to-peer engagement and cross fertilization is never matched by the mighty leader delivering ‘the right answer’.
You as leader do not have to have all the answers. In fact, I would be suspicious of the one who does. My rule of thumb is ‘the answer is in this room somewhere’. Most of the time, this is the plain truth.