One of the things I do these days is facilitate peer group meetings for Remodelers Advantage Roundtables. The typical meeting is three days long, with 10 or so non-competing companies coming together to help one another get better.

“Facilitate” means that I manage the meeting, staying more or less in control, with the permission and trust of the attendees, while working to make the meeting as fruitful as possible.

“Being the Boss” connotes a very different approach to management. Implied in that phrase is the boss can tell anyone working under them whatever they want to (within reason and legal limits). The relationship is often not one of mutual respect. How can one be more of a facilitator while being the boss?

Build Trust

This step is often skipped by a boss. Building trust entails getting to know those you manage. This might be done over a meal, coffee, or a beer.

Ask questions about the employee’s personal life. What does he do for fun? What does he do when he is not working? What does he dream of being able to do?

That interest in your employee’s life makes him feel special and that you appreciate him as a person. Now he is more likely to work with you than against you.

Be Clear

A boss often moves too quickly when laying out a task. Frankly, the fact that the boss has to lay out a task is seen as an interruption in the “real work” that the boss has to do.

A facilitator works to move through a conversation with an employee at the same pace as the employee. Some need time to process. A facilitator allows the employee the time to do so. The goal is to achieve a level of understanding that leaves both the facilitator and the employee confident that the work will be done correctly.

Catch Them Doing Something Right

A boss typically is doing quality control by focusing on what has not been done to standards. Consequently, the employee associates the boss being on the site with negative feedback.

A facilitator looks for opportunities to catch his employees doing something right. The more the facilitator does that (and is clear about precisely what was done well) the more engaged the employees are. In fact, they begin to look forward to the facilitator showing up on the site.

Like most things, this is not rocket science. To make the choice in your management style between being a facilitator or being a boss, decide on how you want to your people to feel about working with you. Do you want them to be inspired or to be apprehensive? Which will choice will make them productive?

You know the answer. Treat those you work with in the manner that inspires you. Doing so makes work more fulfilling and leaves those who work with you feeling more like peers instead of peons.