I had breakfast the other morning
with a friend I’ve known and worked with for 20 years. No, breakfast isn’t out Foodie Friday theme but something he said while we ate is. We were talking about our work – what he does, what I do – and he was discussing a rather large deal of which he had been a part. After describing his role he summed it up by saying “I didn’t really DO anything – I just helped things along and brought people together.” My immediate reaction was that he sounded like a chef.
Chefs don’t create the raw materials of their work. They don’t grow vegetables, catch fish, raise cattle, or mill flour. Many of them don’t even cook any more once they’re figured out the recipes to be used in their kitchens. They hire cooks to do that and after teaching them how they want things done they step back. Once in a while they taste what’s leaving the kitchen for quality control but mostly they do what my friend did – they make connections.
I’ve been a facilitator for a few brainstorming sessions. We’re always supposed to be content-neutral. The idea is to help the group reach their goals without imposing our own positions on the ideas being discussed. We help with structure and process but the participants do the heavy lifting. It’s important that the group knows that the facilitator is in charge, but that authority is never supposed to be the focus of anything. Frankly, it takes a bit of effort to get one’s ego out of the room, especially when you believe you can solve the problem.
The point is that my friend behaved like a great facilitator. He brought people together around an idea and helped them bring that idea to fruition. I think that’s doing quite a lot, just as it’s the big-name chefs who get the credit for the food, not the line cooks. It’s what great managing is all about and it’s absolutely doing something!