As the owner of a meeting/discussion you have two options on how to drive the conversation, and which you use depends on the answer you want. Sound cynical? Perhaps, but read on!
Technique one is to say ‘this is what I’m thinking about as a plan/direction’ and invite comment. That typically frames the conversation so that it’s all about how to make that plan better and/or indentifying potential problem areas. Rarely will someone push to consider a totally different plan because their perception (correctly) is that you’ve already ruled other options out. It’s also fairly uncomfortable for people junior to you to challenge you on your decision or the process you used to arrive at it. It’s the right technique when you’ve decided which way to go and are ready to execute.
Technique two is the opposite. Broadly describe the goal you want to accomplish, and then start with the most junior member of the group for their ideas. Yes, it puts them on the spot, but it also gives them the freedom to present an idea without knowing (for sure at least) that it might be contrary to what you had in mind. It also tends to open up the minds of the more senior members as they immediately start thinking about the impact of doing it that way – because they feel ok about challenging someone junior to them. This approach needs moderation more than the first, because it can degenerate into finding flaws rather than surfacing options, but it is the right approach when you’re casting a wide net for ideas.
As a leader you have to decide whether you know what you want to do, whether you need to go through the process to get buy in from the team, and whether the team is really ready to participate in the decision. Sometimes they want you to lead, to say ‘I want to go this way’ and it will energize them. Sometimes – usually when closer to a group of peers – it’s better to let the group arrive at a consensus on it’s own.
Nothing about either approach takes away the ability of the leader to make the final call. But it does change the range and tone of the discussion. Something to think about before you announce your next ‘initiative’.