What’s the difference, you ask?
You are seeking endorsement
If you express your own opinion, idea or plan of action first, and then ask employees to weigh in.
Even the most confident, assertive team members may feel that they can’t disagree with you. They may immediately find flaws in an idea or plan, but they won’t point them out. After all, you are the boss, right? You shouldn’t be proposing unworkable ideas.
The problem with that is that you aren’t perfect. You can’t possibly know everything, and some of your ideas will be flawed. You need your employees to help you flesh out ideas, troubleshoot problems and execute plans.
If you always share first, soon enough you’ll have a team of yes men and women. You may never hear the truth, and you are far more likely to waste a bunch of time, money and effort on bad ideas and plans.
There is an exception, of course: You don’t want any input from employees because you have decided a course of action. In that case, don’t ask employees to respond.
You want employees to share feedback
If you allow employees to share their thoughts, ideas and plans before you offer your own. In fact, you may not even offer your own opinion at all. You may comment and ask questions that lead employees to think about problems and work out issues on their own, but you never say directly “This is what I think” or “This is what I would do.”
So before you offer your opinion or ideas, start conversations by saying “What do you think?” If you feel it is necessary to offer up an opinion, do so only after everyone has had a chance to speak. Chances are, employees will change your mind anyway.
That approach is how you encourage honesty from employees, but it is also how you empower them to think for themselves and find workable solutions to any problem.