The job title Director sucks

I loathe the term “Director”, because it connotes the opposite behavior of what senior leaders should really be doing.

A movie director tells every person what to do – where to stand, how to act, which cameras should shoot from what angles, which lighting to use, and so forth.  This works great for the movies, or theater, or dance, where you have a predefined script that you can start and stop at any moment.


This is a horrible analogy for fast-moving companies.  First, you can’t start and stop the action at any time.  Second, it’s not possible to have your arms around an entire product being developed. Even movie directors only shoot one scene at a time.

The other connotation of director is somebody who sets the overall direction. This is somewhat true, but at a fast-moving company with talented people, does one person really have all the good ideas? No.


Facilitator is a far better word: a person who makes an action or process easier. Facilitators help people overcome obstacles, resolve conflicts, and grow. They don’t tell you what to do. They help you figure out what to do for yourself.

Now, I’m not saying Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a bad movie, or that Spielberg is a bad director. It’s that the paradigm of “directing” doesn’t work for fast-moving companies. And the problem with using the word “director” is that every time you hear it, it connotes the same mismatched behaviors. If you’re the Director, nothing can happen without you. Instant bottleneck.

Instead, you need to empower your people and unblock them, but otherwise get out of their way.  There’s a great book called The Coaching Habit that offers fantastic practical advice on how to listen to people and coach them, so that they take the initiative to solve problems themselves.

Try This

Try changing your title and seeing what happens.  Odds are you can’t change your official HR title, but you may have an internal phone tool, Exchange directory, or business cards.  Try changing your title on them to “Facilitator”. See how it affects your mindset and the mindset of others!

If you want to hone your skills, check out this blog on the 9 characteristics of a good facilitator.


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