We all have limitations. Like it or not, you, me, all of us are not good at everything. In addition, none of us knows everything either. So it is that our effectiveness relies on our ability to know our weaknesses and when to throw up our hands and ask for help.
This ability however is not so prevalent among many leaders. Knowing that they have vulnerabilities and asking others, often people in “lower” stations, for their expertise is not something many leaders are comfortable with. Many would prefer to muddle through always telling people what to do and getting mediocre results using their own flawed skill set before looking to others, asking and listening, and perhaps getting better results.
I often think about following military leaders in battle where lives are on the line. Would you want to serve under someone who would rather do it all based on their knowledge and skill rather than looking to find out the best intelligence? Would you want to climb that hill knowing that the leader refused to inquire on what might be on the others side? Hell no, not me. I wouldn’t want to follow what could end in a bloodbath all because the leader didn’t want their ego tarnished.
Outside of actual lives being at stake, things are not much different in business. Do you want to follow people who refuse to listen to their team members? How do you feel when leaders make decisions about your job that they really know nothing about? And the biggest question of all, why is it that leaders do it? Why do they so many times make decisions without enlisting the expertise of others, others who most likely are closer to the actual work and know more about potential success, possible failures, and business and customer impact? It boggles the mind.
The solution however is not so mind boggling. It is so simple. If you are a leader, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Humble yourself. Know that you do not know all of the answers and that many people around you may have better knowledge and better ideas.
- Step 2: Get clarity on the problem and causes. Ask your team members what they think about a problem. Ask them how they see the problem and what they see as the underlying causes. Ask them how the problem impacts their work and how making it better would make them more productive and happier.
- Step 3: Get solution ideas. Ask your team members what they think would solve the problem. What could they do in their role to contribute to improvement?
- Step 4: Weigh the ideas. Which ideas are most practical and relevant? What would it take to make changes? Is there a cost, and if so, is the cost to implement greater or lesser than the cost of the problem?
- Step 5: Develop a plan and take action. Meet with the team and present a rough draft of a plan that incorporates their ideas. Explain how and why you think the plan works and get their input. Encourage them to find holes and possible traps. Work together to make the best plan that has the least negative impact on the team and the most positive impact on the business and customers. Then go make it happen.
There, that wasn’t so hard, and the implementation will be the easiest you’ve ever had before because your team had input, they own the plan, they want it to succeed because it has their names on it. Instead of your plan it is the team’s plan and that is what makes all of the difference.
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