As leaders, one of our primary responsibilities is to help those who work with us to get better. A friend of mine is known to say “leaders build leaders.”
Sometimes, the process of helping someone grow requires us to be a bit counter-intuitive. As leaders, we are often hard wired to solve problems, give direction, and put together action plans. These three behaviors can help people we work with grow, however, they are not as powerful as listening and asking questions.
Each year as the school year gets ready to kick off, I read my favorite leadership book, the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard. Each year, I marvel at how a simple sentence, word, or phrase strike me and make me reflect on how I am doing as a leader. This year, what stood out was:
“I listen while my people review and analyze what they accomplished last week, the problems they had, and what still needs to be accomplished. Then we develop plans and strategies for next week.” (page 17)
“I care about people and results.” (page 18)
“I don’t make decisions for other people.” (page 23)
As I reflected on these three statements, what occurred to me are the moments I have had with my mentors or superiors where I have grown the most. In those instances, they have listened, asked me questions, but allowed me to come to my own conclusion or resolution. I have not learned much or grown by being told exactly what to do, I have learned a great deal by having opportunities to succeed or fail, or by a strong listener asking a good question. At times this is frustrating. I can recall many a conversation with a mentor that included me saying “just tell me the answer,” but he never took the bait, always requiring me to come to my own conclusion. Through this behavior, he was a leader who was building a leader.
Take some time this week to focus on yourself when you are interacting with people you work with. Do you listen and ask good questions, or, do you jump to your own thoughts on solutions and action plans before others have the chance? One behavior builds leaders, the other builds dependency.