You’re a successful manager or executive, in the thick of it, likely making most or all of the decisions all of the time. Tired telling others what to do, only to discover they don’t do it or do it well? Frustrated that you’re accountable for everything and everyone else for so little? Maybe your manager is micro-managing you (how does that feel?), or it might be you doing so with your staff.
As a successful manager part of the job is telling others what to do (aka advice). Right? After all, we were promoted because we know more (about the industry, market, customers, etc), have more experience, did more, been more places, accomplished more, and are probably older to boot. So naturally we’re better qualified to give advice or tell others what to do. And our bosses, naturally, are better qualified to tell us what to do. Right? RIGHT? So how exactly does giving advice or instructions, engage and empower your staff?
“What you gotta do is…” the five words that are guaranteed (especially when unsolicited) to have the other person stop listening. So; one of your people has confronted you with the familiar; “This is what’s happened; what should I do about it?. There are 3 reasons why people ask for advice;
One… Validation… they want to hear you suggest what they’re thinking of doing.
Two… Information… they think you know something they don’t know, that will help them to make a better decision.
Three… Abdication… accountability shifts to you when you tell them what to do.
Let’s be clear… this isn’t about what’s best for the business. The leader’s role includes setting strategy, clarifying vision, establishing goals, living the values, setting clear expectations, and modeling desired behaviour. Talking about people here… engaging, equipping, and empowering people is not about providing them solutions, answers, instructions or advice… and certainly not about simply delegating (which often resembles abdicating) responsibility. Actually, it’s about deliberately and consciously avoiding these which discourage accountability.
Have you noticed that great leaders who inspire others, engage, empower, extend accountability, and generally deliver the best results (through their people)… ask a lot of questions? Which also means they listen more than speak (obviously); and they’re listening to what’s said, not said, implied, or avoided; challenging vagaries and incongruities to get to the core issue, then identify options leading to the best solution.
What questions are you asking your people to engage, equip, and empower them when they come to you with “what should I do about…?.