“Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton
I attended a conference for family businesses recently, and one of the recurring themes was business-related family conflict. The conversations went in many directions, but one underlying theme was the conflict between Mom & Dad (the bosses) and the kids (employees). Primarily, the fact that Mom & Dad are/were control freaks who never let anybody think for themselves (my words, not theirs).
Whether you’re a family business or not, this concept is still relevant. There are a lot of leaders who think their job is to know everything, tell everyone how to do anything, make sure things are being done exactly that way, etc. But that’s not really their job. Here’s their job:
Communicate the vision. We’ve talked about this before in this space, but above all else clearly define what your organization is and what it’s going to be. Why do we exist? And what does that mean for each member of the business?
Be supportive. I don’t mean you have to have weekly group hugs. Just be positive. Remind people that you’re glad they’re part of the organization and that you have confidence in them, and that you trust them to be able to work through whatever the business is facing. Side note: if you don’t actually think those things, then why is that person working for you?
Remove the rocks. I can’t remember who I first heard use that phrase, but it’s perfect. What barriers can you remove for your people? There are going to be things that stand in the way of them fulfilling the role you see for them. Get rid of them.
Remember that the most important outcome for good leaders is creating an organization that no longer needs you. That doesn’t happen with dictatorships (or micro-managers). People will not develop and grow if you don’t let them.
Think about your leadership style. Are people thinking for themselves? Are people using their creativity and talent to solve problems? Or are they just standing around waiting for you to tell them what to do? Leaders help create organizations that are about growth and the future and achievement. Dictators help create organizations that are just about them.
Which would you rather have?