How to Solve “With” not “For”
Struggles strengthen; don’t solve stresses for others – solve stresses with others.
Yesterday I posted, “22 Ways to Dramatically Increase Your Influence.” I’m expanding on number seven.
With not for:
When your team’s winning, stay on the sidelines and cheer. When things start going badly, get involved – but not too quickly.
Intervention suggests others can’t achieve without you. Stepping-in indicates others aren’t capable; it’s a subtle form of rejection. It doesn’t build people; it tears them down.
Struggles strengthen. Challenges, stress, and confusion are the context of growth and learning. Allow time for good people to rise up and win without you. Tightly monitor, however, key success factors. Your interest and involvement indicates priorities; it creates heightened accountability.
Identify go-to resources. Great leaders build a pool of resources they can call when projects falter – “go-to” people. For example, a new project manager just hit a brick wall and in frustration calls for help. When you determine they really need help, point them to resources that can help. Say, “I think Bob or Mary have expertise in this area. Give them a call.”
Tell go-to people your expectations. It’s not unusual for me to call and explain the level of intervention most useful at the time. I’ll let a go-to person know when I expect them to offer suggestions and when they should save the day.
Suggestions place responsibility where it belongs. Deadlines, costs, or other factors may, however, require a save-the-day moment.
Save the day:
Saving the day humbles and creates respect in those being helped. Suggestions, on the other hand, build their skill-set and strengthens them by keeping them under the gun.
The best thing leaders do is get things done while developing others.
How do you solve “with” rather than “for”?
I agree Dan. If you jump in too soon and help too much, you will develop a whiner and not a winner. They won’t ever learn to look for or at other reources bcause they know you will always bail them ot.
Good morning Martina. It’s great starting a day with an affirmation. Thank you and have a great weekend. Best, Dan
I agree with your advice. It’s hard not to just “fix it” — this skill is typically what got us into leadership positions. I think this is driven by the same reasons why it’s hard for some managers to delegate in the first place!
I’d like to share a recommendation for putting your tips into action: go on vacations.
I’m surprised how many managers don’t enjoy long holidays or breaks because they are afraid things will fall apart without them. One, this is misplaced ego. Two: if your team can’t do it without you, you haven’t done your most important job. Lastly: it demonstrates your trust in them. Let them take the reins periodically. (You deserve a break, too!)
I love your suggestion!
There is a fourth benefit. An extended break gives leaders an opportunity to assimilate past experiences, evaluate successes and failures, and come up with fresh approaches. Stepping away helps them and helps you.
And ultimately, in the really long term, the leader does take an extended break which is permanent, so what foundation has s/he laid to ensure the success of the organization and culture beyond her/his tenure? Your 22 points and the others’ add-ons yesterday Dan are great foundation points for a long term legacy perspective.
The power of two words…’with’ or ‘for’. One defines a collaboration, a synergy, and potentially a whole greater than the sum. The other implies a hierarchical deigning which may in fact have served a purpose in a time, perhaps not so much any more.
In solving stresses with, there can also be quite a bit of energizing fun in brainstorming best case/worst case scenarios and then, as a team identifying options to overcome those barriers in the worst case set. Of course, part of the fun might be in briefly playing with and even exaggerating the worst case scenarios so that there can be some black humor and tapping into higher level resources in our brains/hearts/soul.
Basic ex: The team has a project due…what’s the worst that can happen? Brainstorm a list of the worst things that can happen for 3 minutes and make it really bad, maybe even absurd to the point of an asteroid hits the earth. Well, then the good news is that the project probably isn’t due. Fun for a couple of minutes and does tap into a different part of our brains, the creative side rather than the analytic side. (There is a place for both.) Then temper the worst list to more realistic situations that can/may happen. If they happen what is the impact, financially and otherwise. Rank the realistic ones for how likely are they to really happen. That is a mini-FMEA that was actually kind of fun rather than an onerous task. Now that creativity has been tapped, what are options to overcome those barriers? What resources are needed, who will do it, etc.
Now, when the stressors happen, the team may have already identified an option or a variation on an option that can be used and the leader does not have to step in at all…may just have to remind the team of the options that the team developed. (And again with humor, can point out that at least the asteroid didn’t hit.)
Thanks for the post Danno, keeps me fresh with options as well!
Good weekend to you. Thanks again for all you add to the conversation.
The first thing that popped for me is “3 minutes.” I’m a big fan of deadlines, even short ones. They create urgency and set everyone at ease because they all know they won’t be there all day in a boring meeting.
I did get the main points you were making but I couldn’t pass up the 3 minute comment.
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I have shared this post with my son as he begins his new career as a high school teacher. I will also be sharing this with my team working on a Work Readiness program for low-income single parents. When you work in a non-profit organization, it is very easy to tie on the cape and “save the day”. However, when you adapt the “with” not “for” philosophy of leadership you EMPOWER.
As an undergraduate I had a literacy class during which I tutored adults in the community that could not read. I was amazed with one man who was about 45 years old who had been married for 20 years and had two children. No one in his family knew he couldn’t read! He had a magnetic personality and was able to charm everyone he encountered. He found it easier to get someone to read to him than to learn himself. He wondered what he could have done with his life had he been challenged.
To me, leadership means empowering and making a difference. Problem solving skills are essential, but as you pointed out , “[t]he best thing leaders do is get things done while developing others.”
While most leaders do this off and on, deadlines and time pressures are the ones which affect continuity. Sometimes leaders fell its better to solve for and get ahead as the deadline is nearing and cannot afford the journey of ‘solving with’.
How do we make this a habit?
“The best thing leaders do is get things done while developing others.” <— I really loved this line.
I have often noticed that some bosses have a really hard time delegating tasks, not because they don't know who to delegate work to, but because they are not sure if the job will get done right. They just find it easier to do all of it themselves. But how much can one person do?
Bosses need to start trusting the talent of they people who work under them. If they think someone is not doing the job right, they need to TEACH them how to do it and leave it at that.
– Sindoora (http://www.beyondhorizons.in)
Same rules apply for parenting. We need more of this, too much helicopter parenting (and leadersihop)