Each of us have natural tendencies and habits. Leaders are no different. We might love to share our sage advice, to be problem solvers, or to play the devil’s advocate. But these tendencies and habits, if overused, can have a downside.
Here are some commonly overused leadership habits and alternatives we might put in their place.
Giving Advice. I love Benjamin Franklin’s quote about giving advice: “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” Instead of jumping to give advice, consider asking questions to draw out the brilliance of the other person. Facilitate them finding their own answers. It will require some practice with open-ended questioning and real listening, but doing this keeps the other person front and center in discovering their own wisdom.
Problem Solving. Instead of sharing your own “winning ways,” consider empowering the other person to find their own answers. In coaching we call this letting the other person do the heavy lifting. What’s amazing is that when someone does their own heavy lifting, they are usually much more invested in the actions and outcomes. No, you didn’t get to provide solutions, but you also didn’t add anything to your own to-do list—which can often happen if you are the problem solver.
Being the Devil’s Advocate. I used to work for a manager who always played the devil’s advocate. I knew he did it in an attempt to bring out our best on projects we were working on—but, boy oh boy, was it draining. Instead, consider Ken Blanchard’s advice and spend your time catching people doing things right. I know when someone catches me doing something right, it feels so good I start thinking about what else I could do to keep that feeling going. And as a friend of mine said, who wants to work for the devil’s advocate, anyway?
Giving advice, problem solving, and helping people consider alternatives all have their place in a manager’s toolkit—just don’t overdo it. Replacing our old tried-and-true ways is never easy. But if we are willing to consider change, to behave more intentionally, and to be patient with ourselves while we practice, we can empower others like nobody’s business. They will be grateful and really appreciate to us for what we are often not doing. And who wouldn’t like to do less and get—and give—more?
About the Author
Joanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.
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