It’s 20/20, right? That doesn’t make you a hero.
Managers that leave their employees to fend for themselves and only deliver guidance and wisdom in hindsight aren’t managers. These are judges, and no one likes to work for them. If your primary line to deliver is “I told you so” or “I knew that would happen,” you’re not leading your people. You’re browbeating them, and they don’t appreciate it.
Leaders of people need to be in the trenches with them. You need to understand the unique challenges they face, and you need to get your hands dirty helping them face and overcome those challenges. Even as a leader, your team members need to know that you are invested in their success on the front end of any endeavor. It demonstrates your commitment to them and your faith in them. More than that, it shows them very clearly that you are “in this together.” If we win together, then we most certainly lose together. A true leader doesn’t wait in the wings to pounce on team members when they fail.
Here are five questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re leading with the heart of a servant or one of a tyrant:
1. What are my team members’ greatest challenges? What is it that keeps them up at night? How can I insert myself to help them overcome these challenges and remove barriers to their success?
2. What have they tried and failed at thus far? At our core, when we are goal focused, we tend to look a bit like mice in a maze. If we fail in one direction we take a left or a right and press on. If my team members are still trying, they have likely failed, and I need to understand where they failed to truly understand the path they are on.
3. What do they need from me that they haven’t yet asked for? Sometimes team members hesitate to ask for advice for fear of appearing inept. Making yourself available to people and inviting their search for information can help everyone avoid unnecessary mistakes. Being a part of a solution is always more welcome that an “I told you so.”
4. What mistakes have I made that I can help them avoid? If I have been through the maze, I have had some of those failures. Having had those experiences, I can anticipate some of the needs of my team members. Sometimes the best advice is already two (or ten) steps ahead of where someone is. Offer it proactively and watch lightbulbs come on.
5. Do I actually want them to succeed? This is a tough one. Not everyone who works together wants to socialize together. This is true of peers, and it can also be true of team members of varying titles. The truth is that everyone must have the best intentions for the entire team and the company. This must drive decisions and support options for all involved. If you realize that you’re hanging back and waiting for team members to fail, STOP IT. Failure for one means failure for all.
Let’s remove “I told you so” and “I knew that would happen” from our collective vocabulary and replace it with actions that will encourage one another and empower each other to thrive. Together, we can succeed in far greater ways than we can individually. Tomorrow begins today.
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