Monday, January 21, 2013

"Your legacy as a leader is the people you leave behind"-Take a Personal Interest in Their Development Part II

 In the 24 May blog last year, I addressed what "taking a personal interest" in the development of staff meant in practice.  Insuring each person has an individual development plan, providing in-role job assignments to build capability, balancing challenge and support, taking chances on talent, and letting people go to other roles to fully develop were all things I addressed.

Another dimension I did not address is how to help staff learn how to think through a complex problem.  Counter-intuitively, not answering their questions is an important component of that learning process.  In my experiences as a leader, there were often times when a subordinate leader would bring me a problem to effect delegating the problem up.  This was usually because the situation was new to the person or more complex or the risks were greater than they'd experienced.  They looked to me to provide the answer.  Even though I may have faced similar challenges and had a fairly good idea of the correct course of action, I almost always resisted the impulse to do so.  Taking decisions that should be taken at lower levels does nothing to develop leaders capabilities or the organization as a whole.

Instead, I'd ask questions. What are the alternatives?  What are the facts?  Is there a way to gather more data before deciding?  What are the risks?  What assumptions are you making?  Is there a time factor?  What is the risk of not doing anything?

By your inquiry you are helping them frame the issue, gather data, analyze alternatives, take decisions and take responsibility for the decision.  It's important that leaders develop this skill early at lower levels of complexity; as they become more senior and the levels of complexity increase they will have a well tested capability to take even bigger decisions under the conditions of risk and uncertainty.

This approach can be frustrating to staff.  Many really just want "the answer".  They don't want to make a mistake.  In some cultures and in some organizations, leaders are expected to provide the answers in the belief that is the appropriate role for a leader.

In the best organizations leaders do more than provide answers...they develop the skill of others to discover the answers on their own.

No comments:

Post a Comment