Hint: There are a lot of right ways to do something.
Here’s a paradox that most leaders are familiar with — the skills you’ve perfected to achieve individual success aren’t necessarily the skills you need to achieve success through others. There are any number of right ways to achieve success. Knowing the best way to do something for you is different than motivating someone else to find their own best way. That’s why the best athletes don’t always make the best coaches. That’s why every new year brings a barrage of new books on leadership.
I’ve been thinking about this ever since I ran into a colleague who is a professional coach for business executives. They helped me realize something about myself — that my eagerness to protect our culture and keep people “safe” could be paralyzing individuals who have their own processes. Some people need to test the water, proceed with caution, and grow in confidence and skill. Others jump into the deep end of the pool and learn to swim in the process. Some people need to ask questions, talk about options, and have colleagues to act as a sounding board. Others just want to get on with it; if they need something, they’ll ask.
The dilemma for leaders is that it doesn’t really matter which method we prefer; we are not being asked to show people “how to do it.” Our job is to articulate the shared purpose and common goals for the enterprise and motivate people to get there. We can provide a road map. But we need to be prepared to get out of the way. Most important, we need to demonstrate unconditional support for people who are trying to find their own right way to get there.
That’s the right thing to do.
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