Posted by Howe Q. Wallace on Monday, September 28th, 2015
“Tell me “what”. Don’t tell me “how”. When I wasn’t the CEO, when given an assignment that’s what I wanted to know.
That’s a challenge of leadership. The more competent your teammates are, the less they like to be told “how” to do something.
That truth has been verified by study. People report that the jobs/careers that they enjoy best is when they have a say about things: the schedule, the procedure, the techniques, the tools. If you can give room to the team about the “how”, it builds the team. A team always supports most what they help to create.
The problem with leaders is they frequently jump into the “how” before clarifying the “what”. Why?
Leaders have often done the “how” they are describing. They have experience. Their methods work for them. They have confidence in the methods. Since they have “worked” before, they see it as a shortcut to teach their “how”.
And, the leader’s methods may be the best. But, those in the field have an opinion too. They do it every day. They have tweaked things. They have the most recent experience. They have a fresh point of view.
Thus, chances are they can offer an improved “how” if the leader will only ask, empower and trust.
The leader’s focus is on making sure the “what”-goals, outcomes, targets- is crystal clear. Team, here’s what we are trying to accomplish. Tell me your best way to accomplish it.
At that point, as a teammate, the leader can contribute to the “how”. Just like anyone else. But, the leader defers first to the team. They hear from them. They assess the quality of the process suggested. They check to see if the “how” aligns with the “what”. The leader make sure communication is clear. The leader makes sure the resources to accomplish the plan is available.