One common mistake leaders make

by John Hilton16 Sep 2016
Leaders often think that by telling people all the answers and imparting their wisdom they are doing the right thing, said the leadership thought leader Nigel Paine.

However, what they are actually doing is “disempowering people”.

Take, for instance, an employee who approaches a leader with a problem, Paine told L&D Professional.

If the leader explains to the employee what to do then the employee will say ‘great’ and follow through with the leader’s instructions.

However, the next time the employee has a problem he will not try and work it out. Instead, he will approach the leader and say ‘I have got another problem’.  

“The most difficult transition for a leader is to move from being the person who knows the answers to being the person who asks good questions,” said Paine.

When the employee goes to the leader with a problem, the leader should ask: ‘What do you mean by that problem? What kind of options do you think you’ve got to solve it? If you pick those three options, what are the consequences of how they might turn out? You have chosen the first option, why don’t you do that and let me know how it goes?

The leader has then empowered that person to go and do it themselves, added Paine. Consequently, the next time they run that process through their heads themselves, they will learn and grow.

“The duty of a leader is to encourage every single person that reports to him or her to grow, develop, learn and get better, not to be dependent,” said Paine.

“It’s to create independence and autonomy. I think the biggest mistake leaders make is not doing that.”

Further, Nick Mackeson-Smith, L&D Senior Manager at Deloitte in New Zealand, also recently told L&D Professional about the benefits of letting employees figure things out for themselves.

“L&D professionals tend to want to fill silence with their own wisdom and impart their knowledge on other people, said Mackeson-Smith.

“But I have found that leaving silence is significantly more powerful. Silence promotes thinking and thinking often leads to people discovering that they had the answer all along.”

Nigel Paine is the author of the new book: Building Leadership Development Programmes: Zero Cost to High Investment Programmes that Work (Kogan Page). It is released at the end of September. He recently spoke at the ‘Leadership in an age of disruption’ event in Melbourne hosted by DeakinDigital and DeakinPrime.

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