When I first met my client Jamie, his brilliant mind enthralled me. He could break down any topic we discussed, make connections, and come up with deep insights. We discovered ‘structured thinking’ was his inherent strength. It led him into the cyber security field and sped up his career as an outstanding individual contributor. But now he was in a leadership role and still trying to solve all the technical problems instead of engaging his team. He told himself it was quicker to do it himself, but solving technical problems was also his comfort zone.
It was taking its toll, though. Over-committing was driving him crazy. But he was also not allowing his team to step up and show what they could do. He was overthinking the simplest problems in search of the perfect solution. He became stressed and anxious with the weight he carried on his shoulders.
His strength had become his weakness.
Jamie’s boss gave him the feedback that he needed to lift his game, to think more strategically and encourage his team to flourish. He took the comments on board, realising he needed to apply his ‘structured thinking’ strength to a new type of problem, which was how to get his team to propose solutions.
He relished the opportunity to develop his leadership charter, where he declared how he wanted to use his strength in the future and the style of leadership he wanted to practise. The fundamental shift for him was to stop solving the team’s problems for them. Whenever a problem arose, he would ask himself, am I solving the problem or asking others to solve it? His fresh problem became how to get the best from his team and have them propose solutions instead of adding to the weight of issues he carried.
That transformation freed him up to solve the bigger strategic problems the business faced.
The myth that leaders must know all the answers often confronts us. We think we will look foolish if we ask questions. In Jamie’s case, he became a leader people love working with. They stepped up their leadership as he asked them for solutions to problems rather than giving them the answers. He is now more fulfilled by the impact is making.
In John C. Maxwell’s book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, he suggests that we only get answers to the questions we ask, so as leaders we need to get better at asking profound questions.
🙋♀️ What is your experience of the power of asking others for solutions? 🙋♂️
Best Regards, Brian