If Your People Don’t Think, You’re Failing as a Leader

You remember our very involved leader Gary?  He is the leader from last week, making his people dependent on him.

Not only is Gary’s leadership style making the people in his organization dependent, it also conditions the people to stop thinking.  Instead of coming up with solutions to their own problems, people in his organization wait for the leader to solve the problems for them.  Therefore there is no reason for them to think and come up with creative ideas to problem solving.

If you get involved in the day-to-day problem solving, attempting to find answers to problems facing your people, you train them not to think.  However, you have to train people in your organization to think.

A Successful Leader Train People to Think

People need training to think.  It may sound strange, because doesn’t thinking come rather naturally?  The truth is very few people actually learn to think in terms of problem solving.  Thinking skills like lateral thinking, thinking out of the box and analytical thinking, unfortunately does not come without training.

As a leader it is your job to help people to develop these skills.  At first it will take a lot of effort, especially if your organization has a culture of dependency.  It will also take effort from your side, because you will have to trust people to come up with solutions and make the right decisions.  You will have to deal with wrong decisions and mistakes as part of the growing pains.

Being available as coach to guide and give advice will become your primary function during this transition.  The good news is there is a process you can follow to make it easier to train people in their thinking processes.

The Think Training Process a Leader Can Follow

Acknowledgement. Training people to think and come up with solutions to problems does not mean they will not bring problems to you.

When this happens, as the leader, you must confirm the problem.  You do this by acknowledging the stated issue brought to your attention.  Acknowledgement of the problem does not mean you take ownership of the problem. It only means you agree there is a problem needing attention.

Redirecting. The next step is to redirect the problem back to the person or group.

This is important to establish ownership of the problem. During the redirecting stage it is important to communicate clearly, although you acknowledged the problem, you are not the owner of the problem. The problem is still owned by the person or group raising the issue. It is the responsibility of the problem owner to come up with the solution.

Guidance. Your role as leader is to guide the person or group through the problem solving process, without getting personally involved.

During this stage the leader must lay down definite boundaries for him/herself as well as for the person or group. Guidance means giving direction and advice without getting personally involved in the solution.  It is encouraging people to come up with creative solutions to the problem.

Empowerment. The most important part of training people think is to empower them to make decisions and take the action necessary to resolve the issue at hand.

You can only empower people if you resolve to trust them and communicate this trust clearly to them.

Review. Lastly, the learning experienced gets entrenched by reviewing the process.

The solution and the process of getting to the solution must be reviewed.  The review event provides and opportunity for learning from the process, entrenching experience.  This empower people to handle the next challenge with more confidence.

Thinking on behalf of the people you lead is not a sign of strong leadership. In fact it exposes insecurity in the leader. Often leaders feel they will become redundant when people can function without their involvement.

This cannot be farther from the truth. The purpose of leadership is to help people grow.  It is to teach them the value of being able to function independent from the leader.

How often do you still think on behalf of your people?

Is there anything more to add to the think training process?

Written by Joseph Hawking

I have a passion for people & leadership development and since I discovered my mom’s old typewriter as a boy, I have written in some form or another.
I started blogging in 2017 and in August 2018, I started The Leadership Connexion with the aim to make the connection between Business, Leadership and Life. My professional experience span across various business disciplines, including Training, Project Management, Human Resource Management and Finance. I have a MBA degree, am co-founder a Industrial Water Treatment Company and lecture International Business at Monash SA University.
I am part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network (IMN), South African Chapter, where I am a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. I believe that the highest form of living is using what you are blessed with to add value to other people’s lives.

These Posts Might Also Interest You

About Joseph Hawking

I have a passion for people & leadership development and since I discovered my mom’s old typewriter as a boy, I have written in some form or another.
I started blogging in 2017 and in August 2018, I started The Leadership Connexion with the aim to make the connection between Business, Leadership and Life. My professional experience span across various business disciplines, including Training, Project Management, Human Resource Management and Finance. I have a MBA degree, am co-founder a Industrial Water Treatment Company and lecture International Business at Monash SA University.
I am part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network (IMN), South African Chapter, where I am a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. I believe that the highest form of living is using what you are blessed with to add value to other people’s lives.