I sat at my desk with my thumbs in my eyes as I listened to an employee explain to me and a co-worker all the things that were going wrong. There was frustration. There was irritation. There was misunderstanding. And right when I needed some advice – my boss walked in.
He looked at the three of us and smiled, “This looks like not-the-good-kind of meeting.”
Then he walked out and got a cup of coffee. That was it. No proclamation. No rolling up the sleeves. No finger-pointing or team meeting.
It might seem counter-intuitive. Isn’t the guy there to solve the problems?
I realized something in that moment: He trusts ME to figure it out.
You don’t have to have the answers all the time. That is not why I hired you. I just need you to figure it out, kid.
That is some powerful leadership. The other kind of leading is easier. The kind of leadership where you jump in and dirty your hands is more natural for most. But it often isn’t leadership as much as it is quick fixing.
When the wheels start to come off, the driver must let the pit crew do their job. No one wants the guy who should be ready to steer to get out of the vehicle and start yelling about alignment. Leave that to the experts you’ve assembled.
So now the question becomes – do you have the right experts?
Is this how you hired? Did you look for a problem solver? Do you employ builders or breakers?
“Be a builder, not a breaker.”
I wrote that down after a sermon last summer. It’s some good church wisdom. For the last eight months, the background on my phone carried that phrase. It’s short and sweet. It’s powerful.
Find ways to perpetuate, not disintegrate.
But do you have the guts to trust the builders?
Imagine you have a plot of land and the blueprints. You researched your contractor and builder and have had plenty of friends tell you they will do a great job. But every day, you sneak away from your regular schedule to stand alongside the future site of your dream home and yell at the men in hard hats.
If they are doing it wrong, you should get new people to do it. But if they aren’t, then you are doing it wrong.
Empower the builders. Get out of the way and start packing boxes at the old house.