The Easiest Way to Lead
(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)
The “Show Me” Leader
More than a few new age companies make the news each year detailing how they’re flattening their organizational charts, dispensing with titles, and doing away with office walls. With all of this Kumbaya-inspired activity in the workplace, it begs the question: Why do we have bosses and rules and walls anyway?
The undercurrent of the no-bosses movement is based primarily on two tenets: 1) Teams work better when everyone is equal; and 2) Our team’s goal is so meaningful we can all come together and support it fully without the need for supervision or accountability. The reason these approaches appeal to people is they feel they’ll receive all of the accolades for which they so richly deserve, while essentially never having to put up with someone telling them what to do.
Of course, like Communism, this arrangement works great on paper, or when everyone believes he or she is adequately and equally overcompensated for their contribution.
The Real World
Short of just a tiny number of special circumstances, successful companies making a profit in the real world have org charts and rules… and some of them even have walls!
If you happen to find yourself managing people in one of the “old fashioned” organizational structures and you’d like to lead humbly in a way that produces results, but doesn’t hurt your chances to develop those who may not like being told what to do, there is an adage in management you should always remember that says “People respect what you inspect.”
This means that whatever tasks or goals on which you show an interest, people will complete or achieve. Setting goals is an exercise that any team can accomplish. Routinely achieving real goals on time, and in an honest manner, is a bit more rare. Of course, the “what you inspect” part, by itself, conjures up images of a leader who doesn’t trust his or her team.
One of the biggest pitfalls for leaders who like to lead humbly is how to show their teams that they trust them while verifying that everyone is executing according to the plan. (Remember, they respect what you inspect.) Humble leaders solve this with two words: Show me.
When discussing goal achievement with a subordinate, humble leaders will listen with interest as the employee pontificates about how terrifically everything is going and then as soon as the employee is done speaking, the leader simply responds with “Sounds great, show me.”
Regularly respond with “show me,” and everyone will quickly learn to tell you the truth about everything the first time…