Over the the course of January, I am going to share four mistakes I vow not to make again as a leader.
#2 Running Everything Myself
We have an immense list of needs as a school, which means we must have a significant leadership capacity as a staff. I can, too often, fall into the trap of trying to run everything myself, not necessarily in action but in decision making. I often catch myself going into situations to give people what they need to solve a problem or reach an arbitrary goal. Problems fixed; Goal met; Improvements made. This process can work if my focus is on making our school better in the short term — quick, easy, and to the point. But, this does not build lasting change. As a leader, my focus needs to be on inspiring people to solve their own problems and meet their own personal goals. I need to focus on others as the ones who drive improvement, not just myself.
This idea reminds me of the old proverb: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. If I feed the people I lead, things will get done, problems get solved, and goals get met. At the same time, I create an environment where everyone looks to me for answers. If all the answers come from me, then I place a ceiling on learning and assure my school will never be any smarter than me. If I inspire people and teach them to fish, they will take ownership of the improvement process and we will be able to go places I alone could not help us reach. My focus cannot be on improvements and change, but rather on the people who will bring improvements and change.
Ultimately, trying to do it all myself is also very egotistical and holds others back. Here are some examples of how I am going to change how I react when people come with a problem to be solved.
- Instead of saying: “This is what I think you should do.” I am going to ask: “What are your thoughts on how you should proceed with this?”
- Instead of saying: “I think you should try to do it this way.” I am going to ask: “How can I help?”
- Instead of saying: “This is what is causing that problem.” I am going to say: “Can you tell me more, so I can better understand where this struggle is coming from.”
I know I am still going to solve (or give quick answers to) too many problems for people, but I will do my best to hold myself to asking more questions and commit to growing the problem-solving capacity of those around me in 2020.