While on the plane from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport to Raleigh last month, I got the chance to sit next to Steve, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. We talked about children, sports, and rivalry between UNC and Duke in basketball and how it compares with Texas and Texas A&M in football.
I asked him after a bit to share a piece of wisdom that he had learned in working with the young enlisted men and women. He thought for half a second, then mentioned, “The biggest piece of wisdom I got in terms of working with my teams is to remember that when the boss says, ‘I think,’ the thinking stops. I have to remember to keep my mouth shut and listen to my team members. “
“Just because I’m above them in the chain of command doesn’t mean that I can have or should have all of the right answers. I have to put a muzzle on my mouth. Even though I have may have the right answer, I need to give the others a chance to give their ideas and thoughts. I may have to have the final answer, but if I give them the opportunity to figure out how to solve the problem, they’ve bought into it and will push to make it happen.”
The best leaders put a great deal of effort into defining the issue/challenge/opportunity and the parameters. They focus on the “what”, “when”, and “why,” but have their team focus on the “how” within the parameters that were set.
Thanks, Steve, for reminding me of a great leadership lesson. Most of all, thank you and your fellow service men and women for their sacrifice and service.
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