Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sometimes the caddy is right.

Two friends were playing for the first time at the home of golf, St. Andrew’s in Scotland. They both took caddies because the course was noted for the subtleties of the greens and unseen hazards.
On the third hole, one player looked at his partner and said ‘…I think this putt rolls from right to left…’ Without leaving his position, his caddie stated ‘…nay laddie, that putt rolls from left to right…’

The player took a second look at the line and then confirmed his original read, right to left. At that point the caddie dropped the bag and glared at his charge while remarking ‘…laddie, why would you buy a dog and then do all the barking…’

How well do you listen to sound advice? Inspiring leaders do not spurn the input of others. Rather they have the humility to recognize that they don't know everything. Furthermore, leaders are careful to not assign blame if they accept counsel that turns out badly.

There was a time when leaders were considered infallible. Their insights, opinions, and decisions were to be accepted as statements of fact. The option for the listener was to accept and perform, or leave.

Regretably, too often the valuable input of those who had been hired to do the job was ignored or worse yet, never solicited. Today there is simply too much information available and too many sources to consider to reasonably expect that one person will have all the answers. Furthermore, with organizational structures flattened as they have been, an important aspect of job satisfaction is the knowledge that one can have input that is genuinely welcomed and considered in the decision making process. More to the point, it contributes to the 'willingness' of the followers who know they are respected and included in the processes that impact their roles.

Within this context, blame cannot be assigned if the advice results in failure. Leaders accept that ‘the buck stops here’ and they do so without retribution. That is not to suggest that future input from that source will not be held to greater scrutiny, but it cannot be done in a manner that discourages input from that source, or indeed, from any other source.

It is important to keep in mind our touchstone of improved productivity as you consider this and any of the qualities and characteristics of leadership.  The leadership model I have proposed is designed for that purpose.

Consensus of opinion may work in small groups considering dinner plans.  But at the end of the day, the inspirational leader takes responsibility for the team or group decision. When it is right, there is enough glory to spread around to all the contributors. If it fails, it falls to the one.

This topic has one prerequisite.  It assumes that as the leader you have hired, trained, and equipped people who are capable of providing the kind of input that adds value to the decision making process.  If that is not the case then you have failed in one of the fundamental responsibilities of your leadership role and you need to address that matter as a priority.

Humility is an overlooked quality of today's Inspirational Leader.  It ought to be viewed as the strength of character that it truly is!

I am not advocating consensus leadership that requires all constituents to be in agreement with the decision. But I am advocating a collaborative style that encourages input even if it has not been specifically requested. 

Employees need to feel valued.  

Leaders need to have the confidence and humility to accept the input of others in setting both goals and strategies.

1 comment:

  1. Your caddy analogy rings more truth than. you know. I was a young saleman of 27 when a large volume, domineering client decided she didn't like my answer when she demanded a rediculously low price. My response was to the point "no, but thank you for asking". She then proceeded to pick up the phone and call my manager in front of me obviously intent on getting her way. They spoke for a few minutes then she calmly hung up the phone. With a puzzled look on her face she asked me whT I thought he meant when he said 'I don't have a dog and bark too'. I have never forgotten this demonstration of support - it gave me the confidence to make business decisions knowing that management had faith in my abilities, even allowing me to fail on occaision! Oh, did I mention he was from Glasgow? Thx