Be Capable And Ask For Help & Building Trust and Relationships, (pages 86-97)
Updated: Mar 26
Part One: Leadership Strategies, 2. Core Tenets, A. Be Capable And Ask For Help, B. Building Trust and Relationships, (pages 86-97)
A. Be Capable And Ask For Help
The leader must be knowledgeable about the jobs of those employees that report to him/her. While they do not need to be experts, working knowledge of each person’s job is a critical component in developing a leader's credibility. But, what if the leader does not know or fully understand someone’s job, skills, or equipment? They need to simply ask. The ability to ask and learn will only go to strengthen the leader's skill set. However, some feel that asking for help will make the leader weak or stupid. The opposite is true. “Subordinates understand that their leaders might not know everything. Put your ego in check, and ask for help”.
In my ninth year in education, I was assigned to be an elementary principal. Up until that time, almost all my experiences were at the high school level. I was both a high school math teacher and dean of students. Most recently, I had spent one year as an elementary assistant principal with most of that time dealing with discipline issues and not academics. The saying in elementary is that the student spends the first four years (K-3) learning to read and then from there on, reading to learn. Elementary instruction is hyper-focused reading instruction. I would argue all elementary teachers are reading instruction experts. While I saw myself well versed in mathematics and general instructional practices, reading instruction was not a strength. Now, I was the instructional leader with limited to no knowledge about the majority of what my teachers did daily. What did I do? I became best friends with my literacy coach. I asked her to teach me the basics of our literacy instruction program and what I need to look for when in classrooms. It took me about six months to feel comfortable. However, when having conversations with my teachers, they were pleased that I understood their core instructional practices. Additionally, my literacy coach appreciated that I valued her input and she felt empowered by helping me. It was a win-win outcome. All I had to do was ask.
B. Building Trust and Relationships
First comes trust, trust leads to relationships, trusting relationships build productive teams. If you don’t have trusting relationships, you have “just a group of random people”. Trust begins with telling the truth. The author discusses this in a previous section (https://www.erikbentzel.com/post/leaders-tell-the-truth-and-study-pages-78-85). You develop trust down the chain of command by giving it. Give your subordinates jobs and the trust to accomplish them. As they succeed, increase the challenge of the job. This process develops mutual trust. When a failure does occur, “…look at their mistake as an opportunity to teach them, to counsel them, to mentor them”. You develop trust up the chain by telling the truth and not simply what the leader wants to hear. While telling the boss what they want to hear might have short term gains, it is not good for the mission, team, or eventually the boss. Lastly, trust is a critical requirement in decentralized command (https://www.erikbentzel.com/post/decentralized-command). For decentralized command to function properly, your subordinates need to know not only what to do, but why they need to do it. By providing the why your subordinates are provided “…with the knowledge and clarity to make adjustments as needed”.
Trust and relationships are at the heart of leadership. It is a topic that I am passionate about. I wrote about this topic in a previous post, https://www.erikbentzel.com/post/a-lesson-learned-about-trust.