Giving Orders and Yes Men, (pages 146-151)
Part One: Leadership Strategies, 3. Principles, F. Giving Orders, G. Yes Men (pages 146-151)
F. Giving Orders
When giving orders, it is best to not provide details. Rather, inform your subordinates of the mission objective(s). In the military, this is referred to as the Commander’s Intent. By allowing your subordinates to develop the plan to achieve the mission, you create buy-in. “…the plan became their plan, not mine – which means they owned it.” However, the leader might not always agree with the subordinate’s plan. When this occurs it is important to determine how much of the plan is in question. If the plan is over 70% of the desired solution, you go with it. Below 70%, the leader needs to provide incrementally larger corrections as the % decreases. Even if the plan is not viable, have the team go back, with feedback, to develop a new one. “So when the opportunity is available, let your subordinates come up with the plan.” The major obstacle for the leader is their ego. Leaders want to be in control. By allowing your subordinates the control of developing plans, no matter how bad, you allow them to grow and become better. Eventually, their plans will rivel the leaders. “When that happens, you can begin to look up and out instead of down and in, which is exactly what a leader should be doing.”
As both an Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent, I continually attempted to get those closest to the problem involved with the solution. By Jocko Willink's account, that would mean that I do have my ego in check. And, I would agree with that. I most often had a good experience getting my team members involved in creating solutions. However, I would sometimes encounter negative feedback from what I describe as uninformed bystanders. I would hear whispers that I often got others to do my job. While this did not sit well with me, I always kept in mind the source. Which was for all intents and purposes, irrelevant. When presenting the solution, I made sure to acknowledge the hard work by the team and that it was their ideas that I was presenting. And as the leader, successfully developing solutions was a major responsibility. And by involving teammates in creating solutions, I was doing just that.
G. Yes Men
As a leader, you should not surround yourself with yes-men. Your subordinates should always be respectfully questioning why decisions were made and offering additional information and recommendations. “If I am a good boss, I will listen to my subordinate, who is actually closer to the problem and therefore has a better understanding of it.” Yes-men bring nothing novel to the table and will not help the team. “If you want optimal performance, don’t’ just count on your own brainpower.”
I will often say that while I might not be the smartest person in the room, I’m smart enough to realize that. I have found that by giving away power, I would receive back more power and respect. It is a dichotomy. A hard lesson to learn for new administrators is that you do not always have all the answers. Most new administrators came out of the classroom. As veteran teachers, they were masters of their domain and typically had all the answers for things that occurred within the class. However, the responsibilities of administrators are exponentially larger compared to teachers. When facing new unique problems, the most powerful thing for a new administrator to do is to ask for help. While this can be viewed as a weakness, it is a strength. Getting the correct solution is more important that who was responsible. It is just another dichotomy within educational leadership.