The Easy Button and Judging Reputations, pages 196-200
Part Two: Leadership Tactics, 2. Leadership Skills, F. The Easy Button, G. Judging Reputations, (pages 196-200)
F. The Easy Button
Taking ownership is not the same as doing all the work. As the leader, your subordinates will often come to you for solutions to problems that they are encountering. By solving their problems, you are in essence making their jobs and lives easier. While your tendency might be to provide a solution, this will ultimately not benefit the team. By consistently solving problems, your subordinates will come to expect it. Additionally, your leadership will be negatively affected because you will be looking down and not up and out. “You will be focused on tactical-level issues when you should be looking at the strategic picture and figuring out what the next move will be.” Your team will not grow because they haven’t been allowed to learn to think. Their growth and progression as a team will be impeded. As the leader, when your subordinates come to you with a problem, use it as a training exercise. Over time, your subordinates will develop problem-solving skills as you teach them. “Don’t solve every problem they come to you with. Don’t be the easy button.”
About fifteen years ago, I was chosen to be the principal of an elementary building within my district. To that point, I had seven years of high school experience and one year of elementary experience. My high school experience consisted of five years of teaching math and two years as an assistant principal. My one year at the elementary was as an assistant principal. What I did learn during my brief time in the elementary building was that reading was the focus of almost everything that occurred. Learn to read by third grade then read to learn after that was often spoken. So, as I entered my elementary principalship, I fully understood my glaring deficiency in understanding reading instruction. I immediately befriended the reading specialist and asked her if she would help me get up to speed with reading. She was flattered that I came to her and agreed to help me. Word got around the building that I was learning about reading. My career path was known to my staff and they understood that up to that point, I was known as a high school math guy with little to no knowledge of what elementary instruction as all about. It came to my surprise that many teachers thanked me for getting to learn about how to teach reading. So, what does my experience have to do with not being an easy button? Reflecting back, not having a full understanding of elementary instruction allowed me to not solve my teacher's problems. When teachers did have issues, they would come to me for advice and we would talk through the situation to jointly come up with a solution. It was a great learning experience for me. I was unable to be the easy button. While I don’t recommend getting into a new leadership with inferior skills, it does permit you to not be the easy button as long as you learn along the way to strengthen your skills.
G. Judging Reputations
“As the new leader, don’t’ judge them based on what you have heard or read; try to keep an open mind and judge for yourself.” If you encounter poor performance or problems, they can likely be resolved if a person is given a chance and led properly. “Do your job and lead.”
Whenever I enter a new leadership position, I intentionally do not read personnel records. I will read them eventually, but I found that initially, it allows me to have a more unbiased view when meeting my staff. Everyone gets a clean slate with me, it’s their job to keep in that way. It’s my job to help them clean it if needed. When in doubt, lead.