- People get lazy and expect that the boss will do the heavy mental lifting, and this results in day-long interruptions to your focus and a drain on your mental energy.
- The boss (you) ends up doing everybody’s job for them, and that leaves insufficient time (and brain fuel) to do the heavy mental lifting for your own job (ie, ‘I don’t have time for the strategic thinking I should be doing!). You end up with everybody’s monkey on your back.
- And then when it all turns to pooh, whose fault is it – the boss (you again). ‘John told me to do that!’
I am unashamedly passionate about the need for leaders to become master communicators; to learn to have powerful conversations that – one conversation at a time – stimulate quality thinking, hold people accountable to useful effort, create insight and behaviour change, and focus people on ‘useful activity’ rather than ‘interesting distraction’. Taking a coaching approach to conversations is a powerful skill, but what do you do when the people you are trying to support just want you to tell them what to do? They don’t want to be asked the hard questions and they actively avoid, and even resent, having to take responsibility and make tough decisions. Interestingly, the human brain does not like to be told what to do, so why do we find so many employees wanting the quick answer from the boss? Firstly, consider that essentially, your brain is lazy – and for good reason. You (and all of us) exist in a socially sophisticated world with a primitive brain and that causes problems. One of the brain’s KPI’s is its capacity to conserve energy and so quality thinking, particularly if not well supported or collaborative in nature, can be effortful. Secondly, your brain is designed to automate behaviour. Any thinking or behaviour, useful or not, that is repeated is deliberately directed to your ‘automatic brain’ and turned into a habit. If you are in the ‘habit’ of providing the quick answers to the questions that your people fire at you all day long, and making their decisions for them, then combined with the brains desire to conserve energy, you potentially have team members that will come to expect this and will avoid going outside of their mental comfort zones. Habits are light on energy, so when you challenge someone to start thinking more deeply for themselves when this is not the norm for them, you are asking their brain to use more energy, which the brain will naturally resist. The implications of being a boss that ‘tells’ and ‘solves’ are three fold: