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A Story of Two Doctors

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The door opened and the doctor rushed into the exam room with my chart in his hand. Without looking at me he quickly said, “I’m going to tell you what’s wrong and what we need to do, then I’ll take a look at your records and examine you.”

He hurriedly began to explain the surgery necessary to repair my injured knee, he might have saved himself the trouble because I had already decided he wasn’t coming anywhere near me with any sharp objects.

The next doctor I visited took the time to ask questions and carefully exam my knee to completely understand the problem. Only after considering all the information he had gathered did he explain in detail the problem and what he recommended.

Which of these approaches do you take when your team presents a problem? Are you like the first doctor, confident that you know everything about the problem and how to solve it? This sort of leader may have the correct answer, but what does the team see in that bullish approach? First, they quickly learn that there is no need for them to do much thinking because the boss is going to do it for them. Second, while they may have ideas, they will keep quiet because they know the boss will probably always default to his own solutions without consideration for their thoughts.

Or, are you more like the second doctor, taking the time to analyze the problem and encourage as much input as possible? This type of leader inspires team members to think and analyze on their own. She may not even suggest a solution, preferring to encourage the team to consider their own ideas. The result is a stronger team and, most likely, better results.

It’s certainly tempting to take the first approach. After all, we’re busy and we can solve the problem much faster than the team. Just give them the solution so everyone can move on. The problem is, if you do this very often, the team will become reliant on your answers and will stop thinking for themselves. Then you become like a leader I know who said, “I’m not looking for people with ideas. I have that covered. I just want people who will do things.” And that’s what they get: a team that stifles their own ideas and therefore misses great opportunities.

Which kind of leader are you?

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