Teach a (wo)man to fish.

The saying goes, “Give a man a fish, you feed him once. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.”

Chinese_Fishing_nets_from_kerala

How does this apply to leadership roles?

Don’t give people answers. Rather, equip them to find the answers themselves. Form lasting habits of problem-solving skills.

Why does this matter?

People promoted to leadership roles tend to have got there by dint of outstanding technical skills. The temptation to dazzle the crew with superior technical skill comes as no surprise then. Expertise is one of the legitimate levers of power.

When is this a problem?

It is a problem when this becomes the ONLY lever of power the leader wields. When over-used, expert power curbs people’s growth and produces disenchantment. The leader wears herself out with fire-fighting and soon gets disenchanted herself.

What to do about it?

Resist the impulse to give answers. Instead ask questions to stimulate thinking. Use a line of questioning to help people find answers themselves.

It is amazing see minds respond to stimulation. Reserve expert power for those few exceptions when it is truly needed. Some tools to have in the leadership toolbox:

  • 5 Why’s
  • Fishbone Analysis
  • Pareto Analysis

Where to find out more?

Lean Six-Sigma has a rich toolkit to draw from. Try it!

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