Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Leaders should ask: What do you want to do?

Adam Bryant recently interviewed Bill Flemming, CEO of Skanska USA, for his Corner Office column in the New York Times.  He asked Flemming about his leadership style, and the CEO offered these thoughts:

"When people ask me a question, I don’t always answer it with, “Yes, this is what I want you to do,” or, “This is what I’d do.”  Instead, I’ll ask them, “So what do you want to do?” I don’t want you to just announce the problem to me and expect me to solve it. You tell me what the problem is, you tell me what your proposed solution is, and I’ll give you feedback. I don’t always want to give you an answer on what to do. I want you to think about what your answer’s going to be. I’ll always have an opinion about something, but I want people to form their own opinions."

Flemming's approach has many virtues.  First, he solicits more buy-in and commitment, because he's encouraging his folks to "own" the problems AND the solutions.  Second, he develops his people in this manner, by giving them some responsibility and autonomy and then offering feedback and advice.  Third, he hears new ideas.  If he led with his view, he may very well never hear certain ideas, because some folks would just defer to him.  

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