Again, Simon seems to be stating the obvious. People need and deserve
consideration. They want to be involved and to have their interests and points
of view considered whenever decisions are made. They expect to matter and to
make a difference as individuals.
These points are certainly on target. There is another level of truth
here, though. On the one side, not taking everyone into consideration runs the
chance of alienating those who are left out or ignored. If that happens, they
become less invested in the team and less committed to its success. Odds for
achieving the mission go down and Simon’s leadership is weakened. It is a
similar outcome to that seen when power and control are used excessively and
inappropriately. Do it yourself leadership does not work, unless you really do
intend to do everything yourself.
On the flip side, the decision itself is suspect. There are people who
could have and should have been consulted. The people who have to deal with the
affects of the decision are taken by surprise and may not be prepared to handle
the consequences of the decision. The rumor mill gets a new source of fuel and
confusion within the team increases. Unintended problems develop and the
original decision often has to be modified to accommodate to the consequences
of not taking everyone into consideration. With all this, taking everyone into
consideration is not only the sensitive thing to do, it is an essential
strategy for leaders who value making the right decision, the first time, on
time, every time.
Related to this is trying to understand the what and why of problems
before taking action. This cannot be done without taking everyone into
consideration. Simply put, that is the only way to be sure you first understand
the problem. Even for Super Simon, it is ordinarily impossible to handle a
problem until he actually knows what the problem is.
Recall the stool with only one leg? It is a good example of the what
and why of problems. That stool belonged to a team that had a take-charge
leader. He knew what the problem was and how to fix it. He simply threw the
piece of junk into the trash and the problem was solved.
He first observed and analyzed: that is a piece of junk. Next, he
defined the problem: junk should not be left laying around. Finally, he problem
solved: into the trash it went.
Did this “I know what’s best for everyone,” approach solve
the problem? Yes, it did. Did it cause other problems? It likely did not. Can
you think of reasons why the approach might not have been appropriate? You
The issue with the approach is not so much whether it works as
sometimes it does not. When it does work, which is most of the time, it goes
unnoticed. When it does not work, people are upset, other problems develop, and
a round of second guessing begins. If the leader is committed to doing the
right things right, the first time, on time, every time, he will need to
reconsider the approach.
Two points are important. First, problems seldom need an immediate,
right now solution. When they do, then action must be taken; but there is
normally time to at least ask a question or two. “Is there some reason why
that one legged stool is just laying there? Does anyone have plans for using
it? Is throwing it away going to cause anyone a problem?”
Second, and here is the most serious issue, the “I’ll fix it
myself without consulting with anyone approach” is habituating. The
symptoms include an irritating increase in arrogance, less value being placed
on other people and their contributions, increasing insensitivity to the needs
and interests of others, and less focus on the team and its mission. Over time,
the symptoms also include an increase in bad decisions and a decrease in
problem’s really getting solved. Instead of things getting better, they
actually get worse; and the misguided leader does not have a clue why. He
believes it is because people are causing problems instead of taking care of
You may hear him say, “I spend all of my time putting out fires.
It is no wonder we don’t make much progress. If everyone would just do what
they are supposed to do, I could get things on track.” Of course, he never
considers the possibility his attitude and problem solving approach are,
themselves, the underlying source of all those fires.