It was late in the afternoon when I stopped by to check on Nathan. We agreed that he would circulate with his team, asking a variation of one simple question –
“When things are going well, and your job is going well, how do you do what you do?”
“That’s a great question,” I said. Nathan was beaming. I could tell the response from his team had been positive.
“It’s funny,” he shook his head. “When they describe how they do what they do, sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they get it almost right. But since I gave them the chance to tell me first, when we talk about the almost right stuff, it comes a lot easier. They are much more willing to listen.”
“So, what is the lesson for you?” I asked.
“It’s not so important that I be right, or that I be in control, whatever that means. What is important is that my team members are thinking about what they are doing. They are thinking about what they are doing that is right and thinking about what they are doing that needs improvement.”
Nathan stopped cold. A new niche just opened in his thinking.
“It’s like before, they just depended on me to tell them what they were doing wrong so they never had to think about it. They knew that if they were doing something wrong, they would get a lecture from me and that would be that, so they didn’t have to think about it. When I stop giving the lecture and ask them, they suddenly begin to think.”