Independent thought

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This post by Seth Godin made me think.

People are just begging to be told what to do. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest one is: “If you tell me what to do, the responsibility for the outcome is yours, not mine. I’m safe.”

Whenever you are working with people, how many times have you had to think for everyone else? Everything looks hunky-dory and people seem to be listening to you. But do you know why they are listening? Because that way, they do not have to think, because then they are not responsible. When sh!t hits the ceiling, it will be most likely you who would be doing the clean up.

Try what Seth says, the guru is right. Refrain from telling them what needs to be done. Let your team struggle, let the people take up the mantle. Some of them will start liking being independent. Foster and nurture these pieces of independent thought, and you have a sustainable knowledge practice up and running.

A lamp in pure darkness is bright, but its not as bright as a lamp and 3-4 flickering sparks.

5 thoughts on “Independent thought”

  1. Frankly, I like reading your space as it says out the common unnoticed truths..
    “If you tell me what to do, the responsibility for the outcome is yours, not mine. I’m safe.” I agree100% to it and to the cleaning business as well.
    It’s explicity mentioned in official conversational mails” upon xyz advice, this action has been performed” keeping the xyz in cc , just pulls him to do the explaination part.
    as far as letting the team struggle, its not only our duty but there should be an zeal for them to take up responsibility as well, i beleive if someone wants to take up responsibity they wont ask for your inputs on first basis. Even if they as they will be giving due credit.
    In sense, responsibiltiy, credit and blame goes hand in hand as far as I see

    1. Durga, well said! It’s ownership from people that leaders seek. A lot of business leaders say delegate, delegate … but if people do not take ownership, who will these leaders delegate to? :)

  2. “A lamp in pure darkness is bright, but its not as bright as a lamp and 3-4 flickering sparks.”

    Atta-boy! What a thought. Nice one. Fantastic.

    Here is a counter view to your post. Not that you wrote some thing wrong. But at times people reading you (or for that matter Seth Godin) might take it otherwise, by incompletely understanding it. People often preach proper delegation of responsibilities. So that effectively means you are handing over a pie of your responsibilities and letting him do that. He will struggle. But he might some how complete what you basically wanted him to do. You are letting him to be independent. But the catch here is, he is only independent of his actions and not thought. At the end of the day he is doing what you delegated.

    Now how about empowering him? Share with him the vision of the company, the team, the project or just share a stream of thoughts. And let him add value by taking control. Allow him to mend the process and tweak the rules as long as the aim is not jeopardized. If we do that, I’m sure every spark will become a lamp one day.

    1. Hi Mayur, perfect use of the analogy and … all of us would want the sparks to become lamps! If empowerment needs to be done for that purpose then I am all for it. But even in this act, the person is not being spoon fed a task list. In fact, the act of making a task list is exactly the freedom space being offered to the employee. As long as the purpose is met. The challenge is to shift the employee to think independently instead of acting on a task list.

  3. Absolutely… and I’m a complete believer in empowerment. I have asked for it from my employers and I quit those who declined. Now I have a handful of employees with me and I am all game to hand the responsibilities to them.

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