Turn the Ship Around

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My guest this week is Terry West. Terry is CTO at e2ip Technologies. He and his wife Leesa are also the founders of Equipping Leaders Global (click button below for the web site). Terry and I have become good friends these last few years and also serve together on the Board of Directors for Unleash God’s Dream, an organization dedicated to helping people discover and live out their life purpose. I’m pleased to welcome him to Leadership Adventure today as my guest.

by Terry West

I just finished reading a fantastic leadership book: “Turn the Ship Around” by David Marquet.  It is an excellent and easy read about servant leadership in action, where David talks about taking over the worst performing submarine in the US Navy and in 3 years making it the top ship.

The core of Marquet’s strategy was to change from a “command and control” leadership to one of servant leadership, and he walks through the ingredients of that change. Much of the change he talks about are within himself and his attitude.

One thing stuck out for me.  He had a strong tendency to jump in and solve problems for his team, as he had the experiences in his past to know what would work and not work in a given situation. He had to really work to curb this tendency, as he realized that the more he jumped in and solved problems for his team, the less likely they would be to solve problems for themselves in the future.

I wonder how much we all do that.  We are so focused on the objective and getting there efficiently and quickly.  When the team is not going fast enough or in the right direction, we want to jump in with our experience and “leadership” and solve the problem. We make excuses for that behavior too: we’re just trying to show them how to problem solve, for example.

The reality is we’re not.  We’re training them not to think for themselves.  We’re training them when things get confused or tricky, we’ll always jump in and solve the problem.  Where does that end?  How does that get our teams to be problem solvers, so we don’t have to be in the center of every situation?

The lesson for this week is this: when a problem appears, ask yourself “is this a problem that in the future I would love my people to be able to solve nearly without me?”.

If the answer is yes, then be patient. Let the team take whatever time is needed to solve the problem with minimal direction from you.  Encourage them by saying “hey, I would love to see how you as a team, can solve this problem without me.”  Ask a few questions as they brainstorm to help guide them, but don’t steer them or tell them what to do.

It will be frustrating.  It will be slow.  It won’t be as “perfect” as you would like.  But the problem will get solved.  And next time, they’re far more likely to solve problems like that better, without you.

That’s true teambuilding.

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