My son started his sophomore year of high school strategically. He wanted to find the most direct route to a good grade in each class. His strategy was to figure out what each teacher wanted and produce it, reasoning that doing so would result in the best grade. For most of his classes, it worked well. Then he met Ms. Barrows.

Jake became frustrated in his English class. He was spending a lot of time creating notations for the book he was reading, but Ms. Barrows was not giving him a good grade. “This is a lot of work for a B,” he told her. “I just don’t know what you want.”  

“If you are only working to figure out what I want, you’ll never be more than average,” she told him. “I want to read your thoughts.I already know mine.”

Ms. Barrows was introducing Jake to the idea of a Growth Mindset. Instead of wasting his time trying to figure out what she wanted, he needed to spend time exploring his own ideas and figuring out why they mattered. She wanted him to find his own path to greatness. He finally got it, and he also got his A.

What does Ms. Barrows have to do with your management style?  As a manager, you have a choice. You can dictate how your team gets the job done, or you can give them the skills and confidence to approach the job their own way. The former will get the job done, but which will lead to the greatest outcome?

Managers have a lot of choices in their approach to managing their team. The expertise you have developed lends itself to being directive. After all, you were promoted for doing your job well, so if you just give your employees the same skills, you know the job will be done right. As a manager, there is comfort in being able to predict the outcome of your team.

Unfortunately, this is a limiting approach. By managing your team to work exactly as you do, you have set a bar no higher than your own knowledge and ability. What if, instead, you provided the right foundation of skills then challenged your team to go further, thinking about how they should do the job and opening up possibilities for new ideas and capabilities? Employees who are coached not only demonstrate improved performance, but they contribute to the team at a higher level. Like Ms. Barrows, you can coach your team to find their own path to greatness, providing support along the way. Imagine the things that could get done.

Let’s be honest. Some managers will fear this approach. Developing a team that can think and work independently can feel unsettling. It can feel like you are managing yourself out of a job. If you develop a team that can work on its own, where does that leave you?

It leaves you a true leader who has the confidence to create a group that is motivated and outperforms what is expected. It makes you the leader who increased the capacity for your team to take on challenges and the leader to inspired innovation and better results. It leaves you in a position to create future leaders for the organization. It leaves you in the spotlight.

A Growth Mindset believes that there is always something new to learn, seeing obstacles as challenges and failure as opportunity. When you become a manager, you may start to fear failure in any form, feeling it will reflect negatively on your performance. However, the only way to avoid failing is to color within the lines and not take any risks. You will limit your potential if you choose this path as a manager. Instead, by looking for opportunities to challenge your team and encourage them to take calculated risks, you can take your team to a whole new level of greatness.

Ms. Barrows knows her limits and wants her students to take her to places she has never considered. I challenge you to channel Ms. Barrows and spur your own team to new heights.

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