4 words to lead by – ‘What do you think?’

LeadershipAll too often we fall into the trap of thinking leadership is about making decisions, directing a team and monitoring results.

Managers should have all the answers and toss them out freely to anyone within earshot.

Now that’s wrong-headed, but you don’t have take my word for it.

Instead, here’s a story that makes the point. J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr., Chairman of the Board of Marriott International and a pretty good blogger, says he was well into his career when he realized the surest way to get results was to ask people “What do you think?”

What do you think?

Marriott was in the Navy Supply Corps and stationed on an aircraft carrier when he was placed in charge of the officers’ mess.

He’d worked in his father’s restaurant business and knew a thing or two about how to make large amounts of very good food.

So he gathered together some recipe cards and handed them out to the Navy stewards, telling them, “I want you guys to follow the recipes.”

You're Fired!
The seasoned World War II veterans didn’t say much to this newly minted ensign – and they didn’t follow his recipes, either.

When it was clear after a couple weeks that the food was still god-awful, the young Marriott appeared again and said, “You’ve got to start following these recipes.”

And again, he was ignored.

“In later years,” Marriott told the New York Times, “I realized I’d failed to get them on the team. I had walked in and said: ‘Here, do it. I’m an officer. Salute and do it.’

“They ignored me and didn’t do it, and we still had lousy food when I left the ship. I realized that I should have sat down with them and said, ‘What do you think we can do to improve the food?’”

Here’s another fun self-development story that’s been passed down over the years, and says everything about how we create our own reality.

You get what you expect

A stranger was checking out at the mom-and-pop grocery.

“New to town?” the clerk asked.

“I just bought the house down the street,” the man said proudly. “What’s your town like?”

“Well … what was it like in the town you left?” the clerk shot back.

“The people there were great,” he said. “Helpful, kind. We all looked out for each other. I loved it there.”

“I think that’s pretty much what you’ll find here, too,” the clerk smiled.

Not long after, another new face in town turned up at the grocery.

The same clerk asked, “New to town?”

“Just arrived this morning,” the man said. “So what are the people like here?”

“Well … what were they like in the town you lived in last?” the clerk asked.

“Not very friendly,’ the man said. “Cold and distant. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.”

“I know what you mean,” the clerk confided,  “and I’m afraid that’s what you’ll find here, too.”

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