Leadership Simple: Leading People to Lead Themselves® is a book we wrote over 15 years ago that presents our basic approach to leading. Every year we have added something to that model but the basics presented in this very short book of about 100 pages, are still valid. If you want multiple examples of how to use the model read the book, currently available at Amazon and other online outlets in both e-book and soft cover versions.
You will find a brief explanation of that model in the IDEAS section of this website.
What follows is an excerpt from the book; a conversation between a coach, Max and a VP of sales, Jerry.
"Maybe you can help me with an issue I’m struggling with, Max.”
“Sure, go for it. Tell me about the issue, Jerry.”
“I ask all my regional managers to take on some of the administrative and planning work of the division’s sales effort. It gives them a bigger sense of the overall sales picture and they also learn a lot about what is needed to move up in the organization. They act like my board of directors.”
“That seems like a good idea, Jerry. It creates a much higher level of participation than you would find in most sales organizations.”
“Yes, it does, when it works. I have one regional manager who agrees to take on specific assignments and then leaves them until the last minute, usually until I have to complete them myself. I would object, however, he is my most productive guy, a man who has broken every sales goal and previous record each quarter for the last three years.”
“What does he say about not getting the work done, not living up to what he’s agreed to do?”
“He always has a reasonable excuse: new salespeople to train, new customers to meet, out saving an order. But I still want him to live up to his commitments to me. Otherwise, there’s a credibility gap. I don’t know what to believe.”
“Does he lie to you, Jerry?”
“No, Max, it is more a matter of optimism. He is a guy who truly believes he can do something when he commits to it, and then he goes with his priorities and can’t deliver everything he’s promised. He means well and he falls short in this one area.
“I’ve thought of not asking him to participate in the process, in planning and working with the other regional managers, but that is not fair to him or to them. We lose the value of Sal’s very important input, and we need his experience to make the whole organization grow, not just his region.
“The projects I ask Sal to take on, that he agrees to take on, will help him get a big boost in his performance. It would be good for him, too.”
“Jerry, what you are saying is that you do for Sal what he should be doing for himself. Is that true? You take on his work, the work he agreed to do. At the last minute, you complete the work for him. Is he capable of doing the work he agrees to do?”
“Oh yes. He can do it. When he does the things I ask him to do for his own use, he turns out perfect results, on time and in a very presentable manner.
“Just the other day I asked Sal to put together projections from his territory for the potential sales of a new product he’s been asking for. He delivered them on time.
“But the week before, I asked for specific information from him that would add to the design of a new reporting system and would help the company be more accurate in its forecasting. He never delivered, even though he promised to do it. He probably couldn’t see the impact on his customers.
“I ended up digging for the information myself on the night before it was due. I didn’t get out of here until 8:00 p.m.”
“Do you get the downside of letting him off the hook?”
“I think I do, Max. First of all, when I let him get away with not delivering what he promised, I am saying it is OK to do that. He probably feels that he can do whatever he likes in regard to his commitments, as long as he brings in more business.
“Secondly, he probably has less respect for me when I let him get away with it over and over.”
“Are there other negative impacts in what you are doing when you do for Sal what he should be doing himself?”
“I let him off the hook. I think he learns the wrong lessons—that he can get away with anything.”
“There is another side to it, Jerry. You rob him of the opportunity to learn from the experience of having to complete the assignments. He also fails to gain the knowledge he would get from doing his own research and planning. Do you see that?”
“Yes, I do now.”
“Anything else you see happening?”
“Well, I get pissed off. I am not doing the work I want to be doing. Sometimes I single him out in a meeting, try to embarrass him; make casual, off-the-cuff remarks about his failure to deliver. It seems counterproductive.”
“That is part of what we call the Do For-Do To loop, Jerry. First we do for the other person what they should be doing for themselves, and then we do it to them to get revenge, to embarrass or shame them into doing what they said they would do. Next, we are embarrassed or feel bad about what we did and we go back to Doing For. It is a continuous loop that we choose in the moment.”
“Sounds right to me, Max. I’m caught in this loop with Sal and other people all the time. I really like the guy and respect his strengths. And, I’m getting dizzy going around and around in this loop.”
“How long have you been choosing to keep this system going, Jerry?”
“Stop right there. Are you saying I am choosing this?”
“Don’t you have a choice?”
“I want to keep him happy and producing. So I look the other way on this issue. I’ve been doing it for two years. I guess he expects me to step in whenever he fails to deliver on his commitments. At least in this context.”
“That’s a big part of the downside of Do For. After a while, the other people not only expect it, but they feel entitled to have you step in to save the day, and they are right. You set up the expectation, and when you get angry and don’t step in, then you are doing it to them. You’ve supported the entitlement and now that’s what you can expect.”
“What’s the solution, Max? I want to end this sickness now.”
“We have a name for the solution, Jerry. We call it Do With.”
“Another concept, Max?”
“Yes, another one, Jerry. Do With encompasses all that we have talked about and much more.
“Do With is the only way I know to break the Do For-Do To cycle. It is a combination of actions we can take and an attitude we adopt to work with other people. When people in an organization act from the posture of Do With, they are creating a cohesive force that will move people to new highs in performance.”
I pull a sheet of paper out of my bag and hand it to Jerry. It contains the definitions of Do With and Responsibility. “Read this page and tell me what you notice.”
The page says:
Do With is taking responsibility for what you want, respecting others and what they want, and supporting them to take responsibility for what they want.
In this definition, responsibility is learning to choose effective behaviors to get what you want and be the person you want to be, while you assist others to learn to choose effective behaviors to get what they want and be the people they want to be.
“What stands out for you about this definition, Jerry?”
“It seems to indicate that both Do With and responsibility are ongoing processes of learning and support for others that begin with knowing what you want.”
“That is one of the best summations I’ve ever heard, Jerry.”
“Great, but how do you do it, Max? It’s one thing to have goals like support, learning and knowing what you want all the time. It’s another to live these concepts. To make them real.”
“I’m glad you see that, Jerry. Let’s look at your situation with Sal, as an example. There are several things you could do to lead him toward Do With.”
“What would that look like, Max?”
“First, you have to get a handle on what you want and what you’re willing to do to get it.”
“Starting there again, what I want. Should we do this now, Max?”
“Yes. Take a few minutes to think it over.”
Jerry looks to the ceiling for his answer, and after a while he scratches his neck and starts talking. “I want to support Sal to live up to his agreements or have him tell me up front that he doesn’t want to do what I ask.”
“That would be a start. What else could you do?”
“Something about learning. Like we are in this together and we have to figure out how to do this Do With thing. Maybe we fail sometimes, but we learn from our mistakes. It won’t be perfect, but we can lead each other through some self-evaluations. Ask those questions. What did you call them?”
“The Procedures That Lead to Change.”
“Yeah, the Procedures. Anyway, I need to get pretty proficient in asking the questions, navigating the model, so I can teach my people. Lead by example. I am looking forward to your coaching.
“I need to cop to my share in creating this Do For-Do To loop. How I keep it going, as well. Explain the negative impacts of Do For in detail.”
“Jerry, that is a critical part of Lead Management and Do With. If you do some self-evaluating in public with your people, individually and in groups, you will be making self-disclosures that give them a greater sense of your own struggles and humanity. It will lead them to be honest with you.
“When you reveal your imperfections, they will be more willing to reveal their vulnerabilities, too. You are not only saying we are in this together; you are modeling the process. You lead others to self-evaluate through your own self-evaluation. That is Do With.”
“I guess I’ll tell Sal that I won’t do his assignments for him anymore. Break the pattern for his sake and mine. I can’t change the rules without giving him notice.”
“So that leads him to the point where he needs to make a commitment. What is the next step, Jerry?”
“I’ll ask him what he wants, given these changed conditions. Also, what he is willing to do to get what he wants; what is he doing to get it; does he think it will work; what are the alternatives. Lead him using the Procedures That Lead to Change. Wander around in his answers and what you called the first four questions until we’ve explored a lot of alternatives. Then ask him to commit to a plan.”
“What will happen if he does not want to commit or he has a problem defining what he wants?”
“In the spirit of Do With, I will stay in the process with him. Keep on asking questions about what he does want. But I am not sure of where to go from there, Max. Is there part of the system I’m missing?”
“When you said ‘in the spirit of Do With,’ you were embodying one of the key elements of the system that does not appear in any diagram or map of the model. It is the question of who you want to be in this situation—a question you can be asking every moment of your life.
“We often shoot from the hip and go with the unconscious patterns of thinking and action that we have evolved over the years. We do the same old thing. Get angry, tell people what they should do, tell them what they have failed at. Most managers say this old way is faster and gets the same result.”
Jerry says, “Do With looks like it takes much more time up front, but I imagine the benefits of it will result in tremendous savings in time and effort that last far into the future. Sounds like a good investment. But what does it really take, Max? What am I missing?”
“Jerry, to live from Do With, to bring this model into reality, you will have to change how you choose to be, who you want to be in any given moment. This means you change what you think and what you do, and along with it your feelings and physiology will change, too.
“Do you want to be a person who gets your way regardless of the impact of your actions on other people? Or do you want to get involved with others like they matter? Where both your needs and theirs are important?”
“My God. Before it was what do I want. Now it is who do I want to be. Is that it? It sounds like a huge commitment, Max. I’ll bet not many people are willing to make that choice, as you might call it.”
“You would be surprised. If leaders show their people, through their own actions, that they are willing to be vulnerable, to self-evaluate with others, to make and admit their mistakes, then people will follow. Not all, but a critical mass large enough to change the character of a group or an entire organization. And then others will follow when they see it working.”
“You’re saying that I have to come from the belief that the system works, this Triangle of Choice? I stick with the model, ask the questions, and do my own self-evaluation. Then Sal will follow and get to where I want him to go?
“But, if Sal will not choose what he wants or will not make a commitment, what do I do next, Max?”
“Let’s look at the model for a moment. When Sal says he does not know what he wants, where else can you go?”
Jerry looks at the diagram on the board. “Perceptions and Behaviors. I want to know what he perceives in this situation. Does he understand what I want? What is it about what I want that is objectionable to him?
“If it is unclear to him, I can explain the needs of the organization and my need to have him comply with my request.
“Then I can ask, if he did what I want, what he perceives would happen.
“I can tell him that I’m open to alternatives.
“I won’t rush the process. But I’ll keep him on track. Help him stick to what is important.
“I’ll come from the spirit of Do With, rather than doing it for him or to him; be someone who wants to create this atmosphere, this territory of Do With.
“And I need to get an agreement from him. I’m not going to give up until I have that agreement. One that he lives up to.”