Break the Spell of the Tell
Initiative is in short supply on some teams. Team leaders push, prod, and cajole people to get them to act. Yet, people wait for instructions. When capable team members wait to be told what to do, leaders often comply, compounding an already frustrating situation.
Getting others to take the initiative and to move forward on their own is never easy in a TELL organization, team or family.
When leaders, teachers, and parents frequently TELL others what to do, they rob them of their ability to act without direction. For children, this creates a helplessness all too common who have caregivers known to helicopter in to take care of things. Interestingly, adults respond the same way as kids. They act helplessly until leaders tell them exactly what to do.
For leaders, TELL is the faster and most efficient way to get others to do what you want them to. But, once a leader relies on TELL, it is almost impossible to get others to act on their own.
Leaders who vacillate between directing others and then giving them the freedom to act on their own confuse everyone and make a bad situation worse. Because it is always safer to learn what the leader expects, people delay acting until the leader tells once more.
In a short matter of time, the only tactic that works to get things done is to TELL. A dysfunctional pattern emerges that soon has everyone in a tight grip. TELL becomes the only way. Nothing else works.
Breaking the pattern of TELL requires a tremendous amount of patience on everyone’s part. In TELL organizations, teams, and families, leaders push action from the top down. To change the TELL pattern, desired goals and outcomes originate from the top, but how to execute against those objectives must be placed in the hands of the team members.
Stepping back and watching people execute can be tremendously painful. Work and tasks are executed poorly. At least, at first. But, over time, with a leader’s helpful suggestions and a reliance on resourcefulness, execution improves. Once deprogrammed from the TELL, people regain the ability to act on their own, without waiting for instructions.
Knowing if you’re in a TELL organization, team, or family is the easy part. Breaking the spell of the TELL is the hard work. Everyone benefits when the TELL disappears and is replaced with an expectation for action. Don’t let anyone TELL you differently.