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There’s a Wrong Way to Share Wisdom
Coaching others to success often requires leaders to let go, allowing people to make their own mistakes and learn from their own experiences. Team members learn best when they get to navigate new situations without a leader nearby. Operating from their own experience and judgment, they find a path that works for them. This requires that leaders give them the space and confidence to try their best.
On the other hand, team members can benefit greatly from the experience leaders have. Armed with the wisdom leaders possess, team members can avoid simple mistakes, as well as learn less intuitive strategies that can make a big difference in effectiveness. The value is in wise insights, not step-by-step direction. Not learning the insights is akin to flying without navigation. Who doesn’t want to know what has worked successfully in the past?
The key is not to hold others accountable to our knowledge and experience. Sharing with team members how you see the problem, what your experience has been and what you would do in their shoes is teaching others how to succeed. Demanding that they follow their own instincts and choices once they are in possession of the leader’s experience is a necessary counterpart. The best leaders neither deny team members of their wisdom, nor require them to adhere to that experience.
In order to keep their distance and allow others to keep theirs, too many leaders rob others of their experience, choosing not to share what they know. As a result, team members don’t develop and grow as quickly as they might. “This is what I would do." "This is how I would approach the problem." "This has been my experience.” That’s how leaders teach others how to succeed. By stipulating that those team members need to weigh their own views and experience more heavily, leaders express the confidence others need to learn on their own. Whenever leaders share what they know, they teach. And, all great leaders are teachers.