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A leadership lesson from the blues.

In the Blues song The Devil You Know by Tommy Castro the first four lines are:

I see her Tuesday evening… comes in against the light

Sometimes on the weekend, mostly late at night

I could not help but ask her, if we might spend some time

She said it was not likely………..

The leadership lesson is in the five words after “She said it was not likely”. Those words are, “then she told me why.”

Humans are curious by nature; we all want to know why. Your people want to know why. You wanted to know why. I wanted to know why. This is nothing new. Unfortunately, many people in leadership positions grew up in an environment where they were not allowed to ask why. If they did, they were yelled at, belittled, and quickly shot down. As a result, they tend to perpetuate that behavior when they are in a leadership position.

If you want your people to be fully invested, then give them the why up front. Tell them why this task needs to be completed. If it must be completed in a specific manner, then tell them why. Just remember the caution from Steven M.R. Covey, “You cannot hold people responsible for the results if you dictate the methods.” Otherwise, seek their input on the best way to complete the task. Seek their input before offering your opinion. If you speak first, they will believe you have just told them how to do it and asking for their opinion is just you going through the motions to act like you care about what they have to say. Better yet, give them the task, the guidelines and the guardrails and set them loose to complete the task.

Great leaders get out front of the why. They let their people know the why up front. They may not always agree with the why, but it will save them having to wonder what it is and having to work up the courage to ask.

In case you are wondering what her “why” was in the Tommy Castro song, here is it:

She said the devil you know, beats the devil you don’t

I′m in between a hard place and a rock

The devil you know beats the devil you don’t

I′m gonna stick with the devil I got

I′m gonna stick with the devil I got

I think we can all relate to that.

P.S. For more Blues music lessons check out Wisdom From the Blues.

Take care.

Brian Willis


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