Paul Raggio | Teach Your Team to Fish!

Paul Raggio
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One of your many responsibilities as a leader is to grow your replacement. If you believe you’re so integral to your business, so much so that it flounders in your absence, then you’ve got some work to do!  “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime!”  

When you lead others to overcome today’s challenges, you achieve some level of success. However, when you develop others to lead, you create visionaries with the courage and determination to step into the arena. They choose to take risks, control fear, overcome barriers, and inspire others collectively to achieve exponential results, otherwise impossible if they were to do it independently. This mindset teaches subordinates to lead and carries over and over to multiple generations of future trailblazers. 

Monte Wyatt, the author of the best-selling book, “Pulling Profits Out of a Hat,” offers five tips on how to become a better leader: teach your followers how to think; provide your followers clear direction to the future; ask your followers more than you tell them; understand your followers’ aspirations, emotions, skills, potential and desires; positively reinforce the efforts of your followers. 

Teach your followers how to think. If you’re good at problem-solving, then I bet you follow a process. Decision-making is a taught skill, and good leaders follow a very deliberate and thorough process. First, they spend most of their time identifying what needs to be solved because they know solving the wrong problem consumes precious resources and increases the risk of failing. Second, they gain an understanding of the environment and what they can and can’t influence. Third, they assess risk and how to mitigate it. Fourth, they identify the criteria they’ll use to decide and weigh each accordingly. Fifth, they’ll estimate the resources for the different solutions they generate. And finally, they decide.  

Provide your followers clear direction to the future. Without vision, there is nowhere to go. Without purpose, there’s no reason to exist. Leadership is influencing others to follow a purposeful pathway to the future. Leaders are future-oriented and inspire and focus followers on fulfilling their purpose by achieving the mission, goals and objectives. They create an emotional connection and seek to serve those committed to the organization. The clearer the leader’s direction and purpose, the greater will be the emotional connection to the organization’s constituencies.  

Ask more than you tell. One of the most challenging transitions for a senior leader is to keep their mouth shut. Junior and mid-level leaders do a lot of talking. They give direction, lead from the front, and are in the thick of things operationally. Their focus is on the present, solving one crisis, then jumping to the next without taking a breath. However, senior leaders should be looking deep and wide, understanding the future and how to leverage and exploit the opportunities yet to be created. The very best leaders spend a lot of time asking questions, consuming information, and painting a future picture replete with favorable outcomes. When they tell the team something, such as the vision and purpose, their words resonate.  

Understand where your followers are. Practice the platinum rule, treat others the way they want to be treated. This rule is the crux of servant leadership, and you can’t be a practitioner unless you understand your followers’ aspirations, emotions, skills, potential and desires. Understandably, desk duty requires some of your precious time. Still, you squander this resource when you choose to spend it in front of your computer instead of connecting with your team members. Far too many leaders prefer transactions over connecting emotionally, and when they do, the organization and the constituents it serves suffer.  

Positively reinforce the efforts of your followers. Abundant thinkers always attract more followers than scarcity thinkers; optimistic leaders always inspire more followers than pessimistic ones. Leaders who positively reinforce their followers create loyalty bonds that survive the toughest challenges. Make a habit of commending your followers. Reinforce their labors by explaining how their efforts tie to the organization’s vision, purpose, mission and values. Let them know their contribution is what is integral to the success of the company.  

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime! Lead a team through a challenge, and you achieve some level of success. Teach your team how to think, provide clear direction, ask more than tell, understand, and positively reinforce the efforts of their teammates, and you groom your replacement.  

This mindset will grow a generation of servant leaders who succeed you, envision an abundant future, and serve your organization’s constituencies. This is how you lead, think, plan, and act. Now, let’s get after it!   

Retired Col. Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions. Paul and Lisa mentor and coach business owners on leadership and management principles in achieving and sustaining their business growth and profitability goals. He can be reached at [email protected] 

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