As a leader, you feel pressure to have an answer to every question, to know what to do in every situation. You feel that your team won’t respect your leadership if you aren’t the smartest and most experienced.
But be honest. You don’t have an answer to every question, and in truth, the know-it-all boss does more damage than good. In fact, when your employees understand that you don’t have all the answers, you give them authority and responsibility for growing together as a team. That’s real leadership.
So as a manager, you should not have all the answers. Here’s why:
Your team will become more flexible.
Rather than giving your team the “right way” to solve a problem. Give them a “possible way” and ask them to evaluate it based on their experiences. They’ll develop flexibility and learn to handle diverse situations.
Employees build on their strengths.
When the boss doesn’t claim superiority in all talents, employees get to showcase their own best skills. As a manager, you can help employees expand on their strengths and reap the advantages of better overall performance.
Employees build relationships with each other and with other teams.
One of the most important features of high-performing teams is their ability to work with each other and with other parts of the company.
New employees especially need to build a strong company network. However, you can’t create a trusting work relationship by attending “meet and greets.” Asking employees to find their own answers to problems forces them to work with others who can help.
They rely on each other, learn each other’s strengths and build that important network.
Your team learns to rely on results and data, not “say so.”
When you were a little kid, you believed everything an adult told you. Then you learned to think for yourself, and you wanted proof. You wanted to discover truth for yourself.
Your employees aren’t little kids. They will accept your “say so” because you’re the boss, but they won’t respect it.
So give them the chance to learn independently of your advice. If they have new ideas, don’t just dismiss it with a “we don’t do it that way.” Let them experiment, observe, collect data, and decide.
Innovation comes from testing and evaluating new ideas. Take what works and build on it.
Your team collaborates more.
When you create a culture where leadership does not depend on “knowing the secrets,” employees are less likely to hoard their knowledge. Employees who openly share knowledge build trust, work together better and understand each other’s contribution to the business.
Employees use experience to improve.
When there is a “right answer,” employees don’t innovate new ways of doing business. They don’t take the time to reflect on recent experience and try out new ideas because the answer is already known.
Where it makes sense, leave open the possibility for several ways of accomplishing a goal, and your team will find ways to make their lives and yours better.
Employees become resilient.
If you are given the “right” way to do something and you fail, then it’s your fault. Many people come away from this kind of experience with the sense of “I just can’t do it.”
But if there’s no “right” way, employees can look at the environment, processes, and assumptions around a failure and try to adjust the approach to do better next time. Successful business must be resilient in today’s environment, and it starts with your team.
Your team gets curious.
When you acknowledge that there are new and cool ideas yet to be discovered, your team will start to ask “what if?” Innovation grows out of that curiosity.
It takes guts to surround yourself with people who are smarter than in you some ways. It’s even harder to expose your occasional uncertainty.
You may worry that your team will lose respect for you or stop taking your advice. But give your people credit. They know you’ve earned your stripes and will still turn to you for help.
But instead of handing down stone tablets of truth, you can help them find solutions, stay focused on business goals, and take responsibility for their own success. They’ll build on your knowledge, and as they perform better, your business will thrive.
So you are the smartest boss in the world after all.