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Thursday, 3 December, 2020
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Don’t know don’t care

Don’t Know or Don’t Care. I remember walking into Tom’s (my mentor) office with an issue I was having with a subordinate. I was frustrated as to why this person was simply “not getting it”. Tom told me, “personnel issues boil down to either ‘don’t know’ or ‘don’t care’ and I can fix both”.

His advice was simple, as is most effective leadership advice.

All of our people problems on a team are a result for their need for more training or their lack of desire to learn. In the military, we don’t have the ability to just “fire” someone. We need to do all we can to rehabilitate and prepare our team for the mission at hand.

Training is something we just do and my response to Tom was he simply must not care. Once again, this great mentor offered sage advice. Tom quizzed me on my approach and helped me to see I was the problem and this is one of the key events that sparked my passion for mentoring others.

There have not been too many ‘don’t care’ people in my experiences. Sure, there are seasons where someone is burned out or fed up with circumstances; however, moments like these often offer training moments as well. For example, I had a phase where I was getting to work at 7-ish even though show-time was 7. In my mind this was fine because I usually stayed later than most people. Essentially, I didn’t care about getting there early. Another mentor pulled me aside and could have disciplined me, but he chose to ‘train’ me instead. He showed me how to see the 2nd and 3rd order effects of seemingly trivial actions of a leader.

Those who don’t care are those who actively work against your decisions or those of the company. They are those Extreme Mavericks [1]who will refuse to see reason and create a toxic cloud of dissent. These are the few who just need to be terminated and, honestly, they usually self-identify as dissenters. Everyone else can safely be labelled as those who need more training.

So, how do you move forward with them?

From experience, about 30% of the masses “get it” from the start if you communicate the vision clearly. About 25% more need to see it in action or explained a different way. The rest need much more work.

As a learning leader, I like to match up those who need more help with those whom I am grooming for leadership roles. This solves multiple problems for me:

  • it helps the person “get it”,
  • it provides leadership experience for those whom I am mentoring, and
  • it allows me to see who is truly ready for the next promotion when the time comes.

As a leader, I explain what needs done and where we are going as a team. Then I highlight why it needs to be done every time I address the team. It is never my job to preach how to do something, that is for those doing the work to figure out. Even if we are to coach someone who needs to learn how, we need to avoid stating how we would do it and lead them to a solution that fits their skill-sets.

When we tell others how to do something, this leads to those reports and practices we do for years as busywork after the initial problem has been solved. I once watched a teammate spend an entire day putting information into a spreadsheet and saving it to a public folder. I asked him what that is for and how often he does it. He told me his predecessor trained him, this delivery was due every month.

After some digging, I learned this went back about 5 years, it was to solve a problem that no longer existed. Someone told another how to do something instead of why it needed to be done, because that is easier in the short-term. This meant that this skilled technician wasted 12 days of productivity every single year.

True leaders understand how to tell the difference between “don’t know” and “don’t care” and take the time to offer a solution to both.

Footnote

[1] Germain J – © The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power Behind Successful Leaders, PublishNation 2017

Joe Lawrence
Joe has worked for over 20 years to develop his leadership skills through service to his nation and intense study. This lead him to the conclusion that leadership is all about serving others through mentorship.

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