‘Don’t come to me with just the problem. Come to me with the problem and an idea of how to fix it.’

What’s the best advice you’ve been given from a manager or leader? The above wise words were given to me by my manager in my first ‘proper’ job. It was a piece of advice that I have kept with me, whether I was being ‘managed’ or being the ‘manager.’

I didn’t take it as him trying to pile the responsibility on to me, but rather an expression of trust. Be curious, think, be bold and I will listen. Acting on that advice has helped me get the measure of those I have worked with.

It has led me to get frustrated with colleagues who complain without taking any personal responsibility. As a staff representative I had little time for people who had no insight into their own shortcomings in a dispute. Sounds harsh? Maybe.

The ‘value of our people’ seems to suggest recognition from the top down about what people bring. It goes both ways. Sure, I could go on about how poorly staff have been treated by their so called leaders, but how do we behave as people being led?

Leaders have limited power. There is much they can’t control. Sometimes, we blame our managers or organisations for events that for all sorts of reasons they could not choose to influence or control.

What we should expect from our leaders is trust, honesty, responsibility and accountability. This also needs to be given back.

The author and speaker, Simon Sinek said; ‘Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.’

It is often said that being in charge is a lonely business, does taking care of those in your charge need to be so too?

I once had a new manager who I encountered in tears outside our offices. They were having a hard time. I asked if they wanted to talk or even just go for a coffee. They declined. I felt sad and disappointed that someone had been made to feel so wretched by their fellow senior colleagues felt they could not drop the mask or trust me to listen in confidence.

As a consequence, I never confided in them.

Having led others, I never got as fed up with someone who had ideas, no matter how bizarre as I did with people who felt it was okay to leave it all to my imagination.

What I have always valued from colleagues and what strive to be with them is to:

  • Be pro-active and don’t just wait to see what happens.
  • Stay positive when things aren’t going well. Being miserable will get you nowhere.
  • Take a leap and lead on new ideas, even when everyone else has taken a step back.
  • Give people a chance, the benefit of the doubt, especially with people you normally would not want to spend time with.

Accept that there’s no excuse for not taking responsibility when you see a problem.

Consultant Learning & Development Manager
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