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By Darryl Stewart

Lead generously and expect a lot

At one time on my leadership journey, I was stingy with compliments, stingy with sharing the big picture, stingy with adapting work to someone’s strengths, and stingy with relinquishing control and fully delegating a task. I was also stingy with increasing benefits, and with replacing people’s worn out chairs and slow computers.

Fiscal responsibility was the reason I used for some of this stinginess and there was some reality there. The bigger reason, though, was my belief that people had to earn my respect and prove themselves before I opened up too much with any of this stuff.

Today, I believe I need to give all I can in all these areas, as fast and furiously as possible. Leaders striving for greatness need to:

  • share the big picture;
  • pay compliments one-on-one (not if front of others, which could cause resentment and rivalries);
  • delegate fully;
  • change people’s roles to adapt to observed strengths and weaknesses;
  • follow through on increases in work flexibility, pay increases, and other benefits we have promised; and
  • get people the best tools possible to do their work.

In my experience, when you lead generously as I describe above, one of two things happens with most people. They either thrive and grow and exceed all your expectations, or nothing much happens at all and great performance never materializes.

If you lead in a stingy way and they don’t grow and thrive, never proving themselves worthy of your best as leader, the situation can drag on indefinitely. A waste of human potential—both yours and theirs.

If you lead generously and they don’t grow and thrive when you know you have done all you can, then you know exactly what to do and, without any guilt, you can move them off your team. This is a great result if you desire a team of A players.

And, by the way, the fastest way to disengage another A player is to force them to work with others who don’t share their commitment to doing a great job and being a strong team member. So you can’t afford B or C players hanging around indefinitely.

My advice is to lead generously and expect a lot. In my experience, this is the way to achieve great things with your team. Life is too short to do it any other way.

p.s. If anyone has a time machine, could you please send this blog back to Darryl Stewart in Winnipeg in the year 2005? That would be about the right time for him to get his act together. You never know—he might actually take the advice. Not likely, but it’s worth a try.

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