Curated Leadership for Today's World

please stop surprising me with your “disingenuity”

Posted on 30 November 2010

Gen George S. Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” I adore this quote and Patton is one of my heroes, but was he serious? You mean if I simply tell people something simple like, “create a new rental contract for my signature?”, they will surprise me with their resourcefulness and not sink me with a million follow-on questions such as, “where is the old contract?”, “why was I tasking them?”, “am I sure the old one has expired?”, and “is that part of my job description?”. Sure enough, in the time I spend answering their umpteen questions I could have just as easily done the task myself. But that’s not leading, I’m told, and I dutifully delegate, fighting the urge to pull it out of their hands to complete it myself.

I get it; the type of person who immediately takes the reins on any task, begins researching, problem solving, and just plain moving in a direction with purpose is just one horn shy of a unicorn. If you have one of these in your company, or the blessing of having one as a direct report or in your chain of command: Rejoice!!! You are truly a blessed and fortunate employer/boss.

If you don’t have any of these, may I suggest you let the donkeys out of the stable and find some of these noble steeds to take their places. That is the job of a leader; the constant refining of the herd, swapping out new cards for the best hand, turning up the stove just one more degree to get the business to boil! Do not succumb to The Law of Average whereby you just drift along paycheck by paycheck, sucking your thumb and complaining about how stupid management is all the day long.

The next time you get asked to do something, do it! If you’ve got questions, research them rather than asking your superior to play the Shell Answer Man or Woman. And if you want a tremendous role model to live up to, read A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard. This little classic will tell you everything you need to know about working with people and allow you to see if you have “General” material within you! You don't have to surprise me with your ingenuity; I’ll take action any day!

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  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    Thanks very much Tony, everytime I read Garcia it just reinforces it. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Looking forward to catching up with you.

  • Tony Michalski: February 20, 2016

    Hi Tracey!

    Great post that is so, so true — both from an employer perspective as well as an employee perspective. Thanks for the reminder.

    Have fun … Tony.

  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    Thanks Matt! The quote you left is also one of my favs and a really tough one to fully grasp and execute:-)

  • mattriggins: February 20, 2016

    Wow Tracey! Awesome post. This is very challenging at times, but you’re right! Brings this quote to mind: “Delegate tasks – create followers; delegate authority – create leaders.”

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