Years ago, I used to work with my oldest brother. He was the general manger of our real estate development company, and I was our project manager. We no longer work together on a daily basis, but we’re still partners in a couple of ventures. I learned a lot about leadership while working with him, and still do to this day.
One of my earliest lessons came when I brought my brother a problem that I was struggling with, seeking his input on what we should do. I can’t remember what the problem was, but I clearly remember his answer. He said,
Don’t bring me problems; bring me solutions.
He was essentially asking me to come to him with a solution already in mind for whatever problem it was that we faced. He would gladly offer input on my proposed course of action, but to come to him before formulating anything was lazy. He was right!
Saul Bellow put it a little more pessimistically when he wrote,
When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.
I was reminded of both my brother’s and Bellow’s sayings when I overheard a member of our leadership team, in response to a request for direction, asking,
What do you think we should do?
What a wonderful question! It carries all the intent of the “Bring me solutions” directive, with none of the pessimism of Bellow’s accomplice theory, and with all the optimistic empowerment that I like to see in our company culture.
On a related note, here’s a great story about empowering leadership and empowered heroes.