Start with a problem you’d like to solve or a future result you’d like to achieve.

What outcome would make a meaningful difference for you?

As an example, let’s say that you’d like to see your team members become more proactive in identifying and solving problems.

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Anyone Can Learn to Be a Better Leader

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Articulate why it’s important to you now.

  • Getting clear on your purpose and motivation increases the creativity and persistence you apply to designing and sustaining your practice.
  • Perhaps you care deeply about being a wise steward of your organization’s human resources and about bringing out the best in your team members.
  • You believe that more fully harnessing each person’s creativity will benefit the company and your team members.

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Seek quality information to base your approach on.

You don’t know the best ways to encourage proactive problem solving, so you check in with your coach or mentor or search for some relevant books and articles.

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Identify measures of success.

  • What would increased proactivity in identifying and solving problems look like in practice? How will you know if you’re making progress?
  • Based on your thinking about what you want to achieve and the reading you’ve done, you decide that you’ll keep track of how frequently team members make suggestions, offer additional ideas to help refine a course of action, and take ownership over implementing a decision.
  • You’ll also monitor your own internal state and how you interact with team members, looking for reduced frustration in yourself and greater enthusiasm and ownership from team members.

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Ground yourself with an intention.

  • You commit to learning to support proactive behaviors.
  • You place a sticky note with this intention on your computer where you’ll see it first thing each morning.
  • Whenever you meet with team members, you call this intention to mind so that it functions like a beacon to guide you, keep you on course, and prevent you from sliding back into your habit of jumping in with the answer if no one else comes forward right away.

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From the reading you’ve done and discussions with your coach, you design the following practices:

  • Share your experience. To serve as a role model for self-directed learning, share your own learning process and experiences. Discuss the problems you’re working on and ask for ideas from team members about how to resolve them.
  • Ask the right questions. When team members ask you how they should proceed, stimulate their thinking with questions rather than answers. Ask team members to talk you through how they are thinking about work problems and what might help. Ask other people to contribute ideas.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. When you feel frustration at a team member arising within yourself, label the feeling as an opportunity to learn something about leadership. Try considering the situation from their point of view instead of reacting from frustration.
  • Acknowledge achievements. Recognize and praise proactive behavior whenever you see it occurring.

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Tell your team members that you’re working to support their proactive problem solving and that you need their feedback to help you get better at this.

Ask them to let you know whenever you do something that either hurts or helps.

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Within a few weeks, you’ll be able to tell that you’ve made progress if team members are engaging more actively in problem solving on a regular basis.

You’ll have a newfound appreciation for the creativity of some employees.

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