In a recent episode of the hit television drama Mad Men, there was a leadership lesson buried in the show. Don Draper was having dinner with an associate when she told him Aesop’s Fable about the sun and the wind.
The north wind and the sun were competing to see who could get a man to take off his coat. The wind roared and blustered mightily, but the man just pulled his coat tighter. However, the sun merely shined brighter and hotter until the man couldn’t wait to take off his coat. The moral is that it’s better to be gentle and persuasive than loud and intimidating if you want people to follow.
And, this is absolutely true in business…and in any relationship.
Certainly, fear and intimidation will get short-term results, but the results are only short-term. We’ve all seen it. The boss who says, “Don’t say yes ‘til I’m done talking” and only believes there are two ways of looking at things – his way and the wrong way.
Usually, he or she talks in a very loud voice, stares people down who disagree, and dictates the agenda. However, over time, these bullies invariably fail to get the best thinking from their people . They also fail to hold on to their best people, who can’t wait to leave and follow a boss who actually values their opinions and respects them.
People want to know they’re important and are recognized for making a difference. They want true respect. And, there’s no better way a boss can show his or her respect than to ask questions and let people identify possible solutions. How will you know how good your people are if you give them all the answers? How can you hold them accountable if they’re only following your orders and haven’t bought into the decision?
Next time you’re tempted to tell someone exactly what to do, think of the wind and the sun and the more persuasive way to motivate your people.