Liz Wiseman: The Push-Pull of Leadership | Summary and Q&A

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October 10, 2014
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Stanford eCorner
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Liz Wiseman: The Push-Pull of Leadership

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Summary

In this video, Liz discusses an important lesson she learned from a Stanford grad who worked at McKinsey. The concept of "handing the pen back" is explored, which refers to balancing between helping struggling team members and allowing them to take control. The idea is to provide guidance and support without completely taking over, ensuring that individuals remain responsible, motivated, and in charge.

Questions & Answers

Q: What did Liz learn from the Stanford grad about helping struggling team members?

Liz learned that when people are struggling, it is irresponsible not to help. However, there is a fine line between offering assistance and enabling dependency.

Q: What does "handing the pen back" mean in the context of this discussion?

"Handing the pen back" refers to giving responsibility, control, and accountability back to the struggling team members after providing initial help. It signifies allowing them to take the lead and continue the task on their own.

Q: Can you provide an example that illustrates the concept of "handing the pen back"?

Yes. Jay Choi, the Stanford grad, was working with a project team on an important client pitch. When the team was stuck and asked for help, Jay took the pen and started mapping out the ideas on the board. However, he intentionally stopped two-thirds of the way and handed the pen back to the project leader, encouraging them to take it from there.

Q: How does it feel for a leader to take over and solve problems for struggling team members?

It can be an intoxicating feeling for a leader to rescue and save the day. However, this can create dependency and hinder team members' development and motivation in the long run.

Q: Why is it important to hand the pen back and not take full control?

It is important to hand the pen back because it allows team members to take ownership of their work and take charge of their own development. By handing the pen back, leaders promote autonomy, accountability, and motivation among the team.

Q: How can leaders strike a balance between helping and enabling dependency?

Leaders can strike this balance by providing guidance, support, and initial assistance to struggling team members. However, they should then encourage individuals to take the lead, make decisions, and solve problems on their own.

Q: What is the role of responsibility and control in preventing suffering and maintaining motivation?

Responsibility and control are crucial in preventing suffering and maintaining motivation. By allowing team members to take control of their tasks and decisions, leaders ensure that they are not overwhelmed by suffering and feel a sense of ownership and motivation in their work.

Q: How can leaders help individuals get out of a ditch while still maintaining their motivation?

Leaders can help individuals get out of a ditch by offering guidance, support, and initial ideas. However, it is important to gradually hand over control and allow them to take charge of the situation, so they remain motivated and continue to drive their own success.

Q: Why is it irresponsible not to help when people are struggling?

When people are struggling, it is irresponsible not to help because it can lead to a lack of progress, demotivation, and potential failure. Leaders have a responsibility to provide support and guidance to ensure their team's success.

Q: What are the key takeaways from this discussion?

The key takeaways are that leaders should offer help when their team members are struggling, but they must also remember to hand the responsibility back to promote autonomy and motivation. Balancing between support and independence is crucial in maintaining team effectiveness and preventing excessive suffering.

Takeaways

Leaders have a responsibility to help their struggling team members, but they must balance that with maintaining their motivation and autonomy. The concept of "handing the pen back" signifies giving responsibility and control back to individuals after providing initial assistance. This approach prevents dependency, promotes accountability, and ensures that team members are in charge of their own success. Striking this balance is essential for maintaining a motivated and high-performing team.

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