There’s A Reason They Just Sit There

The myth of American business is the lone hero leader. The Lee Iacocca’s and Jack Welch’s who single handled rescue ailing businesses from certain disaster.

Funeral directors often self identify themselves as rescuers. It turns out that this is exactly the opposite of the best way to lead people…ESPECIALLY knowledge workers like funeral directors who respond in a predictably passive aggressive way to “command and control” style leadership.

hbrIt turns out there is a scientific reason why employees are less effective when tasks are dictated. Amy Arnsten, a neuroscience professor at Yale University, studies the importance of feeling in control. Her studies can be applied to employee autonomy in managing a team. In an interview at her Yale Laboratory, Arnsten explained that when people lose their sense of control, such as when tasks are dictated to them, the brain’s emotional response center can actually cause a decrease in cognitive functioning. This perception of not being in control, whether real or imagined, would presumably lead to a drop in productivity. If a manager describes the long-term outcome he wants, rather than dictating specific actions, the employee can decide how to arrive there and preserve his perceived sense of control, cognitive function, and ultimately improve his productivity….More at Stop Telling Your Employees What to Do – Harvard Business Review

What I would do:

The next time an employee comes to you for a solution ask them to make a recommendation. Assuming it won’t start the building on fire or land you or them in jail, act on it. You might surprise everyone. No matter what happens the look of shock will be worth the momentary panic you might experience.