Never Tell People How to Do Things

There was a time when the American military had no use for independent thinkers. That changed in WWII, and General George Patton played a big part in the change.  “Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what you want done and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” He wrote.

David Petraeus had the same philosophy in Iraq, looking for leaders who “were flexible and able to think independently.”  While he was in command, violence plummeted and he was given overall command of the Iraqi theatre.

William Coyne, Senior Vice President of research and development at the famously innovative 3M, described it this way:

“We let our people know what we want them to accomplish.  But – and it is a very big but – we do not tell them how to achieve those goals.”

Maybe it’s time to re-think your command and control structure and let your people surprise you.

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