Let Them Surprise You with the Results

by Kevin Smith

“Don’t tell people HOW to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and let them surprise you with the results.”

George S. Patton Jr.

Good leadership means sometimes giving up some control. Credit union board members (and many CEOs) have the chance to unleash the power of their staff on their members and the world by loosening up to let them surprise you with the results.

Last week I had the good fortune to be invited to facilitate theIntentional Credit Union Leadership event held by the Michigan Credit Union League. It was a great event with so many great attendees who are leaders, leaders-in-training, and those hoping and trying to develop in that direction. I was inspired by what I saw.

We did a number of things to make the room help inspire thinking towards leadership and creativity, to get people in the mindset of the event. For one, we had inspirational leadership quotes around the room, and we asked the attendees to write and share their favorite aspirational aphorisms. The words from General Patton that you see on the top of the page were among them.

We also had an activity that I give full credit to Stephanie Kuchuk from the league for bringing to the table. You see pictures of that activity as it unfolded to the right here. It’s very simple really. Hang up some really big blank paper. Put a small picture next to it. Provide some watercolor pens and tell the attendees to recreate it. That’s it. No further instruction. The whole picture came together over the course of a day. Many, if not most, of the attendees participated, even if it was only a little bit. And the results were terrific! (Please excuse my poor skills with a camera. I was working on the fly!)

It really brought into focus for me General Patton’s idea in the quote. 

We could have put grid lines on the paper. We could have provided tips on expressionist techniques for water color, or assigned quadrants, etc. But we didn’t. We just told them what to do and asked for some energy and inspiration. And we got it!

It’s a great lesson for credit union board members and CEOs. Create the right environment for your people. Inspire them and make them feel safe enough to take a few (calculated) risks and you will see how much they can deliver and in such creative ways.

2 replies
  1. Jay Hinkel says:

    I have a similar quotation I like:

    Tell a person how to do a task and you have a worker. Tell a person what task to do and you have a leader. A. Einstein.

    Jay Hinkel

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