Saturday, October 20, 2012

Minimizing your Moron Factor

Leaders can be morons. Now this is not always the case, but it happens from time to time. Sometimes, when I'm sitting in a meeting, I get really involved in the discussion, and suddenly, something begins to change.  I sense this awkward and uncomfortable feeling and notice that my moron factor is starting to increase.

What just happened?  I heard that there was a problem, so I started talking about what we needed to do to resolve the issue. Within about three seconds, the facial expressions of the people in the room signaled that my moron factor was increasing.  The conversation segued from deep discussion into deafening silence as the focused engagement disintegrated before my very eyes, and that's when I realized. John, you're such a moron.

Leaders are morons when they:

1Monopolize conversations.
2. Omit others' ideas.
3. Respond before fully understanding.
4. Overlook the expertise of others.
5. Neglect opportunities to build collaborative capacity.

How can we decrease our Moron Factor?

1.  Less Talking, More Listening
When a problem is afoot, I tend to stick my foot in my mouth the more I talk. Great leaders talk only after they really understand the situation. That can't happen without listening. When listening leaders use their words, they are restating and clarifying what the problem is rather than telling people what their problem is. You can't really clarify unless you really listen. 

2.  Less Telling, More Asking
Managers tell people what to do to fix their problem. Leaders ask more questions to help people solve their own problems. The answer is always in the room because everybody has their mind wrapped around the question.  Solutions can be created, but they need questions to help them evolve. Telling takes people backwards, while asking moves them forward. 

3.  Less Solutions, More Choices
Leaders forget that their role is global; therefore, they tend to offer global solutions to specific problems. Specific problems can only be remedied with specific and detailed solutions from the specific person that is directly impacted by the problem. Leaders must avoid the temptation to give solutions and instead guide teams and individuals to devise their own solution by offering multiple choices or even better, solution pathways.

The Bottom Line

If you want to lessen your moron factor, there is one simple solution.  Emphasize your empowerment factor. Tell less and guide more. The more you guide, serve and support, the more your staff will rely on your expertise, and the less they will think you're a moron. If you don't believe me, tell me what you think about your boss when he or she tells you what to do when he doesn't understand your problem.

What do you do that increases your moron factor?


  1. Thanks for this bit, John!

    Not only is it spot-on -- I've worked with more than one MORON in my day -- but it is engaging and approachable.

    Well done!

    1. Thank you, Bill. We always need a humbling reminder to not think so much of ourselves.