Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tell? Or Ask?

Do today's leaders understand the difference between telling someone to do something versus asking someone to do that same thing?

On my drive in to the office, I heard on the radio that the Michigan state school Superintendent Mike Flanagan is telling Michigan citizens that we need to pay for Detroit's educational deficit.

Why is cleaning up their mess our responsibility? And what does that form of "assistance" look like in his mind?

Those of us who do not live in Detroit did not create the mess, so why should we have our taxes increased (assuming this is the way Mr. Flanagan sees to resolve this situation)? This is similar to a little sibling making a mess and the older sibling getting blamed and then told to clean up after the little one who did the mis-behaving in the first place.

What if Mr. Flanagan asked Michigan citizens to help? Now that could be a totally different story! Citizens from all other 82 counties are aware that Wayne County and Detroit are hurting. Goodness, the whole country knows! And whether people acknowledge it, those of us living in the other 82 counties care. Some of us more than others. If the leadership were to ask us in tangible ways to help the Detroit schools, help Detroit leadership, help the Detroit students ... that is something we might want to participate with!

This is America! We want to see each other succeed. We don't mind following in the footsteps of our ancestors in continuing to make this country one of the most generous on earth. Some of us would make personal sacrifices to help Detroit ... if we were given the choice and we were given options.

This rule of thumb applies to other areas or subject matters. The principle is this: as a leader, there are moments when telling an order solicits a response of obedience. But when responses are dependent on us giving of our personal resources, to simply tell us to do something will solicit an attitude of resistance.

Tell us and we might be bitter. Ask us and we might give more than you even expected. And as a disclaimer, I really do want Detroit to succeed.