Don’t Do What You Should

"What should I do?" is another question I hear a lot, especially from the people I manage.  It gets phrased differently sometimes:

  • What would you like me to do?
  • How would you like this done?
  • How should this be done?
  • How should it work?
  • Etc.

This may be the most value-robbing question ever.  It essentially turns an opportunity to show who you are and what you can do into nothing more than a task to be completed.  Asking what should be done is, essentially, asking someone to design the solution to the problem that you've been assigned.  When I run a team, I want my team members to design (and implement) the solution.  One of my management mantras is, "Bring me options and ask for a decision".

I can hear the naysayers now: "But Jay, not everyone who reports to me can design the solutions to the problems we have."


I'm not suggesting that your only options are what your team brings you, I'm suggesting that before they ask for help they demonstrate an attempt at solving the problem.  This is how you build design skills: You practice and you find out where you're wrong.  Eventually you get to the point that your designs are accepted by your manager consistently and you get to move up a notch.  Without that practice, though, you'll remain stuck where you are.

So instead of finding out (and doing) what you should do, do what you can.  Present options to whoever needs to make the decision and if the options are unacceptable, then ask for help.  Look for the growth opportunity in everything you do and you'll be amazed at how quickly you grow.