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Leadership

Why You Need to Let Your Team Go

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Written By: Taylor Stauffer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these last years, you’ll have heard about the phenomenon known as ‘helicopter parenting’. These are parents who won’t let their children experience failure of any kind.

In the business world, this is known as micro-managing. “Micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes and/or controls the work of his/her subordinates or employees.”

In fact, leading a team isn’t all that different from parenting. Not that team members are children nor should they be treated as such, but stick with my analogy for a moment and you’ll see where I’m going.

Avoiding being a bottleneck requires some planning

CEOs and top flight managers are often concerned with two issues:

  1. The amount of time they have to get tasks done that don’t relate to people management (which is often not enough!)—an issue every parent can relate to particularly when fights among siblings are a daily occurrence.
  2. Not becoming a bottleneck to work getting done.

The result is that in the aim of not becoming the bottleneck, they become too available to their team. Like the parent who is forever picking up after the older child who should know better, the analogic results for a leader or manager is that is that they a) don’t have enough time for point 1 and b) the team doesn’t learn to operate on their own.

Your team members must be set up to make decisions on their own, and fail if necessary. That is a far

more valuable learning process than constantly stepping in to help them avoid all the pitfalls. Mentoring a team doesn’t necessarily mean making all the decisions for them and simply expecting them to execute; it means helping them find a way to making those decisions on their own.

Setting team members up to decide, not to fail

The previous point isn’t meant to say that you as a leader should set team members up to fail. Rather, you need to equip them with all the necessary tools and information so that they can make decisions without you. Non-helicopter parents do it all the time: they give their kids a certain level of freedom and the rules that surround that and let them go to it. As a leader, you need to think the same way with your team.

This means:

  • Clearly establishing the parameters and scope of their authority;
  • Encouraging creative solutions, even if they ultimately don’t work out, by not punishing failures;
  • Reviewing decisions on a regular basis as a team and seeing where improvements can be made, so that the review becomes a learning process for all.

Related: How to Effectively Lead a Remote Team

Give team members some free range

The opposite to being a helicopter parent is being a free range parent. That is: “… raising children in the spirit of encouraging them to function independently and with limited parental supervision, in accordance of their age of development and with a reasonable acceptance of realistic personal risks”

Apply that to your team too: block off time to be available to your team but also block off time where you’re not. Whether that’s because you’re in conference or otherwise occupied, there are teams that will gravitate to always asking for your input because they don’t feel comfortable making decisions or have simply fallen into the habit.

Like the parent who wants their kids to be more independent over time, your team needs to be more independent and get into the habit of making a judgment call as to whether you really need to be brought into the decision in advance or whether it would be enough to fill you in later, at a pre-scheduled meeting.

A little trial and error where the errors don’t result in punishment will help your team to function on their own a little more, freeing up some of your time to focus on other priorities.

If you think about it, looking at the development of your team as a work in progress, as parents do with their children, you will be able to clearly see when they need a little boosting and encouragement and when they should be allowed to fly on their own. Giving your team independence is good for their development and feeling of accomplishment and it’s also good for your own satisfaction in your role. You can rest easy knowing that you’ve equipped them for the job you’re asking them to perform.

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