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Letting Them Succeed

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By Keith Barnwell

“The best executive is the one that picks good people to do what they want done, and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.Barbara Jordan

Many of my clients tell me how much of their time is taken up trying to keep on top of everything that’s going on and how they never seem to have enough hours in the day. When I look at the things they’re doing, I’m nearly always surprised and saddened at how little of what they are doing is actually related to their roles as a leader. The truth is that many teams achieve success despite their leaders, rather than because of them.

You need to ask yourself, as a leader, are you getting in the way of your people? How many of those long hours that you work are you inflicting on yourself because you are incapable of trusting them?

What follows are some of the dysfunctional behaviours many leaders are guilty of, which can slow their teams down or stop them achieving their full potential.

Suffocating micromanagement?

Leaders that get in the way have a tendency to interfere or even worse, micromanage. If you’re going to delegate, delegate for success not for failure. Hand over responsibility for the task but remember the authority stays with you. Ensure your team members understand the task and have access to the resources needed to complete it. Delegate to their strengths when possible, but if you’re delegating to help them develop areas of weakness, make sure they understand you’re there for support, not to watch them drown in uncertainty and fear.

Meetings stifling productivity?

Cannibal story

Have you ever stopped to consider how many meetings you hold and why? Most organisations have far too many meetings, attended by more people than are needed. Meetings are expensive – a one-hour meeting with eight people attending costs their combined salaries plus lost productivity.  Remember, work isn’t done in a meeting; things get done after the meeting ends. Do you really need to get together around a table or could a ten-minute conference call do the job just as well?

Requesting too many reports?

Do you really need to be reading so much irrelevant detail?  If you think you need to know all the details about all the projects you’re responsible for then you clearly aren’t leading. Trust your team to tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it. Sometimes the organisational culture creates a report-heavy environment; if that’s the case, you should be questioning why they’re all needed and what they’re used for?  How much of your team’s valuable time is being taken up by the need to keep management ‘in the picture’?

How much do you really need-to-know?

Making your team copy you on emails just clutters up your in-box and makes them feel distrusted. Encourage them to brief you at regular team meetings and only cc you when absolutely necessary.  You’re there to support them, not second-guess their every move.

As leader and the person ultimately responsible, it’s instinctive to focus on deliverables but it’s far more effective to give clear direction, encouragement and motivation to your people than to get involved in the ‘doing’.

Good leaders get out of the way!

Believing that you alone are responsible for all the bright ideas will leave your people feeling frustrated and under-valued. Encourage them to look at how things can be improved and then let them see their ‘good’ ideas being taken forward and implemented.

Get to know your team, their strengths and weaknesses, and then stop ‘doing’ things and interfering; start to show you trust them, motivate them then get out of their way and start being a leader!

Thank you for reading and please share this post with others who you think may find it helpful.

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This is an extract from the LeaderFocus App for the iPad available on iTunes.  To learn more and to download the LeaderFocus App click on the icon.  Keith Barnwell is a leadership development specialist and executive coach at It’s All About Leadership