"I just don't think they can do it without me." I was having dinner with a client of mine who was talking about his frustration about how slowly his team was moving an initiative forward.
"Why do you think that?" I asked.
"It's just the sense I get. I feel like I need to be more involved in it so it's done the way I want it." He wasn't clear on why his team wasn't stepping into more of a leadership role and taking the initiative they needed to take in order to rock this project.
This is common. (Been there? I have.)
The irony was that until he could give them space to step into and do it, they wouldn't. As long as he over-functioned and micromanaged, they'd hang back. As long as he didn't believe they could do it, neither would they.
How are you at holding space for your people to step into? It's one of the most important leadership skills you'll ever dance with and it's essential to your success.
If you find yourself getting into conversations that include phrases like "I wish they would step up more." "They're not doing it how I would." "I'm not sure why they're not taking more initiative." Or the more obvious one "If I want something done, I'll have to do it myself." Then it's time to check yourself before you wreck yourself and see how you're contributing to the problem.
I promise you, you are (if even in the littlest of ways).
Here are 3 possible ways you're holding your team back:
- You don't believe they can do it. And they feel it. Hand it over, let them run with it. Set whatever systems or conversations you need to set up so you can trust them and stay connected to what's happening.
- You're micromanaging them, not giving them space to get in there and lead. Step back. Let them come up with the plan, offer your support and guidance as needed, and then go get a coffee.
- You're attached to your own way, and therefore give direction (disguised as feedback), or even worse, undermine or take over (disguised as helping) for anything they do that's not on your plan. You may be missing gold here, if you're leading your team right, and if you've hired the right people, they likely can do this all better than you.
Watch yourself, your words and your thinking, as you lead your team. If you catch yourself doing or believing anything that will get in the way of you letting them lead, check in, get curious, do a bit of self-reflection. What's going on? It may be that you're missing information, communication has not been clear, or you simply need to make sure you and your team are aligned. It maybe that your ego is leading (after all, it's important to be needed). Or it may just be a blind spot. Look. It's all good.
You can set yourself (and them) up well with a little bit of intention and communication. Set the vision for outcomes, create agreements, define roles and accountabilities, and get clear on timelines so that you're all in alignment. And check your intention, energy, and presence as you do so on all of the above. This one step at the beginning can save you a ton of mental, emotional, and physical energy down the line, leaving you space for your team to do their best work while feeling good doing it. Dig in.
This article was originally posted on Inc.com on July 17, 2015.