Team Leaders Can Do More By Doing Less

February 10, 2014 Ren Wiebe

In a meeting with a coaching client this week, I was again struck by the powerful disconnect that can happen between a team leader’s intention and impact.

My experience is that leaders show up every day wanting to do the very best they can for their teams. My client, let’s call her Mary, is just that type of leader – she really invests in being a good leader. She leads a team of experienced managers who take pride in their work and the organization’s purpose.

I had just been interviewing the team members to understand what they value (and don’t) about Mary’s leadership style. Before I was able to share what I’d learned, she had launched into the latest issue facing her team.

She had spent hours thinking about the issue, identifying options and evaluating the pros and cons of each. I asked her what was making her most anxious about the challenge. She was clear – “I need to get this right for my team – I need to solve this problem for them!” I knew that her intentions were to support her team and that all her efforts came from an honorable place.

It was later in the conversation that I was able to share with her the number one issue her team wanted her to address. They wanted her to do less of the heavy lifting, and bring them in more. They were frustrated by her tendency to hang on to issues and make decisions independently. And therein lay the biggest difference between her intent and impact.

Team leaders often intend to add value by solving problems. The unintended impact on team members, however, is that they feel undervalued. Counter-intuitively, as a leader of a team you may need to add more value by doing less! It’s the new math …. adding by subtracting!

If you are unsure about how your good intentions to support your team may be translating for them, here is how you might proceed:

  1. Be transparent about your intentions. If you are taking an independent approach to a problem, explain your intentions or rationale behind this plan.
  2. Ask team members what they think about your approach – and be genuinely curious about what they say. Remember that your good intentions may be having a totally different impact than you intend.
  3. Ask your team for structured feedback on a regular basis. Not, “how am I doing?” which is impossible to answer on the spur of moment. Try something like:  “In our next meeting, I want to really understanding your views of how I’m leading the team. I want you to think about three questions: What should I continue doing? What could I do more of? What could I do less of?"
  4. Most importantly, remember that it’s not your job to fix all the difficult problems. As team leader, your job is to bring your team into the process of finding great solutions.

By being open about your intentions and sharing issues with your team, you will add more value by doing less! And sleep better at night. 

About the Author

Ren Wiebe

Ren Wiebe is a Associate Consultant with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions. Prior to joining Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge, Ren spent 7 years working in progressive finance roles in the real estate development sector, where he was responsible for managing public offerings of commercial properties. He managed teams and soon discovered his passion for developing people.

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