Leading Means Letting Go

carsafety_215111_600One of the hardest things you can do as a leader is to let go.  Your natural inclination is to do everything; trying to control your team, their outcomes, your supervisors, your clients, basically everyone involved in the success of a project.

As with a child who is learning to drive, you need to trust that you have trained your team, that they have the necessary skills and resources, and the conditions are favorable for the team to be successful.  You hope that the team’s issues are minor, like a fender bender or a non-points violation, and not totaling the car.

To get your team to this level, you need to:

1.       Improve Your Communication.  By clearly expressing expectations, challenges, successes, and the like, you will gain the confidence needed to give your team more leeway.  By taking time to know your team on a personal level, you will connect with them and build the trust needed to let go.

2.       Manage Your Time.  In order to have the time to communicate effectively, you need to master your own schedule.  Working with your team should not be an interruption.  Manage your day so that your work gets done as well as your team’s.  You can block your schedule, but always keep your door open.  Closed doors breed insecurities.

3.       Invest in Training.  Put the time in with each team member to make sure they are experts in their part of the team.  Find resources that help your team learn cross functional skills.  The more you invest in them, the more they will invest in your mission.

4.       Check Your Ego.  While it is tempting to “Be the Boss”, remember that you need to act like someone people want to follow. Being approachable, down to earth, and genuine will inspire confidence in you and will improve the performance of your team.

5.       Reward Superior Performance.  The fastest way to get better performance from everyone is by rewarding them when they do a great job.  Buy breakfast for the team, take them to lunch, hand out coffee gift cards, do some small token that acknowledges that you appreciate their efforts and results.

Leading by letting go is a skill that needs to be worked on.  These suggestions will help, but you need to also be ready for the inevitable failures that come with giving people more freedom.  That is why using a basic situational leadership style will help you manage the tasks and lead the persons.

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