In sports and business, the belief was a good leader/manager would instruct their team members to execute specific tasks to the letter. The manager knows best an operates and ‘leads’ through a strict set of measures and actions. Their team operates within the guidelines and rules the manager sets out and they defer to the manager for every decision and action outside the instructions.
This manager runs a tight ship, has full control, knows where everyone is and what they are doing at anytime – Great, right? Only this manager has started to realise that they have no spare time, always working on the plan, giving instructions and answering questions – constant questions from the team! This manager is starting to feel like he is baby-sitting a bunch of kids not leading a high-performing team of individuals and all fielding inane questions and making decision for everyone all of the time.
Essentially this manager has got what they deserve, they managed the team like children. Didn’t give them freedom to act, the power to make decisions and the ability to develop key problem-solving skills and the result was the team acted like kids and absolved themselves of any responsibility.
(In fact whilst I’ve referenced treating the team like kids, I would say when coaching kids teams I’ve always used the same approach as with adults – to coach, give freedom to act and make decisions. This approach helps build their problem-solving skills and growth mindset).
The true leader backs off their team and doesn’t manage through strict measures and rules. They support and coach their team to develop their own solutions and problem solving approaches to the challenges they face. This leader devolves and delegates effectively and builds the levels of responsibility their team has. This in turns develops and improves the calibre of the team, it also increases their levels of engagement and commitment to the team. After all, who would tear down the very thing, they helped build. Team members who contribute to the development of the team culture and operational rules will defend them. Those who have the culture and rules imposed on them will more than happily rip them up and reject them.
The leader who takes this approach can spend more time developing the strategy, supporting the development of their team and less time on trivial decisions and problems. Their team will become high-performing and self-regulating – Those members who don’t step-up will be routed out by their colleagues even before leader needs to take action.
Learn to delegate, learn to divest decision making and learn to coach – These traits will not only enable your team performance to improve, but ensure your personal performance and development can continue.