A recent article in Chief Executive caught our eye. The premise is much like the title: “Leaders Need to Get Comfortable Asking for Help.” Too often leaders feel like they need to do everything themselves if actions are going to be done correctly. This leaves them alone at the top, and exhausted.
The author, Brian Berner, has many valid points about why leaders need to rely more on their teams. It’s a good reminder on why it’s important to delegate.
Here at Corporate Path Leadership, this made us think about why this self-destructive behavior starts, plus ways that leaders can recognize signs — and course correct them in 2021.
First, let’s start with the “why”
Whether in a large corporate environment, or a small company, there is a natural tendency to recognize heroes. Those people who go the extra mile and show dedication to the company often stand out. Over time, it is natural to say that those people should be promoted to managers, directors, vice-presidents, etc., and be responsible for leading others.
However, a big challenge is that the same traits that make someone successful as a hero don’t necessarily make that same person a successful leader of other people.
“What sets leaders apart isn’t their forward-thinkingness or their resilience, it’s their humility and their synchronicity. These leaders regard the pursuit of success as a group effort rather than a personal accomplishment, which makes them open and receptive to guidance and support from the rest of their team.”-- Brian Berner, Head of North American Advertising Sales at Spotify
Here are three traits to look for in yourself, and ways to think about changing that behavior next year.
You see yourself responsible for all decisions — it is your neck on the line. Your team members are there to support those decisions.
THE CHALLENGE: This causes your team to feel like they are your worker bees and not important to strategy or decision-making. The fallout is a low morale and high turnover.
HOW TO SHIFT IN 2021: Recognize that your employees are likely more in the weeds than you are on day-to-day execution activities. Use that fact as an advantage to ask them, “What are you seeing?” Getting their insight on ways that decisions and processes could improve in the future makes them feel like they are more than an execution worker, and helps you become smarter in the process.
You are too busy for on-going, routine check-in meetings with your team. If you waste time there, you won’t be able to get the important pieces done.
THE CHALLENGE: This causes your team to feel like their contributions are not important, and their role might not matter. The fallout is low accountability and low participation.
HOW TO SHIFT IN 2021: Remember that your team member contributions are a direct extension of you accomplishing the important goals for the year. Your regular check-ins with them help YOU, as much as them, to make sure that everyone is focused on the right priorities. And if not, these meetings raise deviations from plans early on. These check-ins don’t need to happen every day. Consider weekly meetings, or whatever frequency is most appropriate for you and your team. The key thing is to encourage participation from, and among team members, and not just accountability and status for line item tasks.
You ask for ideas from the team to solve problems, but they never seem to have any really great ideas that can be implemented. It is better off to just go with your gut feelings and save time.
THE CHALLENGE: When team members have ideas shot down consistently, they feel less inclined to give them in the future, creating a downward spiral. The fallout is low team member confidence and participation.
HOW TO SHIFT IN 2021: You may be smart, but recognize that all ideas are worth consideration. Start off by choosing a topic or problem that needs a solution — and make it one that you are less emotionally attached to. Hold a meeting where you present the challenge and your initial thoughts on why it matters. Ask the team to come up with potential solutions, and then leave the room.
This allows your team to come up with ideas and rationale behind the ideas without worrying about your opinion, or only coming up with things you want to hear. Then use that input to let the team try something — even if it doesn’t work. Stepping back will prove to be a winning strategy here. More importantly, following through with the team’s solution will build confidence, and encourage future participation.
While the pressure will be high in 2021 to succeed, know that with a few minor changes in behavior you can help start to get more out of your team members, and build up their commitment and enthusiasm for the team at the same time. Most of all — you will free up time of your own to be a more productive leader in the process!
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