It’s a simple gift, but it’s one leaders often overlook. There’s so much pressure to perform these days that it’s tempting to keep our employees on a tight leash. But, in doing so, we disempower them and cripple their growth. Although it may be a winning strategy in the short-term, it is doomed to fail as we count on the capability of our protégés over the long-term.
Why don’t leaders give employees independence?
“What if something bad happens?” Yes, that is always the risk, but it’s always a risk no matter how closely you supervise your employees. The downside of over supervising your employees is that they won’t learn how to take care of things when something bad does happen. And even if they could, they wouldn’t have the power to. When you’re home sick, can your employees get things done without you?
To let go, you have to face your fears, says Elizabeth Grace Saunders in How Office Control Freaks Can Learn to Let Go, in Harvard Business Review. Maybe it won’t be done exactly the way you would do it and maybe you won’t even know exactly how it’s done. But if you hire good people and train them, you can trust them to do good work.
We can also mitigate risk by giving appropriate levels of responsibility for the experience and character of the employee. For example, we wouldn’t want to give a new graduate a $10 million project to run, but we could give them responsibility for a piece of it, like researching what the competition is doing.
“I don’t have time.” It’s often quicker to do it ourselves, but that is only a short-term strategy. Not having time to delegate is a classic excuse and it’s one that causes managers to work excessively long hours unnecessarily. Amy Gallo suggests looking into the reasons you’re not delegating in her article on how to delegate in Harvard Business Review. Are you working long hours and feeling indispensable?
“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and author of What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management.
When you keep doing it yourself, you’re wasting your time and your employees’ time. When you empower your employees to get things done without you everybody wins.
“It feels good to be needed.” Yes, we all like to feel needed—by our kids, our jobs, our community and so on. But at some point you have to let go. It’s the right thing to do. When you continue to put your own needs ahead of everyone else’s, you’re risking greater pain than the pain of letting go. When you hold on too long, people resent you and the greater family/organization/community suffers. Suck it up, be a good role model, and develop your people to manage without you when the time is right.
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” ― Ann Landers
Empower your people. It’s the right thing to do for you, for your employees, and, most of all, for your organization.
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