Aug 26 2019
Many of us prefer to complete projects on our own rather than accepting help from others or delegating part of the work, even if it means sleepless nights or sacrificing personal time. We may be tired and sometimes resentful of the time it takes to get the job done right, but we are damn sure not going to let someone else screw it up. Allowing others to work on our projects can feel like allowing a crack in the dam, and we all know cracks can be a dam’s undoing.
If you’re nodding your head in agreement, I sympathize. I have perfectionistic tendencies and while they can contribute to high-quality outcomes, sometimes the price is too high.
I was recently talking to the leader of a successful company and he said, “Good leadership means explaining what you want, making sure the employee has the resources and training to get the job done, and then getting out of the way.”
“Good leadership means explaining what you want, making sure the employee has the resources and training to get the job done, and then getting out of the way.”
The last part is the hardest and the most important.
If you want to build a team, you’re going to have to let go a little. There’s no getting around it. This doesn’t mean throwing out your high standards and putting your reputation on the chopping block. It does mean stepping back a little.
People will make mistakes. It’s inevitable. But here are some steps to build strong teams and encourage them to do their best work.
Hire the right people.
Start with good people. A thorough vetting process is key. Hiring out of desperation rarely ends well. Better to have everyone be overworked for a short time than to rush into hiring a bad apple. In addition to job skills, check for alignment with values and work ethic. If your company culture has everyone arriving promptly at 8:00 am, let new hires know timeliness isn’t optional.
Once you’ve got the right people on board, it’s all about clear expectations. If you have a high-functioning team, it’s worth sharing more than just budget constraints, deadlines, and work specifications. Explain the big picture. What problem are you solving? Is this the best way to do so? One of the benefits of having team members is the synergy of multiple points of view.
One of the benefits of having team members is the synergy of multiple points of view.
Check in but don’t hover.
Once a project is in motion, make course corrections periodically and then back off again. Empower people to make their own decisions as much as possible. When giving feedback, look at the overall progress before diving into the details. And above all, resist the temptation to take back delegated work before it is finished if you find a small mistake.
After it’s all done, review the results and the process.
Start with the positive. Then ask open-ended questions like these:
- Which decisions, if any, would you make differently next time?
- Let’s review the original goals/specs. Did we meet them? Why/Why not?
- Did we have the information we needed from the client? Is there anything more we should collect next time?
Reviewing a project’s successes and failures in a collaborative atmosphere can help everyone improve. Just be sure to set the ground rules first so people understand the goal is to learn, not to blame others for any mistakes.
If you naturally lean toward being a micromanager, just remember that believing in people helps them believe in themselves–and confidence helps people perform to their highest potential.