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Leadership Mistakes

Leadership: Giving Others Space to Grow

Dennis Harting asked:

Have you ever noticed that people have a tendency to “crowd” others? They do it with their employees. The same thing occurs with their children. Their need to be in control is too powerful to resist. They lack total confidence in other people’s ability to learn and grow.

Whether we are referring to children or to employees the concept is the same. The best teacher is experience. We grow by going through those situations that cause us to extend out of our comfort zone. When we take that experience away from people by micromanaging them, we remove this valuable tool. In the long run, a weaker person is the result.

To be an effective manager, a high self confidence is necessary. This is not to be confused with cockiness. Comfortability with one’s abilities allows sounds decisions to be made. When one operates without that confidence, fear is a motivating factor. Suddenly, instead of bringing in the best talent, people are hired who are not threatening to the manager. The level of expertise they bring will be lower so that the manager feels superior.

Allowing people the freedom to act on their own is the sign of a person who is capable of leading. Individuals with control issues have such a lack of security that they end up strangling the organization. I once encountered a manager who would not let anyone else do anything that he was not involved in. Even something as simple as checking in inventory (8 pieces) had to be done by him. Anytime the phone rang he was the rushed to grab it. Needless to say, this individual was completely insecure. Of course, people like that have no idea they are that way. He simply moved forward like he knew it all. Eventually, the senior person, the ones who were capable of getting the job done, departed for other companies.

It is important to remember that everyone wants to do a good job. This is especially true when they are first hired. Very few enter a position saying to themselves that they want to do a lousy job. People will take the time to learn the skills necessary to succeed if given the chance. If worked with in the proper manner, they will also learn from their mistakes. However, being given the room to make those mistakes is vitally important.

The greatest thing we can do for another is to be someone who helps them grow. Healthy self confidence is one of the traits that most impacts our lives. Someone with this quality has a better chance of being successful than someone who lacks it. Nevertheless, the road to this confidence is often paved with mistakes and errors along the way. Shielding someone from these experiences is akin to killing their futures. It is taking away one of the main characteristics necessary for lifelong achievement.

Learning to get out of other people’s lives is one of the hardest things to do. The human ego repels this thought entirely. This is the case if it is someone that we really care about. Our instinct is to help them by handling the situation for them. We need to understand that everyone is in touch with that life force that allows us to grow. The control that we try to exert is only serving to limit the capabilities of the entire organization.

The game of baseball provides an excellent analogy. If a team has a terrific base stealer, the entire organization is better if that individual is given the freedom to run. Naturally, there will be times when he is thrown out. Yet an accomplished base stealer will be safe 75%-80% of the time. Over the course of a season, this will result in more run scoring opportunities. Now, imagine how detrimental it would be if the manager stopped this individual from running for fear of him getting thrown out. The team’s chances of success are diminished.

Another factor in this example is how the individual player is also affected by this decision. The more that he runs, even if he is thrown out, the more opportunities that he has to learn. He will be able to refine the craft of base stealing. If this is done over the course of 2 or 3 seasons, he will be more accomplished in this facet of the game. Individually, he will grow also.

Overall, unless someone is in grave danger of truly harming themselves, it is best to step back and let them handle things themselves. We can be there to provide guidance while sharing our experience. However, micro managing is not a technique that is proven to work over the long term. As was shown by the baseball analogy, both individuals and the entire organization suffers. Give people the freedom to learn and grow. Everyone is better served.

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