Our team was frustrated. No matter how hard we tried we couldn’t seem to get momentum. Communication breakdowns, apathy of the staff... we all felt like we were spinning our wheels. As the leader of the team, I called us together for a meeting to figure out what was going on. We were better than this and I was committed to getting to the bottom of it. So committed that I opened the meeting by saying, “Something isn’t working. We all feel it. It seems we don’t know what to do about it and so we’re going to start with me. As the leader of this team, I need to take responsibility for our ineffectiveness. For the next hour, I want you to tell me where I am creating the confusion that is hindering our momentum.”
As you can imagine, it was dead quiet for a few minutes. Eyes darting from person to person silently asking, “Is she serious or is this a trap?”
But I was serious and with a little bit of coaxing they began to share their frustrations and observations. Their feedback was simple. “We need you to define what we need to do and clarify why we need to do it, but release us to figure out how.”
At first I wanted to argue. I wasn’t a micro-manager! I just cared deeply about the work we were doing and wanted to make sure everyone understood what we’ve done in the past and how we did it so they could more efficiently keep it moving.
That sounds great in your head but once I started to say it out loud, I realized the frustration I was creating.
As leaders, we will find ourselves in similar moments throughout the different stages of organizational growth. Before you create a bottleneck in your organization, consider these four reasons that you need to be continually releasing your team to do the “how”.
1. Release the how because you may not actually know how to do it best anymore. This one might be the most challenging. Many leaders rise to responsibilities of leadership after having served in many different roles throughout the organization. Your competence and experience got you to the position of leadership, but overly relying on that experience may be the thing that inhibits your continued growth. The people closest to the challenge often have the most perspective on how to navigate it.
2. Release the how because it will challenge your team to bring fresh ideas. When you aren’t dictating how to do things, your team will be encouraged to think for themselves. They will begin to have more ownership in their responsibilities.
3. Release the how because it will stretch your team to do more. Do you ever get frustrated with team members who do the bare minimum? Odds are they need to be challenged. When we release the how, we release them to dream bigger than tasks we hand to them.
4. Release the how to free you up to be focused on the future “whats”. As the leader, we need you out ahead of the team, planning the future direction. When you’re too busy directing how, you don’t have the margin to be dreaming up the next what.
Define the what. Release the how. In doing so you’ll elevate your leadership and empower your team.
Keep leading well, friends!
Jenni Catron and The 4Sight Group
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.
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