Bringing Hands-Off and Hands-On Together


I lead with a hands-on type leader.  I’m a hands-off.  He’s a, “get things done type,” I’m a, “go with it type.” I thrive in ambiguity; too much frustrates him.

The other day, he said, “If we do it your way, nothing will happen.” We’ve been together so many years we can say things like that. I’ve been mulling it over.


Too much hands-off creates feelings of abandonment. Too much hands-on becomes hand holding. In either case, expect de-motivation.

Bringing hands-on and hands-off together:

Development is more important to me than getting something done. I’m ok with going slower if people are growing. My colleague says, “Let’s get something done.” Here are some questions we can ask:

  1. Is everyone clear on what needs to get done and when?
  2. What are the consequences if this project takes longer than expected?
  3. How important is stepping in?
  4. Does hands-off motivate?
  5. Are developmental goals clear?
  6. Have we been down this path before? Don’t go down the same path again.
  7. Will hands-off result in development? How?
  8. What feedback structures are in place?


Prep-work brings hands-on and hands-off together. Establish developmental and outcome expectations upfront. But, you can’t anticipate every contingency.

Establish feedback structures when assigning responsibilities.

  1. How frequently will you ask for updates? Set dates.
  2. What questions will you ask? Questions explain what matters.
  3. Get feedback on the way you give feedback. Is this process useful?
  4. Always explore and agree upon next steps and end results.
  5. Frequently ask, “How can I help?” don’t wait for the official feedback appointments.

My colleague is interested in developing others and I’m interested in getting things done. But, we have different motivations. Different is rich and useful.

How do you balance hands-on and hands-off?