The Secret to Frustration’s Guidance
Leaders who hurry always neglect people. If leadership is about people why rush like it’s about tasks?
But, when rushing is required, never rush alone. Mentor as you go. Enable future replacements.
Work yourself out of, not into, jobs. Exponential success requires taking things from your bucket and putting them in theirs.
But, prepare people before you let go.
Two extremes of preparation:
Letting go too fast:
I treat people like I like to be treated. I’m a learn-as-you-go type. My tendency is to give responsibilities without much preparation. Mistakes don’t bother me as long as we’re learning. Many people prefer more preparation than I need.
I frustrate those who need preparation. Learn-as-you-go leaders may need to stay closer, longer.
Hanging on too long:
On the other extreme, you may be a prepare-before-you-leap leader. You view others through your preference for preparation.
They chomp at the bit but you feel they aren’t ready. You frustrate others because preparation takes too long.
One guide, frustration:
Peak performance requires acceptable levels of frustration, anxiety, or stress. Skillful leaders manage rather than eliminate frustration in others.
Avoid letting go too fast or hanging on too long by monitoring frustration. But never fully eliminate frustration. In one case, frustration indicates you’re going too fast, in the other, too slow.
Accept frustration’s guidance. Avoid being frustrated with their frustration.
One principle, support:
Amy Lyman Cofounder of Great Place to Work® told me, “Employees in great places to work feel supported.” Support those who need more preparation by giving it. On the other hand, not helping, feels like support to others.
Fuel beneficial levels of frustration and give support at the same time.
They determine what support feels like, not you.
How can leaders determine when others are ready to take on new responsibilities?
“Work yourself out of, not into, jobs” – very, very strong line!
Thank you Maciek. cheers
I agree that frustration indicates whether you are gong very fast or very slow. In either case, is is a caution to regulate speed. But what about those, who do not move at all. What role frustration play in their lives. I think, frustration of passive people keep on piling up and ultimately lead to hypertension, unnatural symptoms. And these are very dangerous. So, being in first two category is better. I also believe that frustration can act as a friend or foe depending upon our actions and intentions. If we honestly follow and act as per need then it is friend otherwise foe. One need to know the point when frustration does not control. As long as you control frustration, but when it starts to control you, then it becomes disease prone.
I agree with you that we should not much focus on faults. Rather we should learn from those mistakes. I think, leaders should provide feeling of doing in right intention. And they should also ensure that mistake making are appreciated as a matter of actions. Those who do, make mistakes, but those who do not do anything, can not make mistake at all. So, what is your choice depends.
Thank you Ajay.
The arena of those who don’t move at all is important when considering frustration. I know they frustrate me, even if they might not frustrate themselves.
YOur ideas about frustrations building up are important to this conversation. Leaders who ignore frustrations, their own or those of others, set up losing environments.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing I see is people who ignore frustrations.
“They determine what support feels like, not you”… people’s perspective/perception is their reality! It’s that ah-ha moment when you realize that people are diverse; and you can steer perception without alleviating all frustration.
I’m a big fan of “See one (or more), Do one (or more), TEACH one.” Get your staff equipped and let them struggle to master it… it will build frustration, but when success comes — self-actuated, team-actuated, or guided — the value of the struggle-experience will pay dividends.
Thank you Timothy.
I see you are learning to balance frustrations with helping with growth.
Thanks for adding the benefits of letting people work through frustrations. One thing to add, always step in when frustrations rise to the level of paralyzing forward movement.
Using Timothy’s See/Do/Teach might bear semblance to the leadership role of letting go which is also similar to a baby’s evolving steps… Crawling/Walking/Running …once they hit stride, let go or you will be dragging them down.
Thanks Dan for the post. Being aware of others’ frustration and using that as an indicator for adapting your own mentor and leadership style is very insightful. I will be using that today.
Thank you Thomas.
I’m wishing you success with this new tool. I find that stepping in to support at the right time is deeply appreciated. Stepping in too soon or too late, frustrates.
I’m still learning to treat individuals like individuals.
Today Dan you outdid yourself with the picture!!!!! The info in the post pretty pretty good too!
I think people are ready for responsibility when they can fog a mirror.
I have a guy I been working with and if I waited till he was ready we would still be waiting.
My take, just throw them out there. They are gonna be pretty awful to start but we gotta start somewhere.
All seeing they are awful means to me is it is a great opportunity for me to show off what a world class teacher I am. Finding their present competency point just lets me know where to start. If they already knew everything they would not be working with me, right?
I just feel best when we are in the fight. Get in the ring, throw some punches, swing for the fences, get all used up.
Then take a look at the results and see what is best to teach them next.
Nothing wrong with not knowing how to do something. Big problem not being curious to learn how.
Thank you Scott.
I think an important component of “just throw them in” is leadership’s attitude about failure.
My experience is, some folks don’t do well when they are thrown in. Quiet folks often prefer preparation. Their contributions are as good as anyone elses but they follow their own path.
Everybody follows their own path how could they do otherwise? Seriously think about that.
I feel throw them in. If they got it in them they will survive, quietly or loudly, no different.
The teachers I have learned the most from we’re the ones who just insisted tasks get done when I had no innate reason to believe I could accomlish said tasks.
I had to sink or swim and much to my delight I have found over the years I had a whole lot more in me than I ever imagined.
At other times I found I did not have the skills to accomplish but had the overwhelming burning desire. Well if ya got the second thingy you can get the first one figured out!!!!
Throw um in!!!!!!
Thanks again Scott… please throw me a life preserver.. 🙂
Great Post Dan. If one could drive to a Leadership Store that had a footprint similar to a grocery store. Grab a cart and then look for the isle that was labeled Preparation Tools. It seems accurately strange that there would be boxes in different sizes labeled Frustration, Stress, and anxiety in that aisle.
I do struggle at taking time to connect / instruct when in that focus / task conquering mode. They seem to fight against each other, so I put one of them back on the shelf.
Thank you Scott.
I bet lots of leaders feel what you feel. I know I do. I’m not sure what makes it challenging for you. But, for me, it’s patience. Something I could use more of… however, I’m not asking for it!
It’s probably a good thing there’s no ‘instant’ frustration removal boxes… 😉 Making the time and the recipe from scratch has its own rewards because it is genuine.
Profound insights. LOVE this article.
Thank you for leaving an encouraging word, Marlene. Cheers!
I particularly like your reference to “avoid being frustrated with their frustration”. Recognizing that frustration levels may be a sign that personal tactics / strategies need to be adjusted turns frustration into an opportunity for positive change, instead of something that must be overcome.
Thank you Laurie.
I’ve found myself upset that they are upset… of course that misses the point and the opportunity. For me it’s an act of personal courage and confidence in others to accept rather than solve everyone’s frustrations.
Wonder if there is a musical analogy… conductor, performer, part of ensemble, perhaps a soloist at times, even the audience of course…all engage and benefit from the experience. Knowing your role, lots of practice behind the scenes, knowing your instrument, keeping the pace and being attuned to harmonics (and dissonances), intended or unintended can lead to peak experiences, even if transitory and temporal. Props to Max DePree….
KaPow! great analogy with lots of opportunities to make music.
i strongly agree that let people live with their frustration is the worst to do as a leader, and from experience i find 75% of people considered as frustrating would do extreamly well in other teams / organizations. which indicates the frustration is mainly due to how they fit in their teams rather than being a nature.
Thank you Marco.
Good point on one reason we are frustrated is we have “fitting in” problems.
To your question, how can leaders determine when others are ready for new responsibility. I struggled hardcore with this…still do struggle with it. It’s not that I gave new responsibility without preparation…I tended to give without consideration. My biggest mistake was giving people new responsibility when I was ready to give them away. I wouldn’t give consideration to their current load of previous responsibilities I had given them. I had to equip my team with the skills and authority to decide what responsibilities they could in turn give away. Now, with any new task I delegate. I give an estimate of time it will take. 3 hours over a week, 15 minutes a day, 5 hours per week, etc. My team can then look at their other responsibilities and calendar to determine if they can do the new task or what needs to change so they can.
“Skillful leaders manage rather than eliminate frustration in others.” <– so on point! Thanks Dan!
This is exactly what I experienced when I first started working. I had a supervisor who was “letting go too fast”. I was thrown into things for which I had no experience in. To rectify this, he provided me with a mentor who “hanged on too long”. Towards the end, I had to tell my mentor to let go and allow myself to make mistakes. After that, I have really blossomed into my field. There needs to be a balance between to the two and everyone needs different levels of mentoring and advice. It really should be up the supervisor/mentor to determine that, but not everyone can or will.
I really neede this reminder, thanks! Tammy
Thank you Tammy. It’s a pleasure to serve.
Good food for thought
Communication, honesty, and empathy is key between employees and leaders when determining whether others are ready to take on new responsibilities. Employees might not always say or know they are ready, and leaders may not offer or ask. Similar to the author, I too often assume employees have the motivation or comfort levels to undertake something new with limited direction. I understand that my direct reports and colleagues learn and perform differently. I talk to employees about their performance to gauge if they feel frustrated from the lack of readiness (if they say “I couldn’t find the resource or time I needed to complete this.”) or the lack of new challenges (if they ask “Is there something more I can be working on?”). I balance the demands of the work with employee growth, understanding that we operate as a team and have the time/resources to undertake growth and new challenges. When I make new assignments with advanced/growth challenges or new responsibilities, I talk with the individual regularly. I ask open ended questions, such as asking them to explain to me where they are seeing problems or encountering something that is unclear. I do not ask individuals if they are confident in getting the work done, but ask if they learned or found insight about the work that will help the business/client (e.g., the work is great, but what does it mean?).