One Thing You Must Stop Doing
Yesterday would have been better if you spent more time giving power and less time creating dependency.
Misguided leaders create dependency.
5 signs you’re creating dependency:
#1. Permission-asking is a national past-time in your organization.
The empowering question is, “What do you intend to do?”
#2. Quick intervention is expected.
Make space for people to work through their own challenges and problems. Stay available but keep your hands in your pockets.
Every time you rush in to save the day, you teach people to wait for you to save the day.
#3. Nothing important happens when you’re gone.
Leaders create dependency when everything stops unless they start it.
#4. You answered emails on vacation.
#5. You’re bitter because people don’t appreciate all you do for them.
7 practices that empower:
- Use many conversations to clarify expectations. Distill expectations into simple daily behaviors.
- Meet aspiration in others with training and coaching.
- Provide systematic feedback.
- Express gratitude for achievement and effort.
- Challenge people to stretch themselves.
- Consider responsible failure a learning opportunity. Every time you punish responsible failure, you teach people to play it safe.
- Schedule regular check-ins where you spend most of your time listening and exploring.
Servant-leaders enable others to act.
How might leaders stop creating dependency?
How might leaders enable others to act?
Which practice that empowers is most relevant for you at this time?
*”Enable others to act,” is an important phrase in, “The Leadership Challenge.”
** The idea of asking people to declare their intentions comes from, “Turn the Ship Around.”
Great article Dan! My favorite line is “Every time you punish responsible failure, you teach people to play it safe.” Being aware of the difference between a responsible and irresponsible failure is key in great leadership.
Thanks Davey. I’ve taken to including the word “responsible” because not all failure is the same. For example, repeated failure – in the same way – is not responsible.
Practices 1 & 3 are interdependent, and synergistic if specific RESULTS (as opposed to generalized expectations) are clearly and mutually agreed upon (as benchmarks to measure progress/ success by), e.g.:
Behaviors are generally HOW, expectations generally WHY, and specific (and actual) results are the WHAT at issue … the “systemic” feedback needs to be their triangulation (of capacity & resources) … and the conversation as to who, when, and where things are being effective; or not.
This why project mgmt. (closed/fixed system triangulation of scope/cost/schedule) and program mgmt. (open/ variable system triangulation) must be accomplished/managed differently, though they use the same tools –
program mgmt. is primarily political/strategic in nature and expectations, and
project. mgmt. is primarily governing/tactical in nature and expectations.
Good leaders (and good followers) understand and respect this distinction, and must communicate it effectively
(“my necessities are not yours, and yours are not necessarily mine, but they must align”).
This allows each to take full possession of their own work, and everyone wins/benefits.
Limiting expectations to behavior usually ENABLES dependency (rather than empowering independent action) …
the conversation needs to includes ALL of it (w/ no material or relevant secrets) to create the synergy the system was designed to create.
That way followers can bring true solutions to the leader, rather than just problems they can’t solve themselves. IMHO.
Thanks Rurbane. the way you put these ideas together is really helpful. One of my big take aways is:
The how of expectations.
The why of expectations.
The what of expectations.
Great post Dan. Gen Stanley McCrystal once said: leaders allow people to fail without making them feel like failures. Allowing people to make mistakes (albeit not repeating the same ones or constantly making them) will empower them.
Also, #4 about answering emails on vacation: “ouch”. That one hurt ;-(.
Thanks Daryl. That McCrystal quote is gold. You can’t expect great performance when you make people feel like failures.
Regarding the email statement…. I’m preaching at myself. 🙂
Finding your sweet spot is critical.
Rushing in to early to help and assist is a s bad as getting there too late to help and assist.
Timing is important.
How does a leader know when is the perfect time to help and assist?
Substitute “take over” for “help and assist” and I can agree with your statements … otherwise I don’t “get” it, leaders by definition need to be “available,” if not actually present (certainly in spirit and mindset, if not physically or virtually).
To answer your question as to “when” the right moment is to actually intervene, I’m going to quibble on word choice (make meaningful distinctions between the words we are using and how) …
Despite our best and most conscious intentions, what we believe to be empowering someone
(to learn, understand and act in the most successful manner)
can instead be enabling them (to create unacceptable conditions and/or results).
Dialogue, vigilance and (daily) “presence” are essential to recognizing our own contribution to a trending disaster,
and to recognizing the right type and degree of intervention and right time (“right thing at the right moment”) to do so with the least disruption and/or damage (unintended consequences).
I trust that these thoughts may be helpful.
I like your first sentence.
Thanks Paul. One thought on timing is be sure to schedule regular one-on-ones. Catch people in the hall and ask how the project is going. Ask a few follow ups when they say, “Fine.”
What’s working? What could be better? Any frustrations? How might a clear the way for you?
Also, monitor frustration. When you see nagging frustrations it’s time to step in.
Just some ideas. If you have any, I’m all ears.
I like monitor frustration. That a good indicator.
Great article! I especially like the line in #7 about clarifying expectations. I’m learning that the very worst thing to do if you expect results from your people is to give vague expectations.
I use to think, all I needed was one conversation to clarify expectations. Now I realize it can take multiple discussions.
Thanks Mike. It’s useful to assume that people enjoy succeeding. When they don’t, it could be lack of clarity regarding expectations.
It’s surprising how often things seem clear to me and confusing to others. 🙂
Nice post. So like a helicopter Mom who swoops in every time the child is in trouble we do that as a leaders as well? Opps As a fixer that is what got me here but like the saying “what got you here will not be enough to keep you here” or something like that. Ouch on the e-mail, even with the government shut down I (or someone like me) still answering their e-mails.
Thanks Walt. I hadn’t thought of the helicopter parent, but it definitely applies. I’m learning to turn things off at 7 p.m. I’m not always successful, but I think it’s important.
From the book that you gave me (Clarity First) “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work”. Clarity is so important, if everyone knows what they need to do, what authority (limits) they have to do it and that you support them doing it? Then you are doing your job as a leader. Todays post ties into this book so right on. Thank you.
Great Post Dan!
I will use it in class next week with my new new cohort of beginning doctora candidates .
Much to think about;
Many leaders are chosen because they are fixers and when all you do is fix no one in the organizations learns and grows.
To be a servant leader means to allow people to grow ,fail ,reflect and learn to become better leaders.
It is a process that must be continually addressed even in verbage.I used to stress with my staff to never start a conversation or meeting with “John says” more important to focus on the meeting and what those present say and go from there..
Happy New Year
Thanks John. Best wishes with your new cohort.
Making room for people to grow isn’t always easy with all the pressures in organizational life. I believe it’s worth it. But we have to be willing to make a few investments, before we start seeing return.
“when all you do is fix, no one in the organization learns and grows.”
Far more true than not, John.
As a lifelong “fixer”
(of closed-ended team-projects far more successfully than open-growing organizational-programs)
who operates coercively a an “honest broker,”
I can attest that the “fixing” destiny is temporary, and ultimately is as a “fall guy” as the crisis passes and the demonstrated-as-mistaken cultural narratives re-assert themselves and politics as usual returns. Any “chosen” status quickly evaporates;
very few fixers are elevated to authority positions –
not for long, at any rate.
You can get people to learn and fail, but very few will reflect deep enough or long enough to NOT return to their previously held presumptions, and to truly learn and grow.
Denial is the strongest intuition, and the easiest path. “The past is dead and useless; get over it.”
You can “lead” a horse to water, but you can’t make ’em drink. Leaders beware. History will rhyme, if not repeat.
Have you read the book The Leadership Push by Bob & Daniel Ramsey? Great leadership book!
Thanks Trudy. I haven’t read it yet. Thanks for the recommendation.
See yourself as builder, no a do-er.
Great post Dan.
“Power is the ability to achieve purpose.” I believe it was Dr. Martin Luther King who said that. I believe that a leader who lacks confidence creates the dependence Dan refers to. When we are confident we have confidence in others. That’s when we can intentionally apply the seven terrific “practices that empower” listed here.