The Illusion of Effectiveness

magician-dove-hat-101206-02In our careers, there are common roads we all must travel.  Some of those roads are rougher than others.  Some are littered with pot holes and speed bumps.  One of those rougher roads is making the transition from doingbeing a high potential individual contributorto leadingmotivating others to perform at their best. 

Whether we like it or not, our role changes as we progress in seniority from being “one of the team” that performs tasks, to being the leader that get things done through others and then finally to a senior leader that gets things done through multiple layers of others. 

The challenge we often face is that throughout our early professional roles, we’re rewarded for our effectiveness as doers, and when we achieve a more senior position we often assume that our effectiveness as leaders will rely upon the same behaviors that have fueled our success up to that point. 

This can lead to the illusion of effectiveness

I think I am more effective and successful because I am ‘getting stuff done’.  Thus the illusion.  The reality is that we live in a world where we are required to churn out more with less.  If we continue to try to leverage the same skills that got us here, we’ll find ourselves being a high paid individual contributor that works around the clock to churn out “more”. 

The further reality is that this not only limits our capacity and potential, but it limits the capacity and potential of the talent that is entrusted to us.  If we always “do it ourselves”, our people never learn, experience, and grow – which is not good for us, for them, or the organization.  Success hinges on being able to effectively delegate and entrust our teams and the teams around us to deliver.

In our journey to become great leaders, we should all take a minute to evaluate ourselves and identify where we are personally doing, when we should be doing (well) through others.  

Below are 6 tips to help keep you out of the business of ‘doing’:

ONE:  Evaluate where you have to compensate for others on your team.  Then address it.  Get to the core of the issue, develop them, and get past it.  Continuing to compensate means that you are working at a level or two from where the company expects you to be.

TWO:  Evaluate your to-do list each day.   Ask yourself if the tasks are things you should be doing or things you should be teaching your team to do.  If it’s the latter – teach them.

THREE:  Entrust others with important opportunities.  There is a difference between delegating and entrusting.  Entrust is a key word in delegating:  It means that you care about the results of what you delegate, and you’re willing to provide the support needed to help the team member achieve those results.  Our job as leaders is to build future leaders, which means that sometimes you have to take a risk so that they can learn. 

FOUR:  Empower your team.  To empower your associates is to do three actions:

  • Give associates the freedom to get a job done (no breathing down their necks).
  • Provide associates with the right level of support to get the job done well, including information, training, resources, and so on.
  • Hold associates accountable to produce the outcomes needed.

All three actions work together as part of the process. Thus, when you delegate effectively, you empower your team.

FIVE:   Identify mentors and trusted leaders that lead well and ask them for input as you develop your leadership style. Ask them how they avoid the pitfall of being an individual contributor when they should be leading. Tip:  Most leaders love to teach / give advice, so just ask. 

SIX:  Copter down, but don’t forget to copter back up.  There will always be times when you need to roll up your sleeves and jump in to help get things done.  You may find yourself in a position where there is no choice but to be an individual contributor.  It’s the nature of our culture. The danger is that if taken to an extreme, the person becomes so involved in doing things the old way that they neglect the leadership aspects of their role.  Make sure that if you dive down, you pull yourself back up and don’t stay mired in individual contributor mode.

The benefits of getting it right –

Think about the leaders you know who lead well and trust, teach and train the team to do their jobs.  One of the common things I’ve noticed about these stronger leaders is that they are generally more available.  Because they are not personally driving each initiative, they typically don’t have to fill their calendars with endless meetings week after week.  They trust their team to attend the regular project meetings and insert themselves when there are broader decisions to be made.  This is a good “gut check” for any of us.  Are we available on regular basis throughout the week to spend time with our teams teaching and guiding?

On your leadership journey, continue to evaluate and push yourself to lead at the correct level.  Empower your team to drive initiatives and be available to teach / train as necessary.

The illusion of effectiveness distorts reality but if we are intentional in our leadership approach, we can unlock our potential, our team’s potential, and lead well.

 Question:  What tasks or projects are you doing now that should be driven by your team? 

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