March 2014

Leader Blind Spots  (Part 3) Silence your Einstein

Welcome to the third part of the series on six common leader blind spots I frequently see.  In last month’s newsletter, the focus was about shifting between managing details and leading the team through the metaphor of the ‘Dance Floor or Balcony’.

The feedback I’ve received from a local TV interview, prompted me to expand on the blind spots in these newsletters.  As a reminder, leader blind spots are those unproductive behaviors that are frequently invisible to the leader, but quite visible to their teams, bosses, and peers.

Silence your Einstein

Let’s be really honest.   How many of you have said, or at least thought these statements?

  • I’m the leader – so I’m the right one to solve the problems.
  • My people don’t always know what to do, and they need me to tell them.
  • If I’m not solving, doing and directing everything, then what's my value?

Most people are promoted to leadership positions because they are good at what they do. They are usually the technical experts and so they struggle to let go of being the doer.  Making this shift requires the leader to redefine what success looks like in a leadership role.  I coach many leaders who are moving into higher-level positions and if they are not clear about what they need to leave behind or delegate to others, they become overwhelmed and ineffective in their new roles.  Many frequently struggle to let go of doing the work of the team.  

Letting Go...

Teresa was a talented engineer with excellent problem solving skills. She was consumed with taking on all the team problems and convinced that her role was to manage the team in that way. The result was a team of engineers totally dependent on her input for all of their decisions and issues. This dependency led to a stream of people at her door, leaving little time for her to think forward strategically to prepare her team for the next projects.

Since she was a technical expert, her natural inclination was to maintain that expertise by over directing the team in ‘how’ to do the work.  Once she discovered she needed to supply the “what” and let her team manage the “how,” she began to relax and focus on the value she brought as a leader and guide for the team.

She began introducing short thought-provoking articles in staff meetings on subjects like communicating effectively, problem solving and accountability. She split her staff meetings into strategic planning sessions and tactical staff meetings. This separation of meetings was an important change for the team. It’s difficult to combine both strategic and tactical discussions in the same meeting because each requires a different level of thinking. These actions assisted her staff when it came to understanding her expectations and helped her let go of being the ‘go-to leader’.

She now keeps a post-it note visible with these words: remember—guiding is not doing!

Know what to let go of

Try this simple exercise:

  • Ask yourself honestly:  What do I need to let go of?  List all the actions and behaviors that slow you down and get in your way preventing you from achieving your goals.  Then ask:
  • What do I gain from continuing to hold on to this behavior or action?  If you struggle to identify any gains or benefits, then you have your answer.  If you discover gains from holding on, and it’s an action or task, ask yourself:
  • Am I the right one to do it or should it be done by someone else?  

This exercise can raise your level of awareness to help you make some important simple shifts.

We must learn to let go as easily as we grasp or we will find our hands full and our minds empty. – Leo Buscaglia

Next month we’ll explore when it’s time to “Stop Talking”

Are you achieving the results you want?
The best leaders make simple shifts or practical changes for big results.  I work closely with leaders to create practical solutions to achieve real success. Let me help you discover what's possible. Visit my website for details.

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