Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Managers: let your reports fail

After excelling as an individual contributor, you were selected to become a people manager. Can you succeed? Not if you aren’t willing to re-learn what success looks like. If you want to make your team members good at their jobs, you need to get yourself comfortable with their mistakes.

Giving your team total responsibility is the difference between training a team of diligent executors, and growing your people into critical thinkers who can tackle bigger and bigger problems.

You may be tempted to handle the ‘hard’ stuff — like jumping into the fray whenever workloads get overwhelming or when higher executives are watching results. You may be tempted to think that only you can truly champion the team.

After all, a screw-up from your team could reflect poorly on you, and you’re good at your job, so you aren’t about to let that happen. And in the end, the team (with you at the front) ships the results and gets accolades, so everything’s great, right?

The reality is - you’re stealing. You’re stealing opportunity from your team members to step up and face tasks that scare them. You’re stealing the thrill of achieving something they didn’t know they were capable of achieving. You’re stealing the very joy out of job they ought to love, and you’re stealing from their ability to grow as a person and a professional.

You’re also stealing from your own long-term growth, as your team experiences high-turnover, low morale, and limited trust. You end up wondering why your team is doing the same thing it was doing two years ago and failing to take on bigger challenges.
Create Resilience

Exceptional management derives from support and inspiration. As Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Your job is to encourage experimentation, reward daring, and to coach your people through the difficulties of failure by emphasizing learning.

If you can build within your team the ability to fail, pivot, and then carry on with enthusiasm to try again, you’ll build not just a team that can tackle the ever-changing modern marketplace, but you’ll develop individuals who learn how to grow and find true fulfillment and energy from pushing themselves further than they’ve gone before.

With a team like that, you won’t believe how fast your remit grows, how many audacious goals you crush, and how fulfilled and motivated your team becomes.

As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

Inspiration comes not from criticizing mistakes and taking over, but from helping people see a vision of themselves experiencing success. If you can help a dejected teammate visualize themselves doing the things they don’t think they can do, you’re planting a seed of a new identity in their mind. When you shift someone’s self-identity towards something greater, you are performing an act of creation which can change their understanding of what’s possible for themselves.

We all want to improve. We all want to be better people. You have to believe that your people can achieve that growth, or you will end up standing in their way. Once you believe it, you need to take the time to communicate that belief to them, and that’s when you become the kind of leader that people will remember forever as the one that led them to breakout into unexpected growth.

When you encourage risk, coach through mistakes, and inspire people towards better versions of themselves, you allow people to move beyond their expectations to achieve success they hadn’t thought possible. In teams like that, people change for the better, and so does everything they touch. It’s the kind of transformational experience that will be remembered for lifetimes.

You’ll be the kind of leader they’ll never forget.

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