Michael was a Director at a medium-sized company. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, he had equally high expectations of his direct reports. He began with the company when they were first formed and had the luxury of hiring and training his own team. Like so many young leaders, he struggled with delegation. Michael was a work horse. He could crank out work like nobody’s business, and many times, found it easier to do things himself rather than engage the team he had hired. His team of professionals was relegated to less than fulfilling work for much of the time.
When he did let go and assign a project to his capable team, they were thrilled. The team would fly into a flurry of activity and enthusiastically complete the assignment. Michael would review their work and the “red pen” would come out. He wasn’t pleased with their staff work, so he would grab a red pen and begin to edit and edit and edit and edit. He would share with me how shocked he was with the "quality of their work "and comment this was precisely the reason he preferred to do all of the project work himself. Once Michael finished with his editing, he’d hand the work back to the team. Completely demoralized, they would make the necessary "corrections" and return the product to Michael. Now, he was satisfied.
So, what’s wrong with providing your team constructive feedback? Nothing, if it is done well.
You see, Michael wouldn’t give much in the way of guidance when he’d give an assignment to his employees. Instead, he would communicate just enough to give the team the sense they understood what was being asked of them; however, never enough for them to be successful. What was always interesting was the fact Michael thought he was a very strong communicator. He’d make reference to his communication skills quite often, in fact. To Michael, he provided more than sufficient guidance.
In addition to a lack of communication, Michael had difficulty realizing that no one on his team was going to be a miniature version of him. I find it interesting, just how many leaders struggle in this area. He expected a work product that looked exactly what he would have put together, rather than stepping back to consider whether the end goal was accomplished. Did it really matter how his team got there? To Michael, the answer to that question was “yes”.
So, how do you ensure that you’re providing your team sufficient information to be successful and yet giving them creative license to learn and grow? Does the path the team chooses to take as they successfully complete a project have to be yours or one they are comfortable with? Are you offering a safe environment or one where it is only safe to take on projects in the manner in which they believe you would have done it?
My advice to you is that you take your team’s training wheels off and watch how far they can go.