“I don’t have enough time for my job – let alone to develop my people!”
If I could figure out how to see a “show of hands” over the Internet – I bet 90% of you would indicate you relate to that sentence.
I see it (and feel it) all the time. Well-intended, hard working, caring leaders who are burning out and exasperated by rising expectations and endless demands.
Are you one of these leaders? Positive intentions, great ideas, aspirations for advancement – but unable to find the time or resources to get out of fire-fighting mode? Do you spend too much of your day barely keeping your nose above water?
When I coach leaders like you, one of my first questions is about your staff – “Why not let them do more?” I ask. Most of the time, I hear a retort like:
“He’s not ready yet.” “She hasn’t got the hang of it.” “He needs more experience.” “That would be too much for her.”
It is hard to argue. How do you really know when someone is “ready.” Who’s to say what is “enough” experience or not? How can you be sure someone won’t hurt themselves, their reputation and/or the business if you give them a chance at something new and challenging?”
These nagging doubts are real. Unfortunately, they keep you in the role of “doer” and not in the role of “leader.” If you are on a journey to higher levels of leadership, you must confront this dilemma head on before you can break free to higher levels of contribution.
To shed some insight on what to do, let me share a personal experience:
I had a boss early on that took a chance on me. He threw me into a project well over my head (and experience level) and left me to “Figure it out!
“Cruel, “ you say. “Irresponsible”, you mutter. “What a bad boss” you think.
“Quite the contrary,” I would retort. It was one of the most powerful and empowering moments of my career. To be thrown into the proverbial deep end of the pool and left to figure it out was the fastest and most effective form of development I could ask for. I drew on talents and resources I didn’t even know I had. I was well out of my comfort zone and consequently forced to be deliberate and focused in my actions. Ironically, I surprised myself more than my boss at how well everything turned out.
The confidence I gained from being thrown into the deep end and succeeding fuelled many additional difficult assignments. To this day, I will draw upon that memory when I face a nerve-racking assignment and start to feel my insecurities rise up.
The point of my story is that early in our careers someone took a chance on us. They didn’t get stuck waiting to be convinced beyond a doubt we were ready. They threw us into the deep end ………. and we thrived!
On your leadership journey – be deliberate. Remember your early lessons. Give your people a shot – throw them in and see what they’re capable of doing. I bet they surprise you more often than not.
Up to the Challenge? Try this:
- Think of the tasks, projects or assignments on your plate. Identify 2 to 3 that you would love to hand off if only you had someone who was “ready.”
- Think through each of your direct reports. Identify those who show solid potential over the long term. (Don’t pick the people struggling with the basics).
- Assign one of the tasks from Step 1 to each of the people in Step 2.
- Meet with them to explain your plan. Let them know you are going to throw them into the deep end of the pool, but you have confidence in their abilities. Offer yourself as a life preserver if they really feel as if they will “go under,” but encourage them to give it their all.
- Watch them thrive under the pressure and rise quickly to new levels of contribution.
- Pat yourself on the back for being a great leader!