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How To Lead Your Team Successfully By Getting Bad At What You Do

By Wally Adamchik

"Leader, manager, foreman, boss." These titles (and others) describe people who are responsible for getting a job done by directing others. The key point to remember is more than one worker must be involved in the effort for the project to be completed correctly. Therefore, the leader must be able to successfully guide each participating individual through his or her part in the process.

Often, the person in this leadership position was promoted because of their proficiency at the task they are supervising. For example, a skilled carpenter who has provided quality work to clients and been an asset to the company is one day made Foreman. He will now supervise three other carpenters. No big deal, as he generally works alongside them anyway, setting the pace and taking immediate corrective action if one of his crew members makes a mistake.

Or, consider the accounting supervisor who is known for her attention to detail. Nothing got by her when she was a clerk, and now, nothing gets by her as a supervisor. Why? Because she scrutinizes every keystroke her team makes. She virtually replicates their work. She often work extra hours every day to ensure everything is perfect.

Getting the Job Done
These leaders are often cited for their ability to make it happen. They direct their employees under the premise that close supervision is the key to success. But what happens when they are promoted again, and must oversee several teams?

These leaders try to repeat earlier successes, but simply cannot be in three places at once. When they visit their teams, they again jump in to show the right way to do it. The work gets finished correctly and the company is happy. The crew, however, may not be.

The fundamental problem is that these leaders fail to recognize they are no longer paid to do the work. They are now paid to see that others do the work. By jumping in and helping, they fail to exercise guidance. And that brings trouble.

Four bad things that can happen if you don't let go...

  1. Poor morale: Most people want to do a good job and embrace the opportunity to make a contribution within their company. When bosses fix subordinates mistakes, they send the message that their employees are not capable of completing the work. When they follow behind, checking closely for errors, these leaders are saying they don't trust their employees. Further, this action sends the message that the employee is incompetent. Nobody wants to be made to feel that way.

  2. Lack of training for subordinates: Crew members can't advance their knowledge or skill-level if their supervisor doesn't let them learn. Even though leaders want projects to be flawless, they must learn to step back and let their team learn how to handle problems for themselves.

  3. New leaders failing to meet responsibilities: Anxiety about their team's performance can distract new leaders from those tasks for which they must answer directly. Many new leaders waste valuable time double-checking work that s already done, while trying to tackle their own neglected inbox. The continuous combination of stress and long hours leads to exhaustion.

  4. Lack of growth potential: Some leaders mistakenly believe that, by not developing their subordinates, they maintain job security. In reality, this is insecurity. All they do is hurt the company and themselves.
Here are three easy things you need, to overcome these poor leadership problems in your organization:
  • Clear, concise job descriptions that lead to no surprises for you or them.
  • Solid leadership from those overseeing the supervisor.
  • Training in time management, delegation, and profitability for those in leadership positions.

Final Leadership Thoughts
Today, the pace of change is rapid and businesses need to run smoothly to succeed. Line employees must produce. Supervisors must oversee the production of line employees. Senior leadership must do all they can to make sure these two groups have the right training and resources to do their jobs to their fullest potential.

So, if you are the best in your company at the work you supervise; let yourself get bad at it. If you are in charge of a team, your goal is to help them get better at what they do, not to do it better than them.

Wally Adamchik, Founder of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting, helps organizations apply the leadership philosophies he learned in the Marines, and refined in business, to their pursuit of excellence. Read his book, "NO YELLING: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know To Win in Business," and learn what effective leadership looks like, and how to do it in the trenches, on the shop floor, and in the office.

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