Does your team depend on you … a little too much?

Photo of many hands raised

I was talking with a colleague recently about the “mom” (or, of course, “dad”) factor in leadership.

Teams look to their leaders for guidance and direction, and that’s obviously necessary. But like any good thing, there’s a flip side when it becomes TOO MUCH of a good thing.

And that’s what happens when, for any number of reasons, the individuals on your team become overly reliant on you, their leader, for every answer to every question. We dubbed this the “mom” factor, as in, “Mom, can I have this? Mom, can I do that? Mom, what should I do about …?”

Why is this a problem? Here are just a few reasons.

  • It takes up wayyyy too much of your time. I don’t need to elaborate on this, I’m sure.
  • It takes up wayyyy too much of their time – how much more productive could they be if they made decisions and took action on their own, instead of waiting to ask you?
  • They’re not learning and developing their skills, knowledge, or capacity.

Why does this happen?

  • The organizational culture doesn’t allow people to make mistakes.
  • Your team culture doesn’t allow people to make mistakes.
  • You have a hard time delegating – really delegating, as in, letting people do things their own way rather than yours. (For more on this, read the post “The Dangers of Delegation: A true story with dog.”)
  • Your team members started out as beginners, and you’re still managing them that way.

Clearly, there are some decisions you need to make and some actions you need to direct.

But ask yourself: are you too involved? Do you get frustrated because too many of your team are tugging on your sleeve, “mom”-ing or “dad”-ing away your time?

If so, maybe it’s time to re-set expectations.

Be clear. Hold a meeting, either as a team or with each individual, and explain that the next step in their professional development is for them to start making more decisions and answering more of their own questions. (This makes it “all about them” and their career, instead of being about you and your feelings of frustration!)

Decide before the meeting what level of decision you’re authorizing them to make, and be explicit in explaining that. Let them know it’s okay to make a mistake, as long as – and this is a key point – they can “show their work” – meaning they can explain their thought process and reasons for deciding the way they did. Be clear that, of course, you always want to be notified when a mistake happens, because you never want to be blindsided.

If you’re thinking this will take some work and planning on your part, you’re right.

But isn’t that better than being “dad”-ed or “mom”-ed to distraction?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have time to focus on the decisions and actions that really are important for you to make?