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Be a Hands-On Leader
The good way, not in a way that would get you sent to HR
People respect a leader who gives 100% to the task and who works with the team, rather than sitting back and letting the team do all the work.
However, it’s a balancing act. We also want to grow our people by empowering them to do things themselves.
It seems a bit contradictory when you think about it, right? However, there are some tips that can make this work well.
Be the safety net for your tightrope walkers. Make sure that you schedule check-ins and status updates, to make sure delegated responsibilities are getting done correctly and on schedule. Give them an assist if they are losing their footing.
Be a sounding board. Have an open-door policy (or an office-hours policy, which is an open-door policy for certain times of the day, leaving the door closed when you need to focus, have a client meeting, etc.). Actively remind people to come talk to you when they have a question or problem.
Teach your people what you know by doing the tasks with them. Take a direct report to shadow you in a client meeting or at a job site. Coach and mentor them to train them to do new things on each new project.
The buck stops here (nod to Harry Truman). If things go wrong, it might not be the leaders’ fault, but it is still the leader’s responsibility to make things right. Being part of the process helps the leader know when things are on-track or going off the rails. You need to keep “an ear to the ground” or “an oar in the water” and make sure your understanding of the tasks is realistic and your professional knowledge stays current.
Find your balance point between hands-on and letting go to empower with each person on your team—it’s not one-size-fits-all, and it will change over time as the person’s skills, confidence, and experience grow.