Results, results, results. When you’re in a position of leadership, this is probably the thing that occupies your mind and dictates your actions the most. However, as managers and leaders, we are responsible for so much more than just results. We’re responsible for the people we lean on to achieve those results. There’s no such thing as perfect, and it can be easy to forget that the people on our team are a valuable resource and vital to growing a strong organization that produces consistent results. Below are a few ways I’ve seen managers inadvertently suppress their teams (and what to do if you’re guilty of doing this yourself):
Being a mouthpiece instead of handing over the microphone
Being in a leadership position, it can be very easy to revert to “I” and “my” behavior (“my” opinion is the only one that matters and “I” know exactly what my team thinks). However, you risk silencing valuable perspectives when you, as a manager, speak for your team members instead of allowing them to have their own voice. Assuming that you know what the individuals on your team think or feel about a particular situation, never asking them for their opinions and answering for them will produce robots instead of contributing members of your organization. This behavior is incredibly damaging because it will ultimately suppress the potential of your team, never giving them a chance to provide feedback or think for themselves.
Taking away key ownership decisions
As leaders and managers, it can be very difficult to let go of the reins and trust others. However, unless you want to have an authoritarian culture, you should allow your people to make decisions that are key to their positions. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you hired the individuals on your team because you thought that they were the best fit for the job. If that’s true, then allow them to not only do their job, but to own it. By not allowing them to make core decisions, you are both stunting their growth and undermining their position. Try to operate on trust instead of suspicion and give your team the chance to succeed.
Not setting aside time to listen
Assuming what your team needs and how much capacity they have without actually involving them in the conversation is arrogance, not leadership. Take intentional time out to really hear from your employees. Ask them questions to understand where they’re coming from and how they feel their job is going. It’s important to build in mechanisms that force you to hear the people around you, ask questions, and understand their perspectives in order for you to make the best decisions as a whole. I hold regular one-on-one meetings with the individuals on my team. This gives them a chance to express their thoughts and voice questions and concerns, which in turn gives me a pulse on how things are really going.
Taking away the freedom to fail
Let’s be honest. If we could count all the mistakes we’ve made as leaders, it would be a lot. Expecting perfection from your team is debilitating and unrealistic. If you don’t allow your team members to fail, own up to it, and learn from their mistakes, they will be afraid to come to you for guidance whenever something goes wrong. This will end up decreasing productivity and limiting results because their fear of failure will overpower their ability to pick themselves back up. I think we can all agree that, as leaders, we want our teams to think for themselves, stay motivated, and continually push for excellence. Remind your team that it’s OK to fail as long as they learn from it and continue moving forward.
Over time, suppressing your team as a manager can produce poor results, a negative culture, and unhappy employees. While it can be hard to take a step back sometimes, try your best to understand where your team is coming from, give them the tools they need to succeed, and remind yourself that they are more than equipped to handle the job. Doing so can help elevate your bottom line and morale more than you’d ever imagined.
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