We’ve all heard the term “helicopter parent,” a reference to moms and dads who constantly hover over their children, paying close attention to every move they make and swooping in to save the day when things get the least bit challenging. Helicopter bosses are much the same, hovering over their direct reports while they tweak, improve, redirect, and fix their employees’ work without their input being solicited. Though these helicopter bosses often have good intentions – they want the best product possible with the fewest errors possible – the long-term results are a mess! Employees become demotivated, feeling their efforts are a waste of time because regardless of what they do, the boss will change it.
The boss on the other hand becomes exhausted from trying to do everyone’s jobs and frustrated at her colleagues’ apparent lack of commitment.The funny thing is the purpose of a boss is very similar to that of a parent: It’s our job to teach our kids and our employees how to do something, then let them go do it! We want them to learn how to make good decisions because we won’t always be there to make good decisions for them. We model hard work and integrity in hopes that they will see our good example and live it out in their own lives. We instruct them now, so they can go on and do it themselves later.
If you struggle with letting go and letting your people do their thing, here are four tips:
Accept that you don’t have to be the first to know.
As leaders, we have a strong desire to be “in the know” when it comes to our team or company. No one likes to be blindsided. However, good leaders can’t afford to be caught up in every little detail of the organization! If we do, we lose our perspective and our ability to lead. In any organization, problems should always be solved at the lowest level possible. If every problem must be shared with leaders first, then solutions take forever. Besides, the people on the front lines are usually the ones who provide the best solutions because they’re most familiar with the situation!
Take yourself out of the middle.
Taking myself out of the middle of everything lessens my personal importance to many people in my organization, but it also allows me to do what’s personally important to me. It also means that assignments are not always done “my way.” But I have discovered that most things can be accomplished effectively in many ways.
Don’t have the “I must do it myself” motto.
Do you live by the motto, “If I want something done right, I have to do it myself!”? If so, you are complicating your life and risking burnout. This only limits you as a leader. Begin relying on other people and cultivating trust in them. Only then can you be free to focus on the most important things.
Help your employees prioritize.
As the leader, it’s your job to coach and influence your team – and this includes in the area of managing their time at work. First, lead by example. Next, help your employees stay focused on their One Thing by consistently reminding them of the team’s One Thing and how the work they do supports the larger vision.
The next time you find yourself resembling a helicopter around your employees, remember your role is to teach, model, and serve as a resource for your team, not hover over and make decisions for them.