This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
One way to make your job in leadership infinitely more difficult while ensuring you fail to develop your people is to turn them into dependents. There are two things that leaders do that kill initiative and resourcefulness and turn employees into dependents.
Doing Their Work
The presentation or report the client needs is important. It must be done right, and it needs to be your company’s best work. One of your employees explains to you what your client needs and, heroically, you spring into action. You can do a better job than the employee who just received the request. And you want to personally make sure it’s done right.
You may be capable of doing a better job on some tasks than the person you believe you are helping, but by doing the work for them you deprive them of the experience of doing the work themselves. You have eliminated their opportunity to learn how to do whatever it is that you have decided to do for them.
You’ve also demonstrated that you aren’t confident that they can do the work. Without saying a word, you have shown your employee that you don’t believe they are capable.
By doing the work yourself, you may produce a better result, but you haven’t given the person whose work you are doing the learning experience or your confidence in their abilities. In the future, you can count on that person (or persons) coming back to you again and again to do the most important work.
By doing the work, you’ve created a dependent.
Answering Their Questions
Your salesperson is stuck. They have a challenging opportunity, and their dream client is stretching them to the very end of their ability. They rush into your office with questions and, being the wise old sage that you are, you start doling out the answers.
Sometimes you may need to provide your employees with the answer to challenging problems. But doing so as a standard operating procedure creates dependents. You are doing their thinking for them instead of teaching them how to think. Instead of notching them up, you are limiting their growth. Worse still, your taking their pinkish-gray matter out of their work.
Non-directive coaching is a much more powerful choice for engaging with members of your team around challenges. By making your employees answer the questions for themselves, with your help and guidance, you are teaching them to think. Your notching them up instead of creating dependents.
Slow is Fast, Fast is Slow
It’s faster to do the work yourself or to provide someone with what you believe is the right answer. Way faster. But way faster equals way slower. It slows down the personal and professional growth of the person you are helping. And it slows down your ability to really help, continually burdening you with more and more work from the dependents you’ve created. That’s why fast is really slow.
Slow is fast. The more time you take to coach, train, teach, and develop, the faster your employee’s grow personally and professionally. By taking time now, you eliminate the need to take the time to do the work and provide the answers in the future. This increases the speed of your team, and it provides you with the time you really need to lead.