In one of our assignments for the SCPD Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate, we were asked to respond to the following questions:
- What are some signs that a leader is pushing people too hard?
- What are some signs that a leader is not pushing people hard enough
I believe disengagement is one answer to both questions. I can see a team working hard and generating lots of ideas to tackle a certain challenge. In that scenario, if the leader keeps pushing them for more and more, without any constraints or balance in tasks, people will just burn out and disengage. The other side of the coin would be for a team who is struggling with generating ideas and staying productive and energetic not to be nudged by their leader. They will therefore disengage and produce way under their capabilities.
I really liked the quote by Tommy Lasorda that says “managing is like holding a dove in your hand. If you hold it too tightly, you kill it. If you hold it too loosely, you lose it.” As a tuned-in leader, you need to be able to read your team and take the pulse of the work in terms of the energy level, emotional involvement of team members, etc. You need to prime yourself to make just the right adjustments, fine tuning the team and pointing them in the right directions.
Sometimes the best management will be no management at all. Sometimes people need the space and the permission to explore their capabilities. Sometimes that is what a disengaged team needs in order to get back on track. However, as a leader, you need to be aware of those moments at all times. You need to trust your people and trust the process.
Perry Klebahn‘s golden rule of letting people work when you see good momentum, and intervening when a decision is needed, for example, by setting a time constraint or a focusing metric is quite straight-forward and very valuable. I will definitely hold that close to my heart when leading my teams. Another great aspect mentioned by Mauria Finley which resonated with me was to be transparent about your leadership style and quirks. I particularly liked how she described her method of letting her people know when she would switch into micromanaging mode. Being clear about the criteria she uses to swoon in. What she is saying is that predictability and understanding are indeed key to keeping in tune with your people.