As a leader, you are much like a passionate parent. Trying to bring to life, an idea or scheme that needs a lot of help in its infancy. But like a parent who ends up shouting at their kids "JUST SHUT UP FOR HEAVENS SAKE!" or trying to tidy their toys away whilst a game is still in full play, passionate behaviours can sometimes slip into the “unhelpful” category of being over-controlling. Children of consistently over-controlling parents often feel resentful. Interruptions are seen as intrusive or overbearing and ultimately, it can even lead to anxiety and depression as the child tries to find a sense of personal control. It's unlikely many leaders will be found re-stocking the pens in the stationery cupboard to the exact specifications they desire in this manner, but many of you might recognise some of the other behaviours which lend themselves the oft-used term 'control freak'.

Why SME Leaders Can Fall Into The Trap Of Being A Control Freak

A leader is most successful when they effectively delegate all aspects of work that can and should be done well, or better, by others. At the heart of this dilemma is the ability to effectively manage time. Effective time management is a basic foundation for any leader. But when you are building a business from scratch there are dozens if not hundreds of tasks to accomplish and all before teatime! This is partly due to dynamics such as customers, suppliers, and stakeholders in all shapes who need attention and often, they need help urgently.

When delegation is done well others feel a sense of ownership for the problem, commitment to the solution and better connections with team members in pursuit of the goal. Effective delegation is not abdication – it’s a two-way process. To achieve business growth, SME leaders need to build both team capacity for today and individual capability for the future.

Delegating Requires Leader Awareness

Three awarenesses in fact:

  1. what you are weak at and have no need to increase skills for,
  2. tasks that must be done, or that others can do well
  3. new ways of keeping connected with everything you love (your Purpose).

If you are starting to twitch at some of these descriptions, you are in good company. Ranges of successful business leaders and celebrities have found giving up being a control freak is very, very hard to do. Click here for a few quotes from others who struggle to avoid ‘controlling’.

Steps For Unburdening Yourself

  1. Clarify what is being delegated and why

These questions should help you focus:

  • What do you want to achieve - what do you want that you don't have?
  • What do you want to preserve -  what do you want to keep that you already have?
  • What do you want to avoid - what do you not have that you don't want?
  • What do you want to eliminate - what do you have now that you don't want?
  1. What does the delegatee have latitude about and what is the standard for completing the work successfully
  • Delegating tasks creates followers. It’s delegating authority that gets you leaders. How would your business benefit from every person acting like a responsible leader?
  1. Get evidence of what is being done by the delegatee and the impact they have had – positive and negative
  • Give them some space to fail and balance negative with positive feedback. Describe what they did, the impact and the outcome.
  1. Offer feedback and coaching in a timely, consistent and calm way
  • For further information on how to develop your coaching style do take a look at my recent article 'Coach Your Way To A Better Team Dyanmic' . Also, encourage them to adopt a growth ("am I on the right track?" or "What can I do differently?") as opposed to a fixed ('I've always been rubbish at doing this, this is too hard!") mindset, in order to help them to stay engaged and interested in the process of continuous improvement. 

Finally, remember why you started the business. Better still; think about what potential you could unleash if you get out of your own (and others) way?

For help and advice at every step of the employee journey sign up to theHRhub - the ultimate online support service for SMEs. Find out more about us here.

Photo Credit: Art of Transportation by Staffan Scherz

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