Leaders are doers. Period. They want to take charge and make sure tasks are completed successfully. However, this leads to action addiction -- the need to take the reins of every project and decision in their organization.
While it's important to be a hands-on leader, if you're not careful, action addiction results in micromanaging. This stunts employee development and, inevitably, leads to your own burnout.
Learn when it's time to step back from the daily goings-on. Give up your need to act. Instead, focus on planning strategies and inspiring your employees to enact them. This change in leadership style will make your entire company stronger in the long run.
1. Understand how your role evolves.
As your company grows, your role as a leader changes. Small businesses and startups need all hands on deck to figure out how the organization will function. But, over time, individual roles are defined. Employees become experts in their area and they need less help and guidance from you.
This can be difficult to accept.
Understand, this is the time when you can turn your attention to new challenges and focuses. Your company has a culture, values, and vision for the future. It's your job to keep everyone aligned with these organizational pillars.
Instead of hyper-focusing on what's being done in the moment, think about the next step. What types of employees will the company need as it continues to grow? What sales goals will your team need to meet? What types of benefits will keep great employees loyal?
Once you have these answers, pass the objectives off to the right people on your team. Let them know you'll be there if they need resources or help, but that you trust them to reach their goals.
2. Focus on unique and individual strengths.
If you've done your job, you've surrounded yourself with skilled, capable employees. They are experts in areas that are your weaknesses. Turn to them instead of acting.
When the creative management platform, Thunder, was launching a new feature, CEO and founder Victor Wong was concerned it would not be able to serve the company's largest customers. Initially, he was tempted to jump and make the assessment himself. But then he realized he had account managers who were experts on the customers' needs.
"Jumping in would only have rendered my team unproductive and I wouldn't have added a unique perspective," Wong said. "Leaders must always ask themselves whether they have anyone else on their team who can make an important decision or do the job that needs to be done."
To truly know who your experts are, participate in performance reviews. Find out who top performers are and sit down with them. Discuss what they've done and how the results impact the company. Hearing employees talk about their work in their own words will help you see the depth of their knowledge.
3. Actively listen and lead to solutions.
When an employee faces an obstacle, they can become overwhelmed. That doesn't mean they don't know the solution. They just need help accessing it.
"A leader's role is to coach people to find solutions, not to find the solutions themselves," said co-author of The Mind of the Leader, Rasmus Hougaard. Having the ability to be fully present and listen with an open mind is often the most powerful way to help employees solve issues."
When an employee comes to you with a problem, let them work through their situation out loud. Even if the solution is clear to you, stop and listen. Ask the individual questions that will help them arrive at the answer themself. This will allow them to problem-solve and build confidence in their own abilities.
4. Reward yourself for being more effectively hands-off.
Part of what makes action addicting is the adrenaline you feel while working and the satisfaction of success. Taking yourself out of the action means adjusting your personal version of success.
Your job is to guide and develop your team. When an entry-level employee lands a new client or when a department knocks a project out of the park, you had a hand in those successes. Take the time to enjoy and reward yourself in these situations.
That's not to say you can take acknowledgment away from your employees. They deserve recognition. Instead, find an outside source to celebrate with. Have dinner with a fellow entrepreneur and share the success story. Call your mom and brag. Just make time to relish the moment.