I had a one of those shocking parenting moments last week when I witnessed something actually working! My kids actually cleaned up from dinner without complaining and without expecting a reward in return. Who cares if dishes aren’t stacked in the right cabinet, who cares if a few glasses break… the kids are taking charge! As I reflect on the 4th of July, I thought it would be appropriate to write a few thoughts on independence and share some of the common traps I see leaders make every day.
Despite our best intentions, both as parents and executives, we fall trap to enabling more dependent rather than independent behaviors in those we want develop. See if you’ve fallen trap to any of the following:
Trap 1 of 3: I’m just being helpful.
Most people view being helpful as a very positive thing and most of the time it is. However, the whole idea of independence is to not do for others what others are capable of doing/deciding for themselves. Of course there are some exceptions to this (e.g. if safety is at risk) but during a typical day, there are plenty of occasions where we step in as leaders to help when really we’re enabling dependency. For example, as parents, being helpful may be obvious like helping your child get dressed in the morning or more subtle reminders each morning such as “Did you remember to pack your lunch in your backpack?” As executives, you may proofread a document and make all the corrections for the other person to help the other person save time or perhaps you may provide a template for monthly status reports for the new team lead. All of these actions are helpful AND they get in the way of allowing the other person to take responsibility and become independent. Every time you step up, the other person steps back. In what ways do you evaluate your own “helpful” intentions? How do you stop yourself from stepping in – and take a step back to allow others to make decisions on their own?