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Stop Doing Your People’s Work

Recently while inside a client’s office, as we walked to get coffee, one of their direct reports passing in the hallway said, “I spoke with Jane up in Finance and she said they won’t agree to change the pricing for us. What should we do? The leader I was walking with responded, “Let me think about it and I’ll drop by your office later today.” “Perfect.” the subordinate said. Sound familiar?

This took me back to my graduate school days while studying psychology. Surely a different lesson than I was taught in B-School, but because business is the business of people, the psychology lesson holds true. “You teach people how to treat you.” Leaders, this means you.

Sometimes members of our teams lack the gumption to take initiative because we’ve inadvertently “clipped their wings.” It’s not their fault; it’s ours. We haven’t empowered them appropriately. Positions have gotten so tenuous, we’ve become afraid of even the slightest of failures. Consequently, we are teaching our teams to bring everything to us; to not make a move until they’ve run it by us. The message we just heard was clear, “Let me think about it and get back to you.” And by “it” I mean the problem. Someone has brought you a problem, and you have now made it your problem.

1) Where’s the lesson in initiative?

2) What do they do while you “think about it?” (I know they have other work to do…)

Let me get to it. Stop doing your teams’ work for them! Empower them! Here, you have relieved them of initiative, responsibility and most importantly, the opportunity to grow. You have taught them to depend on you for answers. Great leaders don’t have all of the answers.

In the knowledge-based working cultures of today, it’s imperative that we teach our teams to analyze critically, fix problems, and mitigate future problems. There will be a few failures for sure. But that’s where the learning and innovation can be found. Apple. Wheaties. Dyson Vacuums. None of these would be what they are today without failure.


Yes. There are times when you want your leaders to bring you the issues. But never without a proposed solution. And as a guide, they should manage these challenges in just one of three ways;

1) Bring it to you with an actionable solution and get your blessing to fix it.

2) Fix it. And update you right away of what they have fixed.

3) Fix it. And update you during the regularly scheduled status meeting.

Notice a trend? “Fix it!” was the prevailing theme. Great leaders don’t have all of the answers. They just ask the right questions and empower. And in the process, develop great leaders.

Kevin D Wright believes leadership is personal. The author of Better Results! he’s a dynamic international speaker, consultant and executive coach covering leadership, performance, and D&I. The former Head of MultiCultural, Private Client Group and Underbanked Product Development and Strategy for U.S. Bank, he partners with organizations to get the most from their talent and customers; even tackling the toughest of topics. Visit to learn more and see how Kevin can assist you.

#talent #leadership #employeeengagement #empowerment #empower

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