As a leader you need to set boundaries of acceptable performance. This means defining what people’s roles and responsibilities are so they know what to do each day. Unfortunately there can be fine line between setting a realistic boundary for performance and creating a constraint that holds people back.
How do you know if you have crossed that line? Here are three questions to ask yourself to make sure you are not holding people back:
- Are you answering basic ‘how to’ questions? If experienced people keep asking basic questions about what they need to do then they are being constrained. When people are sure of their roles and responsibilities they understand the basic tasks.
- Do people constantly check with you on decisions? When people keep coming to you to check if they are making the right choices you have tied their hands or they don’t know enough to act independently.
- Is your team waiting for direction? If people are sitting around waiting to be told what to do next they aren’t feeling free to act.
The real difference between boundaries and constraints is linked directly to empowering your people to act independently. When people feel they are free to take action, make decisions, and get things done without the constant need to ‘check in’ they will be more productive, more engaged and generally happier with their work life. It feels great to know the boss trusts you to get on with your work without micromanaging you.
A couple of keys to empowering people:
- Clearly defined roles. People need to know what is theirs to do.
- Knowledge to do the job. Make sure your team has the training / knowledge they need to act independently.
- Tools to do the job. Things can only happen when people have the tools they need, be it software, computers, etc.
- Support from you. For people to truly go out and get things done effectively they need to know that you will support them when needed.
- Feedback on performance. Most everyone wants to know how they are doing, what is going well and what they can do differently so provide information on their performance.
Getting your team on track to perform well, without your hand constantly on the helm, will give you more time to get your own tasks done. If you have set clear boundaries of what people can and should be doing they can act freely. When you create constraints by setting the boundaries too tight you will be more involved in the day to day activities of your team which hinders both you and them.
There will be times when you have to limit the freedom to act, so be clear on what that limit is so people know when to check in with you. Up to that point give them the opportunity to work independently. If there is a check point required, explain what it is and why it’s necessary. Explaining it will help you be sure it is necessary and will help your team understand the need for it. It won’t feel like an arbitrary constraint designed to limit activity out of your control.
Creating boundaries will allow you team to move forward smoothly and efficiently. Constraints hold teams back form peak performance.