As leaders, we often fall victim to the belief that our teams need us to survive and thrive. In reality, if we’ve done our jobs right in selecting, developing, and placing people in the right positions, and worked hard to create a healthy environment, what they need is less of us.

It’s Humbling (and good) When They Don’t Need You

As humbling as it is to admit, the moments in time when I’ve learned whether I’ve done my job are the moments when through circumstances, I needed to direct my focus off of the team and on to something else (e.g., an acquisition).

In one perfect storm of circumstances, I focused elsewhere based on board demands and was dependent upon the team executing a combination of complex projects and market initiatives.

Their work was masterful, their results excellent, and my pride in them as professionals and as a team through the roof. And, well, maybe there was a tinge of self-pity in the recognition that I was dispensable, but ultimately, I knew that was a good thing.

Beware Assuming You Are the Reason for the Team’s Success

It’s easy to let your identity as a manager or executive become intertwined with the belief that you are the reason the group is successful. Don’t get caught in this trap.

Indeed, you created the foundation for success by building an effective working environment and populating it with good, capable people motivated to do their best. That’s your job, and it’s good, hard, continuous work. However, it’s their job to deliver to the best of their abilities, and in most cases that means they need less of you, not more.

Let Go to Move Faster

Something unusual happens when you surround yourself with capable, motivated individuals and give them a healthy working environment that includes the room to run and freedom to experiment. They strive to succeed at ever-higher levels by collaborating, problem-solving and innovating.

In environments where I’ve observed high-performance groups, the pursuit of success in the form of strengthened results, creative problem-solving and game-changing innovations takes root and then spreads like dandelions through a Chicago lawn in June. Don’t let your instinct to over-manage stop the spread of great results.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

You play a role in your team’s success. Just don’t conflate your impact on the team environment with your importance in generating day-to-day results. If you’ve done the heavy lifting of getting good people on your team and creating an environment for them to prosper, and if you’re there to coach and help-when-asked, you’ve done your job. And if you’re feeling just a little bit of self-pity in the recognition that they don’t need you as much as you thought, accept this as a sign that you’ve done an excellent job.

Art's Signature