Team Development

by Maureen Lynch, Director of Hays Ireland

Why is it important to let your team struggle from time to time? While it’s difficult to believe, this ultimately has a positive impact on the long-term development and wellbeing of your team. It is achieved through giving them room to solve problems on their own and overcome challenges without jumping in and taking control every time you deem them to be going off track.

As team leader, you need to know when the results are too severe for your team to fail and when you need to step in. However, if you always jump in, you risk behaving like an overly protective manager which ultimately inhibits effective team work and development.

Interdependence is an essential condition for team working. This is focusing on problems that can only be solved by team members working together. Supporting interdependence means you, as the team’s manager, have to be ready to let go off exerting too much direct control. This is also important for helping the team feel they have the levels of autonomy they need to effectively operate – simultaneously improving their wellbeing and performance.

When mangers do not let go, or give their team enough operational space, there are usually a few common justifications, such as:

  • “I need to stay close to what they are doing as I’m the one that’s being held accountable for their performance.”
  • “The only way I can be sure they will stay focused is by staying directly involved.”
  • “They just don’t have enough experience yet to operate without frequent direction from me.”

These can seem reasonable in the moment when facing heavy delivery pressures, particularly to the manager, and often their boss. However, if they become default reactions they usually need to be challenged. So, some challenge questions / observations that could be offered:

  • “Accountability does not mean that you shouldn’t delegate responsibility. You can give people more space and still set expectations about keeping you up-to-date with how they are doing against their objectives.”
  • “Perhaps you being on their back all the time is a major reason that they lose focus on the task and their goals?”
  • “How will they get more experience if you jump in and take problems from them whenever it looks like they might struggle?”

At an extreme level, constantly jumping in can be experienced as micromanagement, a tendency that ultimately leaves teams, and individuals, feeling powerless and not trusted to do their job. There is no point in telling your team they are empowered if you are not prepared to let them fail, they aren’t, and they are unlikely to try to take control when facing new challenges.