How to step back as a leader so others can step up

Let’s face it. In leadership roles, we get caught up in the rush of feeling “needed”,  solving problems, making things  “happen” and driving direction.

I think something else happens though as well. When “the boss” is around all the time, even the most high performing teams can get a sense of security from trusting that you are there to jump in, answer questions, set direction, be “available”. The missed opportunity happens when teams default to their manager for direction before trusting their decision making ability or jumping in themselves.

When owners, managers, executives goes on vacation, that can be an incredible opportunity all around for growth. Growth for the leader going away because they can disconnect and “pause” coming back refreshed. Growth for the team set up to run the ship in their absence…. and better engagement all around.

However even though it seems easy enough, some leaders find it difficult to disconnect from work and fully benefit from their time off. “My team needs me”, “I can’t miss this meeting”, “What if things go sideways? ” .  Of course things could go sideways. With a little preparation however they can also go incredibly well.. and yield ripple effects you would never have experienced. The belief that the operation doesn’t quite run the same without us is true… but not what we think. Sometimes it can run DIFFERENTLY or even BETTER!

The first time I took extended time off I was 24. I took a month off from the $4 million store I managed and the 60 employees. I left long to do lists, and checked in incessantly until my team basically told me to quit harrassing them and go enjoy my time off and didn’t I have anything better to do than check in on them? didn’t I trust them?

Message received loud and clear.

What hit me by surprise was that as my vacation went on, I actually realized I was a teensy bit resentful they were apparently doing so well without me. When I came back, my team proudly showed me the numbers and promptly carried on with a new sense of confidence in their abilities. I got over the ego bruise quickly and found so much pride in seeing their accomplishments and excitement.

I learned a valuable lesson that year. When you say one thing and your actions speak differently, your team looks to your actions to get the true intent. When you say “hey guys, heading out of town on holiday, trust you to hold down the fort” but then you proceed to micromanage every minute with to-do lists and check in even casually while you are away, or get involved in an issue at hand….. you are actually saying the opposite. You may be away, but you are still running the show.

  1. If you trust your team and believe that even though their way might be slightly different than yours  it is as good or better,  then TRUST them.
  2. If you want to get a higher degree of engagement and team connection, set them up to rely on each OTHER not you for guidance.
  3. If you believe that they have ideas that won’t emerge unless they are put in a situation where they have no CHOICE to emerge because you are not there to default to… then try to let go.

A few weeks ago, I tried an experiment. I knew I was going on a much needed holiday to Mexico and I basically had three options as a solopreneur as far as my social media posting was concerned.

  • I could have chosen to take a break from all posting for that time off and let my accounts go dormant
  • I could have set on auto-pilot a bunch of scheduled posts
  • I could have posted while on vacation

Instead, I contacted 9 people in my social media network, on my fan page and in my personal network. Those people I believed knew me, my brand and more importantly were doing incredible things in their OWN businesses and I believed the Impact Fans would love to hear from these “guests”.

I believed by asking every person to take on ONE DAY of guest posting, it was an opportunity to connect the way THEY wanted to with our Impact Fans, without being as onerous of a request as if I had asked one person to manage the page for a week .

Every single one jumped at the opportunity to contribute, but what humbled and delighted me the most was

  1. How 9 people who had never met each other instantly connected on email and social media and bonded with their “challenge
  2. How resourceful and creative they were leveraging each other for support
  3. How determined they were to get the page to 700 fans by the time I came back the page was at 638 when I left)
  4. How my page engagement analytics went up that week as eachof those amazing leaders brought their flavor and approach.. and that resonnated with different fans on the Impact Page
  5. How that “tribe” connection I felt with each of those 9 now extended to each of them feeling that way about each other.

So that is the power of not only social media, but LETTING GO. Letting go when you trust that the people around you are capable, resourceful, brilliant and committed. Marcelle Allen, one of the 9 (with the yellow glasses) is my client Manager for D4Y Brand Builder, the company helping me to expand my brand and business. She is calling this experiment the McLeod Strategy and thinks we should share it with the world.

For now, let’s call it a great experiment in what can happen when leaders step back so others can step up.

Your job as a leader is not to be brilliant….but to help brilliance emerge all around you”

And now, I would like to introduce you to the 9 leaders who I dedicate this post to

Top Row: L to R

Marcelle Allen, Internet Entrepreneur, Client Manager for D4Y Brand Builder http://var/www/vhosts/

Amber Turnau, Social Media Strategist for Whistler Blackcomb http://var/www/vhosts/

Cathy Goddard, Principal at LightHouse Visionary Strategies http://var/www/vhosts/

Middle Row L to R

Nathan Latka,Facebook Pages guru and Founder of Lujure http://var/www/vhosts/

Dillon Rhodes, Architect and social media guru http://var/www/vhosts/

Arthur Tubman, Internet Entrepreneur, Founder of D4YBrand Builder http://var/www/vhosts/

Bottom Row L to R

Angela Shaeffers radio personality and founder of Your story Matters http://var/www/vhosts/

Dominic Scaffidi, Certified Executive Coach and Founder of HR Possibilities http://var/www/vhosts/

Liza Walli, Director of HR for Ziptrek EcoTours


1 Comment

  1. Staceymurphy on May 11, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    This article is a great reminder and well worth the read! Thoroughly enjoyed it. I especially love the part about setting people up to rely on each other. So true! This really builds organizational strength. And… happy you got to 700 fans!