“Sit on your hands.” That was the only piece of advice an amazing leader and friend gave to me when I started a job that involved approving and signing thousands of documents. The advice came with some explanation. They recommended that when I received a piece of correspondence to sign that I sit on my hands until I had read the complete draft. If the draft said “no” when I had directed that it say “yes” (or vice versa), I should schedule a meeting to determine how my direction had been missed or ignored. If the item was representative of a type of item that I would be signing often, I should read it more carefully and mark it to reflect my style, noting that future letters should follow this sample. But, I should always be careful not to spend a lot of time editing quality products simply to have them reflect my own style.
It was important advice. It is tempting for a new leader to try to want to shape everything around them to reflect their personal style. But, that action will stress you beyond your imagination. In the end, we tire ourselves while our team members stand on the sidelines, underused and underappreciated.
Ellis and Hartley in their 2004 book, Nursing in Today’s World: Trends, Issues and Management put it well. “Another characteristic of empowering others is involving them in finding solutions to the problems once they are aware of the problems being encountered…Rather than support the belief that only the leader can propose workable solutions, empowered employees are respected for their contributions and for their first-hand knowledge of a situation. Ideally, employees will become involved in the development of strategies to accomplish the goal or vision.”
When you assign a task to a team member, be as specific as necessary (not as specific as possible!) and then let talented people do their magic. It is amazing to see the variety of paths and solutions that result. I guarantee that when you empower others, you will have more time and energy to do the things that you really should be doing and your team will grow in experience and skill. Be ready, some rework will be required as you and the team learn and mature, but it will get better.
So, whenever possible, sit on your hands!
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach…” (II Timothy 2:24a)