Define the What; Release the How
Our team was frustrated. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t seem to get momentum. Between communication breakdowns and apathy of the staff, we all felt like we were spinning our wheels.
As the team leader, I called us together for a meeting to figure out what was happening. We were better than this, and I was committed to getting to the bottom of the problem.
I opened the meeting by saying, “Something isn’t working. We all feel it. It seems we don’t know what to do about it, and so we’re going to start with me. As the leader of this team, I need to take responsibility for our ineffectiveness. For the next hour, I want you to tell me where I am creating the confusion that is hindering our momentum.”
As you can imagine, there was an awkward dead silence for a few minutes. Eyes darted from person to person, silently asking, “Is she serious, or is this a trap?”
I was serious, and with a little bit of coaxing, they began to share their frustrations and observations. Their feedback was simple. “We need you to define what we need to do and clarify why we need to do it but release us to figure out how.”
Moment of Truth
At first, I wanted to argue. I wasn’t a micro-manager! I just cared deeply about the work we were doing. I wanted to make sure everyone understood what we’ve done before and how we did it in the past, so they could more efficiently keep it moving.
It sounded great in my head. But once I started to say it out loud, I realized the frustration I was creating.
Autonomy Allows a Team to Thrive
I had unintentionally become a bottleneck in the organization. Out of a desire to be helpful, thorough, efficient, and if I’m honest, to be right, I had neutered my team of the autonomy to figure out how to best accomplish the work.
The lesson for me that day was simple: Define the What; Release the How. I needed to release the how of our work so our team could thrive and take the ideas further than I could by myself.
As leaders, we will find ourselves in similar moments throughout the different stages of organizational growth. Before you create a bottleneck in your organization, consider why you need to release your team to do the how.
4 Reasons to Release the “How” and Empower Your Team for Success
1. You may not know how to do it best anymore.
This one might be the most challenging. Many leaders rise to responsibilities of leadership after having served in many different roles throughout the organization. Your competence and experience got you to the position of leadership, but overly relying on that experience may be the thing that inhibits your continued growth. The people closest to the challenge often have the most perspective on how to navigate it.
2. You challenge your team to bring fresh ideas.
When you aren’t dictating how to do things, your team will be encouraged to think for themselves. They will begin to have more ownership in their responsibilities.
3. You will stretch your team to do more.
Do you ever get frustrated with team members who do the bare minimum? Odds are they need a challenge, so when you release how you release them to dream beyond the handed tasks.
4. You will be free to focus on the future whats.
As the leader, you need to be out ahead of the team, planning a future direction, but staying busy directing how with limit your margin to dream up the next what.
Define the What, Release the How. In doing, so you’ll elevate your leadership and empower your team.
Jenni Catron and The 4Sight Group
** 5 Simple Steps to a Great Strategic Plan **
Free Workbook to Get Moving Toward Your Goals
As leaders we are full of ideas and initiatives. We see potential and opportunity all around.
We can almost taste the outcome but oftentimes we get bogged down by how we’ll get from here to there.
The “how” can be overwhelming and discouraging so we give up on our goals or fail to build a plan to help us actually achieve them.
These five steps will get you and your team on the path to moving from ideas to action!
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.