“Basically, if you’re going to hire smart people, you’re going to have to let them apply their skills to their work. Managers can advise, which they’re welcome to do, but they must be extremely careful to avoid having their “advice” interpreted as command, since on any given technical issue it’s likely that management knows less than the workers in the trenches, especially, as I said, if you’re hiring good people.” — Joel Splosky, Smart & Gets Things Done

Joel, you nailed it. One of the keys to effective leadership is realizing – quickly – that your staff is not you. Gasp! Heresy! You mean they don’t walk, talk, and think just like me?!

Nope. And if you hired well, that’s probably a good thing.

There’s a palpable difference between what YOU would do in a certain situation and whether the work was done right or wrong. Different from what you would do isn’t necessarily wrong – it’s just different. Do you give your teams the opportunity to apply their skills? Or are you a sufferer of “like me syndrome?”

One of the most difficult things to master as a leader is knowing when to let your guy fail. Remember when you were a kid and your mom told you not to touch the stove because it was hot? She was just trying to protect you. But you just had to touch it anyway – and you learned pretty quickly that she was right.

Ouch! I can still hear my mom’s shrill “I told ya so!” Nice.

Some things we can only learn and fully understand by experiencing the pain ourselves.

This is not so different from the workplace. Constantly protecting our teams from mistakes, doing work for them, or “saving the day” with our brilliance doesn’t do a thing to develop them. In fact, you could be alienating them and creating a scenario where they are doing far less than their best work. After all, why bother?

You are just going to do it your way anyway.

Trust your people – and yourself. Given them the room to apply their skills and intelligence and to do the important work for which you hired and pay them. And – when the circumstances are right – given them room to fail so they can learn lessons and grow through their own experiences.

How do you give your teams room to grow?