That's right. Show 'em the door.
This is the junction point between accessibility and responsibility, between being a mentor, advisor and teacher versus being a manager, a leader.
The door to your office is like a tollbooth. There’s an entry fee and an exit fee. Those fees are time, engagement and results. Yours and theirs. A more quantitative-minded reader than this writer could describe these relationships with an elegant formula. I’m not going to embarrass myself by trying to amuse you with a silly effort.
How you manage your access and what price you both pay for that privilege is a key, maybe the key, to creating a culture of recognition, one marked with high levels of engagement and passion. Lurking just behind this challenge is the same elephant that sits in our internal living rooms. That elephant is how do we manage our selves.
This is one step I stumbled on, over and through, with such enthusiasm I scraped not only my knees but bloodied my nose.
As an employee I’ve worked with managers who expected me to linger in their office, evenings and weekends...for no other reason it appeared, night after night, than they were tired and found no refuge in their own home. I can’t remember anything we accomplished during these times. By staying I became an enabler, both complicit and resentful, losing respect for them as I grew impatient at myself.
As a leader (Assistant Director, Country Manger and CEO) I’ve made the opposite error, keeping my door wide open, encouraging employees to grow an umbilical cord, stoking the bonfires of my vanity as I rattled off one solution after another. By doing so, I also insured they would remain dependent on me reinforcing my own victim’s psychology of ‘why can’t anyone else solve these problems?’ Their resentment grows as I dole out one-and-done solutions. It nags at their self-esteem, chaining their learning and growth to my generosity and problem-solving skills.
Once I realized I was the problem, I changed the dynamic. I disrupted the process I created. That sounds good, right? Disruption, change, personal responsibility...all the good buzzwords.
Just like infinity can be found in a grain of sand, so can the truth of these buzzwords be found in how I executed this change. To save your time, I'll describe it is executed poorly in a manner best described as erratic, inconsistent, creating experiences that were confusing, frustrating.
- Why now? Why am I unwilling to help (their word) spoonfeed (my word) those who followed my encouragement and turned to me for help?
- Aren't our challenges and questions important?
- So, you're saying you don't have time to meet with us and hear the challenges we face?
Change is always easier when its our change for our reasons. When changes are foisted on us, we tend towards resentment especially if it's poorly conceived and communicated. Puh-POW!
Rather than leave you hanging with theoretical ponderables, I offer a recent solution. Stephen Lynch, COO for Results.com described an effective technique to cut the umbilical cord: The GROW Method for Growing Your People. He writes:
As a leader, you want to encourage your people to think though the issues first, and make good decisions themselves. Alternatively, if it is a situation where they really do need your input or sign off, you want them to present (at least two) options along with their thoughtful recommendation as to what the right decision should be.
Show them the door. Recognize their strengths with a method that helps them to recognize their own strengths, owned and yet to be discovered. That adds value to their life, your day and the organization's resources to serve each other and all your stakeholders.