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Tell me if this sounds familiar. You want your direct reports to be self-reliant. But they want face time with you. They approach you frequently to solicit advice and get help with decisions. And you end up feeling torn. You want to be an involved and accessible leader, and you want to make your team more independent. But you also want to be a focused leader, so you need uninterrupted time to get your own important work done. 

You’re not alone in this dilemma. That’s why I wrote the article “4 Ways Leaders Can Protect Their Time and Empower Their Teams” for Harvard Business Review. In this piece, I delve into why making yourself constantly available isn’t good for you or your team. And I give you some tactics that will both build your team’s self-reliance and give you more time for your most important work.

 

Why Should You Make Your Team More Independent?

 

As I explain in the HBR article, always being available for your team may seem like strong leadership, but it actually creates a couple of big problems:

First, it hampers your team member’s development. They lose out on opportunities to grow by making their own decisions. 

Second, it keeps you from being a focused leader and doing the important, thoughtful activities that your leadership position demands. Yes, supporting your team is important, but if you’re not careful, this can become disempowering. 

Also important is harnessing all of your creativity, vision and insight for the good of your organization. It’s very difficult to claim the time you need for this focused leadership work if your team members constantly email you or drop by. 

 

How to Build Your Team’s Autonomy

 

Making your team more independent doesn’t mean becoming inaccessible and totally hands-off. Bosses like that are also bad for productivity!

Instead, it means striking a better balance between being available for your team and trusting their judgment—which allows you to claim time for work that requires deep, uninterrupted thought. 

In the article, I make the following recommendations to help your team be more independent, so you can be a more focused leader:

  1. Coach after they act, not before. 
  2. Clarify priorities. 
  3. Regularly meet with team members. 
  4. Set your boundaries. 

For more details on being a focused leader and still supporting your team, be sure to read the full article in HBR. And for more on helping your team be more productive, pick up a copy of my book “Work Without Walls.”

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