You wanted more responsibility in your company – and you got it.
But in addition to a bigger role and a bigger team, you have bigger problems. As your business and responsibility grows, your team needs to grow – and the way you think about leading needs to shift and grow, too.
What worked in the past won’t work now; what got us here won’t necessarily get us where we want to go. When your team expands significantly, you’ll need to find new ways to delegate so you can free up time and energy for new challenges and opportunities. You’ll need to sidestep some of the time traps that come with a bigger.
When your team grows exponentially, you need to lead differently. Gone are the days when you talk to each team member individually for an hour every Friday. It’s no longer possible (or advisable!) to intervene in every employee skirmish.
For a lot of new leaders, a bigger team = bigger problems.
Here are four common traps that leaders encounter as teams expand and tips on how to avoid them.
Trap 1: Scheduling Like a Personal Trainer
When it was you and four direct reports, the weekly, one-hour check-in was a great idea. But what if you go from four employees to eight? I’ve had clients who keep the same 1-hour a week schedule after doubling their team, and guess what happens? Well, you just lost one whole workday.
Better idea: As your team grows, you should also change how you meet with them and not just replicate what you did before. Try meeting with every employee one-on-one for 20 minutes each week instead; set a tight agenda so you both know what you’ll be covering. Schedule more in-depth check-ins (say, 1.5 hours) once a month. Making this change can give you back two or three full workdays every month!
Trap 2: Being the Chief Problem Solver
Tell me if this sounds familiar: since you’re the one who has delegated tasks, you think it’s your responsibility to fix any problems that your team encounters while executing those tasks. I see this with my clients all the time! But the truth is, the best person to solve a problem is the one closest to it. If you’re constantly popping in to put out fires, no one will ever learn to solve those problems themselves.
Better idea: Teach your team that if they’re going to come to you with a problem, they need to be able to present two potential solutions. Even if those ideas are “abandon this project” and “hire an expert to finish it,” the process of brainstorming solutions is important.
Trap 3: Taking on the role of Chief Mentor
Mentoring employees and taking an active interest in their professional development is absolutely important to build their skills while increasing morale and retention rates. But you don’t need to be the only source of your staff’s development.
Better idea: Include peer-to-peer mentoring as part of their development. Pair team members and get them started with frameworks, habit shifts, or guiding questions – and let them learn how to coach each other through obstacles. This doesn’t mean you abdicate your mentoring role, but it doesn’t make you the sole source of mentoring. Peer mentoring builds collaboration and community within your team (while freeing up your schedule).
Trap 4: Serving as the Chief Therapist
Many of us avoid confrontation, so you probably won’t be surprised when one employee complains to you about another employee. Employee conflicts can eat up your time, sap your energy, and lead to communication breakdowns. If you don’t train your team to deal with conflicts in a direct way vs. a passive aggressive way, you’re making yourself the hub of a complicated wheel.
Better idea: During the onboarding process, teach your team how to deal with conflict. Make sure they understand the communication guidelines, coach them on how to approach team members they have issues with, and give them the tools to better understand each other. Show your team how to have the tough conversations with each other so they can avoid these issues in the future.
You can get them started by asking “How would you like [name] to handle this in the future? What do you want to be different next time around? What requests can you make of your team member to create a better result?” Once they have their answer, encourage them to actually make that request.
As your team grows, your management and leadership needs to grow as well.
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