Get Out Of The Way

“Get out of the way!”

Several times over the past few weeks this phrase has echoed through my head.  Though the actual words haven’t been spoken, it’s time for me to listen.  I’ve entered a new phase in my leadership journey, and I’m not quite sure how to handle it.  My goal all along has been to invest in people so that they can learn how to lead and invest in people, too.  I’m just not sure I ever realized that for the goal to be reached, it meant that I had to get out of the way.

I’m reaching the phase in leadership where I am finding that I am most effective the more that I let other leaders lead.  A few weeks ago one of the leaders on my team sat me down and asked me for more responsibility.  Wow!  That is a leader’s dream – to have their team hungry for the chance to do more.  I am excited to help her…but it means that I have to start giving up some of the things that I do, and honestly, I am not sure I am ready for that.  In theory, it sounds great to be able to pass along some responsibilities, but in reality, it means I have to let go of some things and that is hard.

We can be so invested in our team that sometimes we allow what we do to become our “baby”.  We are nurturing and helping grow, but we forget that the end result is to launch our “baby” into the world so they can live on their own.  If I continue to try to meet all the needs of my team, I will end up stunting their growth.  Instead of being free to grow and expand, they will be limited by what I allow them to accomplish.

Now the question is – how do I do that?  Here are a few ways I can start.

Stop protecting them.  No I don’t mean that I should just throw my team to the wolves and walk away.  But I need to stop protecting them from failure.  Without the opportunity to fail, I would have never discovered some of my own potential.  Without actually failing, I would have never learned how to ask for help, or how to ask for forgiveness.  Protecting my team from the challenges that I can see (that they might not see) means I don’t trust them or care about them enough to allow them to grow.

Give them all the tools they need.  In my head, I was helping my leaders by not giving them everything I could.  I was protecting their time, protecting  them from extra stress.  But in reality I was again just hampering their growth.  So I can start giving them the time, resources, and access to others who could help them grow.  Sometimes I need to give them more of my time as they think through decisions and figure out how to navigate new situations.   Other times I need to give them the physical resources they need to get the job done – access to information, a budget (that they can spend!), documents they may need.  But perhaps the best tool I can give is an introduction to someone who can help them grow in ways that I can’t.

Help them find their replacement.  Years ago a leader challenged me to find a replacement for myself.  In all honesty, I was initially irritated by the idea.  I love what I do, and I didn’t want to think that someone else might be able to do it even better than I can.  Not only that, but at the time I was challenged with the idea, I couldn’t identify anyone who I thought could take my place.  But over the years, the idea was there in my mind, shaping my decisions, and as the leaders on my team were identified and started growing, I realized that some of them already do a better job than I do, and they could take my place.  So while it’s strange to be looking for someone to take over your responsibilities, I found I wouldn’t be free to continue growing personally until I did.

I am starting to learn how to release things that can be released right now.  I’m learning how to work alongside my team on things I can’t quite release yet.  I’m ready to change my habits and patterns so that others can succeed.

I’m ready to get out of the way!


2 thoughts on “Get Out Of The Way”

  1. Dave Lewis says:

    Other people can take on your role, put they cannot replace you. Leaders are everyone one of them unique, and no one will ever fill their role in quite the way they do. But leaders also realize that they are part of a relay team. Regardless of how well you’ve run your lap, you MUST pass the baton if the team is going to win. And as an relay runner will tell you, the ability to pass the baton well is the most important skill you need to acquire.

    1. Heather says:

      You may have just prompted another blog post. 🙂 Love the relay runner analogy!

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