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Christina Lattimer

People Development Magazine


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3 Skills Leaders Use to Set Healthy Parameters


Inspired success is not always about big action or visionary sight or indeed big ideas.   Sometimes it is simply down to everyone doing their part in the right way, taking equal responsibility and doing what needs to be done to achieve success.  

This weeks article talks about 3 skills. people (not only leaders) need to master to experience consistent success in their lives.   Many times I have seen leaders and managers unwittingly disengage teams when there is a lack of balance.  

Leaders usually have a balancing act to perform, especially around how much they allow their team to contribute to organisational success, or how much they take upon their own shoulders.   How  well they harness the commitment, effort, skill and effectiveness of their team and how well they are able to let go and allow their team to take up the challenge and deliver, depends on how well they are able to set healthy parameters.

One of the most difficult dilemmas for a leader can be determining when they should let go and allow employees to either float their boat, or sink.

In order to do this well, leaders need to have three skills

  1. A reciprocal and healthy balance of giving and taking responsibility
  2. An ability to communicate their own boundaries and have a healthy respect for the boundaries of team members.
  3. The courage to take and manage calculated risk.

Being able to apply boundaries in working relationships is essential for good decision making, although for many reasons some find difficult to do so.   A mismatch of boundaries can, and does, create disharmony, distrust and demotivation inside and outside the team.

I remember a story about a CEO who was committed to a life changing cause and was respected by peers and stakeholders.  He got good results mostly and where he didn’t, had a great handle on problems.  What he didn’t realise of course was 75% of his team were slowly sliding off the deck, while the remainder were standing at his back cheering him on, watching him steer the boat.

This great man had such an extended sense of responsibility, he couldn’t see that by trying to control the whole ship, he was systematically disempowering his team one by one.   He was wary of taking risks, giving over control or allowing his team to take some of the responsibility from him.

There are many variations on this theme and it’s not a perfect art, so few people get it completely right. There have been many times I’ve disempowered my kids by making decisions for them.  In a work situation, when the risk seemed too great I have been known to take over and override an employee’s decision; although I tried to do it kindly, it was not always perceived that way.

Sometimes a leader has to  take a calculated risk, and this can mean letting people fall and suffer the consequences of that fall, in order to learn and grow.  Those situations can be a tough call for a leader.

I heard from a team who had big problems because their leader “overdid” delegation.  He was so focussed on what others should or must be responsible for, he left himself out of the equation. He didn’t gain the respect of his team, as they often felt overburdened and were wary of asking for help because the signals he was giving indicated he didn’t really want to be involved, although that wasn’t the case at all.

One of the most difficult issues is respecting role boundaries.  Of course roles are meant to be fluid and let’s face it, we all must cross over role boundaries in order to get the job done.  But there are times when crossing over such boundaries either masks poor performance, or muddies the water so much that accountabilities are confused. Good role boundaries are essential, with a suitable degree of flexibility, to fit different situations.

When to let go and when to keep steering can seem daunting. Much depends on a leader’s inner confidence and maturity.   I have rarely worked with or for a leader who gets risk, responsibility and boundaries completely right.  Being aware, checking understanding and exploring where boundaries lie is essential.

Sign up to get the People Discovery Blog to your email inbox each week and receive a free chapter of my book The 50 Biggest Mistakes Brilliant Leaders and Managers Avoid. 

Christina has managed people for twenty seven years and led hugely successful teams. She has worked with people at all levels in various organisations to help them achieve their potential, and she has been actively involved in the learning and development field in a number of different roles.

People Discovery is a Leadership Development coaching consultancy,  based in North East England, working globally.

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Christina Lattimer


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