Unpluggable Leadership

Hand Unplug Or PluggedCan you unplug as a leader? I’m not talking about being away from the office, but still tethered to your phone and computer. I’m talking about unplugging . . . not thinking about work for an extended period of time. It seems somewhere along the way, it became a status symbol for work to be like another appendage — always connected to your ear, your fingers, or at the very least your brain. And yet, you’ll be a healthier, more productive leader if you unplug on a regular basis.

Granted, being able to truly unplug does take some advance work. For example, does your organization have a culture of autonomy or dependency? Are your people allowed to make decisions and implement solutions, or do you expect them to come to you for every decision? News flash, if you’ve hired well and have a clearly communicated vision, in most instances your people will find solutions to the challenges before them. No, they won’t always handle things exactly the way you would, and you can process through their thinking and yours either before or after the decision is made. The point is . . . what are you doing to build your confidence, and that of your staff, that they are fully capable of making important decisions? A few suggestions:

  1. Have a clear expectation that for every challenge brought to you, one or more possible solutions are also suggested. This builds solution-focused thinking within your team. In most cases, they are closer to and have more information regarding the situation than you do, and thus are able to consider, or rule out, a wider range of possible responses. Solution- focused thinking is like a muscle . . . it expands through regular use.
  2. Listen and ask questions rather then provide answers. This is a tough one for some leaders. When a member of your team is discussing what they see as a possible solution, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. If you feel they may be missing an important factor, ask them if they considered it rather than telling them what you think they overlooked. Help them to tap into their own wisdom and problem-solving skills.
  3.  Let them run with it. Once you and your people gain confidence in their ability to handle complex decisions, you need to let them make them! Some leaders can feel a bit “left out” when their team starts making more decisions. Resist the urge to re-insert yourself where your people don’t need you. Stay informed as opposed to involved. The whole purpose of building a top-notch team is so you can focus your energies on more strategic, big-picture endeavors.

Which brings me back to my original point . . . one of the best ways to expand strategic, big picture thinking is to unplug on a regular basis. And ultimately, that’s the job of a leader, right — strategic, big-picture thinking? So what’s stopping you? Build the culture, grow your team, take a deep breath . . . and unplug.

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