On your path to leadership, you likely developed a reputation as a problem-solver. That ability doubtless helped you get promoted—and you probably still enjoy helping your team members solve problems. But don’t be so fast to jump in and take over, a recent Leading With Trust blog post warns. You may be cheating your team out of gaining the competence and confidence that comes from solving their own problems. You also may be creating a sense of learned helplessness among your team members, conditioning them to expect that you’ll always be there to give them the answer.

Instead, help your team become self-reliant problem solvers. Draw out their thinking with open-ended questions and help them consider alternatives.

How else might you be cheating your team?

  • Micromanaging. Though you may just intend to make sure a task is done correctly, this controlling behavior indicates that you don’t trust the abilities of your team members. Micromanagement kills motivation, reduces your team’s creativity and stifles innovation.
  • Not having high enough expectations. People often perform to the level of expectations placed upon them—and good leaders push their team to perform at the highest level possible.

Source: “4 Ways Managers Cheat Their Employees,” Leading With Trust blog, Jan. 24, 2021


Want to empower autonomous teams and free the front line to innovate without opening the door to chaos? Putting guardrails in place can help create alignment and control while also giving employees more freedom.

  • Cultivate a strategic mindset to keep decisions aligned with priorities.Ensure that everyone in the organization has a sense of the business model, strategic plans and how their work could push the organization forward.
  • Implement “simple rules” to help leaders deal with blockages. When a bottleneck arises, leaders at all levels identify the problem and come up with a simple rule to help address it, and then step out of the way.
  • Not every innovation idea can or should move forward. There has to be a funneling process. It begins when product developers attract talent to their teams and partner to get resources. Next, seasoned leaders who have a broad view of the organization may point to similar projects or synergies with other teams. Then, the team must prove that the project is a good strategic bet for the company and deserves organizational resources.Throughout the process, some ideas get refined, while others die a quiet death.
  • Managing risk should be everyone’s job. Create a culture of distributed risk mitigation in which anyone can order a “stop” for a project that is risky in terms of revenue or reputation. Train employees on assertiveness and the benefits of advocating the best course of action even though it might involve conflict with others.

Source: “How to Give Your Team the Right Amount of Autonomy,” Harvard Business Review, July 11, 2019