When my son was around 5 years old, he really didn’t like vegetables. My responsibility as his Dad was to keep him healthy and safe and that meant making sure he ate at least a few green beans before he had desert. I took responsibility for his choices back then, mostly by offering him limited options to choose from before dinner. “Would you like green beans or black eyed peas?” was a phrase I repeated often that year! And, it worked. He made healthy choices because I controlled his options. It was great because I kept him healthy and safe while he was able to retain his right to choose.
I’ve noticed that managers and executives tend to fall into similar patterns when guiding their teams. Out of a desire to keep the business healthy and safe, we revert to thinking our responsibility is to give good choices and let the team decide which one they’d like to pursue. Especially when times get tough. We’re the manager or executive after all, right? We have to keep things safe and healthy. We give our approach a grown-up name like empowerment, delegation or brainstorming so people believe they have more ownership than they do. What we are really doing at times is searching for the choice to provide the team that is healthy and safe. We even start to believe it’s in the team’s best interest that we operate this way. What a mistake! I know because I made the unfortunate error of trying to lead this way. At that point in time I didn’t know that giving others choices doesn’t mean you aren’t controlling them. I demotivated others because of my inability to define problems that needed to be solved. As a result, I never cut them loose to use their strengths in developing solutions. This created doubt, confusion, and fear in others. Asking your team “green beans or black -eyed peas?” is the wrong question.
How do you know if you’re controlling your team like I was? Here are phrases I heard from my team that let me know something had to change. I hope they’re as useful for you as they were for me.
If you recognize that you’re making the same mistake I made years ago, you can change. I’m proof it’s possible! It takes intentionality and many times an executive coach can help you work through the process of change more effectively than you could do on your own. A good first step to transform your leadership behavior is registering for a free strategy session that I’m making available to anyone who’s committed to a journey of growth. You can do that here.
W. Shane McKenzie is The Leadership Transformation Coach. He helps leaders achieve greater effectiveness and become more fulfilled in their work by facilitating positive changes in their leadership behaviors. Join the Leadership Transformation Roundtable to get your copy of the questionnaire Shane uses to discover how close his intentions match the reality of those he leads.
What others are saying about W. Shane McKenzie
"I’ve worked with Shane for several years. He possesses a unique and highly effective combination of strategy, team leader and great communicator, a rare combination. He has a very strategic mind so he makes connections and sees disjointed paths where others do not. This allows him to both plot direction and execute the path to success. He’s truly committed to the greatness in others. He listens fully, asks the right questions at the right time, and gives us the space to both think and respond." - Linda Lindquist-Bishop, Strategic Facilitator, Speaker, Exit Planning for Business Owners, and World Champion Athlete
“Shane has the ability to frame a conversation in a way that brings a thought or concept full circle. He’s excellent at tying each session together, which helped me recognize a pattern of growth. He’s not a “teacher”; he’s a discussion facilitator…in other words these sessions aren’t built around Shane teaching concepts. This method of facilitation opens the door for personal application, which is critical to this development process. He asked questions that forced me to think with intention.”- G. Williams, Product Manager
“Shane is a trusted peer whose advice I seek when faced with leadership challenges. He brings clarity to tough situations and has been an objective sounding board for over 14 years!” – Pamela Westbrooks, Vice President of Administration
W. Shane McKenzie is an Executive Coach and Mentor who specializes in helping successful leaders leave their job to own a business using proven strategies to minimize risk.