Experienced managers recognize the value of stepping back, trusting employees, and placing them in the driver’s seat when the opportunity arises. This move comes with risks, of course, but risks are an essential aspect of growth, and they’re an essential aspect of effective management. Hovering and micromanaging will send you in the wrong direction, since it leaves both you AND your employee in a state of anxiety and paralysis, afraid to make a single decision or a single mistake.

But the opposite can drive both of you forward toward confidence and progress. As your employee learns to fearlessly pilot the bicycle with no training wheels, you learn to fearlessly cheer from the sidelines without interfering. What a team! And though things may seem dodgy and scary at first, your efforts will eventually pay off. Here’s how.

Risk is scary, but manageable.

If you place an inexperienced employee at the head of a project that you’re accustomed to leading yourself, things can—and probably will—go pear-shaped pretty quick. But if you expect this and anticipate it, the recovery will happen faster. You may take your hands off the project (scary), but you’re the one who decides how close to stand, how many resources you’re willing to provide if your employee asks, and exactly when it’s time (if ever) to sound the alarm and lend a hand. You control the level of risk you’re able to accept, and you’re the one who places a floor on how bad the crash can be. That’s your job, so crunch your numbers and make your choices before you clear the area.

Give them what they need before the wheels go up.

Chances are, a truly inexperienced employee will never feel fully “ready” to take charge for the very first time. Some nerves and hesitancy are perfectly normal the first time we do anything difficult. But as they navigate the threshold of a big responsibility, give them all the tools you estimate they’ll need. Provide the education and preparation that YOU deem necessary; don’t wait for them to ask for something (contacts, spreadsheets, warnings) if you know it’s something they’ll need later.

Be ready to praise and encourage—not scold.

First-time leadership is hard, and it doesn’t typically result in flawless, golden victory. Instead, it comes with bumps, bruises, embarrassments, lost time and money, and valuable lessons. So, stand by to pick the employee up and dust them off, NOT scold and criticize their best effort because it falls short of perfect.  This time get ready to load your feedback with positivity. Save the negativity, punishments, and complaints for future attempts.

Prepare your employees for leadership and then step back and watch them soar. For guidance, contact the management team at Extension.


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