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How You’re Holding Back Your Team & 4 Reasons to Release Them

This post is by Jenni Catron. Jenni is Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group and is a member of my  Speaking Team. You can book Jenni to consult with your team or speak at your next event here.

By Jenni Catron

Someone may be holding back your team. 

Someone may be impeding your growth. 

Someone may be frustrating and demotivating your staff.

And quite possibly that someone is you.

Most leaders that I meet today intend to be good leaders. You value the importance of leadership, and you recognize the tremendous stewardship opportunity to pour into others, develop them, and rally them around a unified goal.

You work hard to recruit and assemble a great team of people that you enjoy doing life and work with.

The trouble is that for all your efforts to support, direct, inspire and lead, you may actually be doing the opposite of what you hope.

I learned this lesson in a very intense and demanding season. I was leading a large, fast-growing church.  We had an amazing team, and I had an even better Executive Team.

We should have been crushing it, and instead everyone, including me, was frustrated.

No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t seem to get momentum. We had constant communication breakdowns. Our staff and volunteers were apathetic, and morale was low.

While the external metrics looked good, behind the scenes there was tension and continual frustration. We all felt like we were spinning our wheels. 

As the leader of the team, I knew I needed to get us together to figure out what was going on. We were better than this and I was committed to getting to the bottom of it. 

I was so committed that I opened the meeting by saying, “Something isn’t working. We all feel it. It seems we don’t know what to do about it, and so we’re going to start with me. As the leader of this team, I need to take responsibility for our ineffectiveness. For the next hour, I want you to tell me where I am creating the confusion that is hindering our momentum.”

As you can imagine, it was dead quiet for a few minutes.  Eyes darting from person to person silently asking, “Is she serious or is this a trap?”

But I was serious and, with a little bit of coaxing, they began to share their frustrations and observations.  Their feedback was simple. “We need you to define what we need to do and clarify why we need to do it, then release us to figure out how. 

That’s it? They actually needed less from me?

What they weren’t saying directly but they were clearly implying is that I was micro-managing details that I didn’t need to be a part of.

At first, I wanted to argue.  I wasn’t a micro-manager! I just cared deeply about the work we were doing and wanted to make sure everyone understood what we’ve done in the past and how we did it so they could more efficiently keep it moving.

That sounded great in my head,  but once I started to say it out loud, I realized the frustration I was creating.

I had unintentionally become a bottleneck in the organization.  Out of a desire to be helpful, thorough, efficient, and if I’m honest…to be right, I had neutered my team of the autonomy to figure out how to best accomplish the work.    

The lesson for me that day was simple: Define the What.  Release the How.

I needed to release the How of our work so that our team could take the ideas further than I could by myself.

As leaders, we will find ourselves in similar moments throughout the different stages of organizational growth.  Before you create a bottleneck in your organization, consider these four reasons that you need to be continually releasing your team to do the How.

1) You may not actually know the best way to do it anymore. 

If you’re the founding leader or long-tenured staff member, this will be extremely challenging.  Many leaders rise to responsibilities of leadership after having served in numerous different roles throughout the organization.

Your competence and experience got you to the position of leadership, but overly relying on that experience may be the thing that inhibits your continued growth. 

Your competence and experience got you to the position of leadership, but overly relying on that experience may be the thing that inhibits your continued growth. Click To Tweet

The people closest to the challenge often have the most perspective on how to navigate it.

While you might have led a specific ministry or department in the past, it’s likely that you don’t know the best practices that will allow it to flourish today. 

Your past experience doesn’t necessarily make you an expert today. 

Your past experience doesn’t necessarily make you an expert today. Click To Tweet

2) It will challenge your team to bring fresh ideas.

When you direct every detail, you train your team to wait to be told what to do.  This creates passive team members that are reactive rather than proactive.

When you stop dictating the details, your team will be encouraged to think for themselves.  They will begin to have more ownership in their responsibilities.   

The best ideas emerge from the people closest to the problem. Make sure you’re creating a culture that values problem-solving rather than problem-reacting. 

The best ideas emerge from the people closest to the problem. Click To Tweet

3) It will stretch your team to do more. 

Do you ever get frustrated with team members who do the bare minimum? 

When team members lack the agency to direct their work, they become bored and complacent. They lack the energy and motivation to do more.

When team members feel empowered to make decisions and are valued for their ideas and initiative, their motivation grows. 

When we release the How we release our teams to dream bigger. Rather than see the specific task, they see opportunity. If they see opportunity and believe they have an influence in making that opportunity happen, they will engage more deeply. 

When team members feel empowered to make decisions and are valued for their ideas and initiative, their motivation grows. Click To Tweet

4) It will free you up to be focused on the future. 

As the leader, we need you out ahead of the team planning the future direction. When you’re too busy directing How you don’t have the margin to be dreaming up the next What.

A good way to gauge whether you are focused on the What versus the How is to evaluate where you spend the bulk of your time. Is most of your time each week spent on responding to immediate issues or are you spending time planning out the months ahead?

I believe that senior leaders should spend the majority of their time on projects and plans at least three to six months in the future. If you’re not dedicating time to planning for the future, you’re likely spending too much time directing the how of the day-to-day.

When you spend your time and energy operating at the right altitude, you get to focus on the vision and direction for the future and your team has the freedom to make the day-to-day decisions they can and should make. Both of you win and both of you grow!

Define the What.  Release the How.  In doing so, you’ll elevate your leadership and empower your team.

When you’re too busy directing How, you don’t have the margin to be dreaming up the next What. Click To Tweet

Growth Is Hard, Here Is Everything I know: 

Getting a stuck church growing or helping a church that’s reaching new people grow even further can seem daunting.

It doesn’t have to be.

Whether you’re a church that isn’t growing, has plateaued, or whether you wish your church was growing faster than it is, I’d love to help you break through. That’s why I created the Church Growth Masterclass.

The Church Growth Masterclass is everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

Naturally, I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that.

But I believe you can position your church to grow.

You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people. That’s what I’d love to help you do in the Church Growth Masterclass.

In the Church Growth Masterclass I’ll show you:

  • The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The 5 keys to your church better impacting millennials.
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change
  • 5 essentials for church growth
  • 5 disruptive church trends to watch—and how to respond
  • How to increase church attendance by increasing engagement.

The Masterclass includes a complete set of videos that you can play with your team, board or staff, PDF workbooks that will help you tackle the issues you’re facing, and bonus materials that will help you navigate the most pressing issues facing churches that want to reach their cities today.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

What about your team?

Where are you dictating too many details? Where do you need to define the What, but release the How?  Scroll down and share with us in the comments! 

1 Comment

  1. Matthew Guddat on July 31, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    Great stuff

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