Is Your Need to Approve Everything Hurting Productivity?

02/19/2017 03:45 pm ET

How often is your team expected to seek approval from you on the projects that they are working on?

If it’s too often, then you may be setting everyone up to fail.

When it comes to working productively, an unnecessary amount of permission-based work can stop progress in its tracks, and create an unhealthy working environment for everyone.

Effective leaders understand that one of the keys to a team’s productivity, is the removal of arbitrary approval processes.

Yet today, we still see some leaders refusing to remove themselves from the process, for fear that things won’t go as they had planned.

Instead, they continue to use permission-based milestones where team members must seek out approval for each step they take during their work-day.

Unsurprisingly, it’s in this type of bureaucratic environment that productivity suffers the most.

Unnecessary Permission Slows Productivity

As a leader, if you feel the need to approve each and every decision within a project, you shouldn’t have handed it off in the first place.

Your role is to provide clarity, guidance, and education when it comes to your teams, not to intervene and try to do their job ‘through’ them.

A few ways to ensure that your teams can do the job you’ve asked them to do, without unnecessary intervention, are to:

· ensure that you have solid processes in place

· put in the amount of time necessary to empower them to work independently

· build up an environment of trust, and embrace mistakes as opportunities to learn and further improve upon skill-sets

How Unnecessary Permission Affects Your Team

Let’s say you’ve asked a team member to prepare a presentation that will be used in an upcoming meeting with a client.

They are tasked with pulling together the information, identifying which points are relevant, and for the overall look and feel of the presentation.

In the absence of a solid process to do this, team members can end up feeling lost, and that they need your approval each step of the way in order to ensure that they are on the right track.

For example, do they know how long it should be or which data points are considered important?

Are there any corporate branding guidelines to take into consideration, which medium is the presentation usually created in, and are there any previous examples that they can review to gain an understanding of what is expected?

There is a fine line between giving people room to produce results in a way that engages them, and asking them to produce something based on little to no information.

After too many vague projects, and the need to ‘check in’ on your expectations along the way, individuals begin to question why they are being asked to take on initiatives in the first place.

The results of this type of leadership are decreased productivity, damaged morale, and an unnecessarily cumbersome process.

How Unnecessary Permission Affects You

When it’s stated, or implied, that your team must seek out approval to move from one step to another as they complete tasks, this creates a bottleneck for productivity.

Not only does this type of leadership activity send a message that you don’t have confidence in your team’s ability to execute, but it places an unneeded amount of pressure and extra work onto you.

As a leader your role is to engage with the team, educate and inspire them, and empower them to make great decisions.

Expecting them to check in with you and gain approval too frequently, means that you are no longer able to focus on your true purpose within the role.

What this means is divided attention, increased stress levels, and an environment where you have made it impossible for anyone to grow – including yourself.

Imagine for a moment that the client presentation that you’ve asked a team member to create is due to be shown in three days, but you are going to be on a business trip for the next two.

If your team member has not been set up to succeed, and requires your input on color choice, font styles, length of presentation, or basic content requirements, then everyone is going to be working frantically upon your return.

Rather than running through a solid draft when you get back, and making minor tweaks where necessary, you and your team member are forced to work through it under pressure.

Once you line up the list of projects, tasks, and initiatives that your team is working on, you now have a conveyor belt of ‘approvals’ to go through for minor work, when your time (and theirs) could be better used elsewhere.

When it comes to leadership and productivity levels within your team, it’s important to recognize that the way you have positioned yourself with regards to executing on day to day work, is important.

Simplifying your leadership style can lend itself directly to the productivity levels you and your team are able to experience, and can also foster a much healthier working environment.

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