One of the primary jobs of the leader is to make sure his or her team has what they need to succeed. Good leaders make sure the team has the resources they need, and often a great leader will work hard to give his or her team exceptional amounts of resources or support. Often a great leader will want to give his or her team “no excuse to fail” and everything the team could ever need to succeed.
But is there such a thing as “too much” help for your team? I think there is.
I am spending a lot of time these days with the US Olympic Sailing Team. I’ll be the Team Leader at the Games, and have served as Chairman for the last eight years. The Games begin in 39 days, and our team is in the final preparations for the Games performance.
Over the last four years, we have been working on improving the amount of resources our team has available to them.We want them to have every advantage and every confidence that they are well supported. This should help them be in a good frame of mind for the Games.
But at some point, do you give your team too much support? When are you making it too easy for them? I’m asking this in the hypothetical because I don’t believe we have done that for our Olympic Team, but it is an important and valid question to ask.
I think the answer is “yes” it is possible, but where the line is between “enough” and “too much” will depend on the team, the nature of the challenge in front of them, and the degree of your need for them to be successful. The location of the line will always depend on the situation.
Here are the critical questions to ask yourself, as you look for that line with your own team:
1. Will the potential support provided directly impact an outcome, or is it just a “nice to have”? The “nice to have” is exactly that, but it’s not always necessary and may create a softer culture than you think is necessary. If the support directly impacts the outcome, that’s different.
2. Will the potential support provided improve their skills for this project and others in the future, or will it dull the “survival skills” my team will need over the long term? I don’t want the support to reduce the competitive skills of my team over time, even if it helps in the short term. In others, words, a coach who tells them what to do, might help the team hit a deadline in the short term, but over time, they won’t be building their own skill set.
3. Have increased resources translated into better results in the past? If yes, then rewarding the team with more support can be a clear cause and effect that they will react to again in the future. If no, then you should think about whether the team has earned more support.
There are lots of ways to think about this problem, but the bottom line here is that leaders need to always be thinking about what their team really needs, what is critical for success and what is just extra.
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