By Michael Mellen
When supervising, parenting, advising, mentoring, or coaching, when the other person seems to be on the right track, I often have one more thought, idea, or tweak to consider. Or two more. Or three. Even when I know the person I’m talking with has a good idea, I still sense that extra little something that might make all the difference and I share and share again. Sharing isn’t so harmful, maybe it’s even helpful in the moment. However, people start to count on me for an extra idea, for advice, for having an answer, and they start to trust themselves a little less. Without much effort, I’m doing their work, coming up with their ideas, trusting in me instead of in them. I’m getting in the way of them owning their work.
Imagine that a staff person comes to you with a challenge. They share the challenge with you and you ask, “How are you thinking of handling this challenge?” Your team member shares an idea. If you’re like me, and this idea is decent, you will share all the ways in which their approach works and ways in which it might work even better. This approach seems to be successful.
However, there’s another option. Use “My Scale of Close Enough.”
What is My Scale of Close Enough? It’s a scale from 1-10 that indicates how close to outstanding (a 10) an idea or plan needs to be for a leader to respond with, “Great. Go try it,” or “Go for it,” without adding anything or suggesting a change.
In part, a leader’s spot on the scale is circumstantial, as there are times where the plan must go very well or the risk of failure is too great. However, the score is also highly related to a leader’s general approach or comfort level.
What is your score? If you’re a 9 or 10, you’re looking for your team member’s plan to match your ideal plan pretty closely. If you’re a 6-8, you’d like the plan to be pretty good, but it can differ from your ideal a bit. 5 or under and you’re generally willing to let your team try whatever they’d like. Most of us have a general score, though it will inevitably vary depending on the circumstances. But it’s important to consider whether your score is a bit too high in most day-to-day situations and if you can take a step back and give the people you work with more autonomy and ownership of their work.
How can I use my score in practice? Pay attention when a team member brings you a challenge to discuss or an idea for a new project. If their plan is good enough, if it meets your score, just say, “Go for it. Let me know how it goes,” and send them on their way. No additional tweaks or suggestions needed, just support to act on their idea. Down the road, you’ll check in with them to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what they might do differently in the future. In the moment, though, leave the work with them.
What’s the potential impact? This approach supports creating an environment where people other than you own the work, come up with ideas, and can learn from their successes and their mistakes. It also creates an environment where you remove yourself from micromanaging other people’s jobs so you have time to focus on your own work. You uncover more time for reflection, growth, and improvement. Notably, this is not an absence of supervision or guidance but rather a reframing of how and when you share your ideas, values, and insights in a way that best supports your team and allows the work to happen in meaningful ways without you getting in the way.
Need some guidance on how to get more comfortable with being close enough? Contact us today.