Marianne Williamson said, “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” Put in a slightly different context, I’d say, “A leader playing small doesn’t serve her organization.”
You were hired, or maybe you started your business, or you were promoted because you have particular, superstar strengths in certain areas. Unless you’re leveraging that unique skillset every single day, you are cheating your company, your team members, and frankly, yourself.
Allow me to give you a couple examples of what I’m talking about.
Think about the CEO who sent out three (yes, three) emails warning team members not to leave King Cake crumbs and coffee stains in the break room. Seriously. To me, this screams that he is avoiding dealing with much bigger issues. Why? Maybe because he feels like he’s in over his head. Maybe he is afraid to tackle the bigger CEO issues, or most likely, he feels more comfortable dealing with these small-potatoes-situations.
Then there's my coaching client, the CFO, who came to me because she was a stressed out Sally, working 16-hour days, a walking zombie, and her personal life was falling apart. When we delved into why she was doing this, we talked about the fact that she had a quite capable staff who was ready, willing, and able to do their jobs. Through our work together, she discovered that she was a card-carrying control freak, who feared her team members wouldn’t perform tasks to her standards and it would all be a reflection on her. So her team members were sipping daiquiris on the parade route while she worked herself into a coma.
You need to play your part and handle the responsibilities for which you are uniquely suited – whatever your position or role might be – and let others on the team do what they are qualified to do.
If you’ve been playing small, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you to play big:
Is this the highest and best use of my time right now? As a leader your time is valuable and should not be frittered away on tasks that someone else can and should easily do.
Am I being super tactical? Am I caught up in the weeds of my business, or am I being strategic, focused solely on the big picture? Truly successful leaders actually have what I like to call bi-focal vision. You must be able to focus on both the long-range vision for the organization, as well as on the steps that you’ll have to take to achieve that vision.
Have I become the team problem solver? Instead of trying to always have the right answers, strive instead to ask good questions. This will spur team members to think critically about the situation and foster their own good problem solving skills.
Could someone else easily take on this responsibility? Could I mentor a team member so he/she could grow into this responsibility? Become a master at delegating what is yours to do. Spending a little time on the front end to train a team member will be worth it if it relieves you of a less than high level task going forward.
Am I stepping up and making the tough decisions that are mine to make, or am I shying away from those decisions and potentially losing the respect of my team? An effective leader gets the necessary input, but ultimately has the courage to make difficult and often unpopular decisions that are in the best interest of the organization as a whole.
Am I holding my cards close, preserving the status quo, or am I taking calculated risks that take me out of my comfort zone? On the other side of uncertainty lies opportunity. To truly be successful, a leader must get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Am I trying to go it alone? Often a leader can get to a position or to a point in her career where she feels isolated and lonely. That's when it's a good idea to hire a leadership coach to work through and process the many issues that come up in your leadership role.
Your playing small serves no one. As a leader, you have a responsibility to step up, speak up, and reach up to expand fully into your role and give the best that you have to give to your organization.
Jennifer Ledet is a speaker, facilitator, author and coach who amplifies the strengths, performance and results of leaders and teams from the boardroom to the mailroom. Visit www.ledetmanagement.com for more info and to join in her blog discussions.