Leaders that prioritise adding value vs those that focus on control..

Leaders that prioritise adding value vs those that focus on control..

Question: Would you say “adding value” is one of your leadership habits – or is it an afterthought?

I know we don’t like to admit this, but sometimes as a leader in a business, our approach can be more about asserting (or regaining) control rather than a consciously adding long-term value in the business, product or team.

Control feels good.. who doesn’t love swooping in to solve something? And isn’t it great to see a team jump on your latest directive?

In contrast Adding Value is more elusive and hard to measure though almost certainly delivers has more of a long-term impact.

Of course, there are times when control and intervention are necessary (in a start-up phase, or when a team is too far off course) – but the next time you’re tempted to step in and take over, have a think about this:

  • If you step in to play hero/firefighter, what does that make the role of others on the team, particularly emerging managers or other ambitious talent?
  • When you control, tell, decide, solve, take charge – what precisely are future leaders learning?
  • When you make a swift change or decision, what are you leaving in your wake
  • When you go straight to command-and-control, what factors or information might you miss or not take time to see?

Control as a management style is nearly always an illusion. After all, in the midst of that quick, decisive command-and-control, there’s little time to consider a situation from all angles. It’s possible that you’re missing hidden, more troubling issues – possible that you’re making a decision or controlling a course of action which won’t hit the intended mark.

So – suggestion for a new rule: Instead of choosing Control as your default, choose Adding Value instead:

Hit the pause button – rein in that habit of showing what you know, what you can do and how you’re in charge

Be curious. Develop this as your primary leadership skill. Rather than assuming you know what’s going on, look at wider factors like behaviour or communication and ask wider, diagnostic questions versus closed questions designed to lead to a quick fix.

Ask questions of everyone involved and not just the usual suspects – this is your chance to look around the issue or problem instead of going for a quick-solve

Often a controller will look for product, system or productivity issues. How about looking for ways in which communication, motivation or accountability within the business might be out of alignment – add value around these and you’ll see performance across the board ramp up

Look for patterns in the team and fix things at the behavioural, not only product, level

Sometimes, of course, direct intervention is essential. After all, the responsibility for end results rests with you. But team strength, ability to make great decisions and group resilience will develop more quickly through the value-add style of leadership.

Perhaps you’ve got great questions you already use? but if all else fails try asking the team some of these (which tap into the innate wisdom that you may sometimes overlook within your team):

“What would need to happen for xyz to happen?”
“What are you holding yourself accountable for”
“What is needed here?”
“What’s the next decision that needs to be made”
“If you could solve one thing within the product/campaign/or in the team, what would it be?”

Finally … The ultimate value-add for any leader lies in developing core resilience through the behaviours of their teams – behaviours and skills that can be relied on whether you’re in the room or not:

  • Conflict-resolution – is there a clear way that your team or business engages to face conflict in a balanced and clean way (rather than letting avoidance or aggression win)?
  • Curiosity – are people are truly curious about what drives or underpins a client’s interests, or a problem they themselves are facing? Genuine curiosity delivers a bigger payback than a checklist of questions or assumptions.
  • Problem-solving – some of the best training I ever has, was from a boss who required me to think of at least 3 ways to deal with any problem that I faced. It was both exasperating (initially) and then ultimately confidence-inspiring as I learned which of my instincts and decisions really had merit.

As the Founder of VIA Consulting, Alex Cameron works with commercial content businesses looking to deliver transformational growth. Alex’s particular interest is helping organisations build resilience through their systems and teams. She also coaches senior leaders and mentors up and coming talent, helping businesses grow formidable leaders in-house. Contact VIA to find out more.