Over the last year, I’ve had more opportunity to lead people than ever before. Tixers was an extremely small company, and all of my leadership prior to that was volunteer groups. Leading full time employees, whom I did not hire and often had been at the company much longer than I had, was a different animal entirely.
I’ve learned a lot about leadership. And I’ve also learned that I wasn’t as good at leadership as I had thought.
One lesson I learned early on was the net value of requesting changes to the work of the people I lead.
In a leadership role, it’s common to see a deliverable once it’s completed, or very near completion. It was likely created with direction or feedback you had given initially, but will have surprises or unique characteristics you didn’t expect.
For a while, it seemed clear to me that I should weigh in on all of these surprises and give feedback of what I thought would add to the work. Two minds are better than one – and adding your input on top of your team’s work should enhance that work, right?
What I found is that for a team to work at a high level, members (all members) need to have a sense of ownership. Some how, some way, your team needs to see a reflection of themselves in the work to take pride in creating it.
When I gave my feedback on the surprises or unique characteristics, my team would often hear, “this isn’t good enough” or “your idea is bad.” I didn’t say those things, but by critiquing their work, that was how it could be internalized.
What’s more, I realized that I often lacked some context. There are often constraints (like time or resources) that lead to certain decisions, despite another desired direction.
There is certainly an important place for feedback, frequent need for changes to deliverables, and leveraging the minds of multiple people is a powerful tool.
But, when giving feedback or suggesting changes, remember that you are changing someone’s baby (at least you want them to think of it as their baby). Implicitly, they may feel less ownership, less pride, and less enthusiasm for the work. Of course, this can be alleviated (or made worse) by how you structure your feedback and message.
When requesting changes, remember that there is a strong risk of lack of ownership in the new work. It’s worth considering: is the edit worth it?