By Michael Gunther
When reflecting on client conversations over the last few weeks, I was intrigued to find a similar pattern of issues. These leaders felt that their team doesn’t take any responsibility and that all of the issues come back to the leadership team to resolve. They became overwhelmed with tasks and decisions that they believe should be handled by their team. These leaders, in essence, have become the bottleneck within their own organization. Sound familiar to anyone?
The cause of the bottleneck syndrome is multifold, from my perspective, with the blame of the situation landing right back on the leaders’ shoulders. They have created this ‘lack of responsibility’ environment. If they want to change, they need to adjust how they solve problems and, ultimately, need to learn how to better manage their team.
Most leaders rose through the ranks by working hard, making decisions and creating solid solutions to help the business grow. They are used to being the point person to lead and direct their team to accomplish various tasks and projects. Through this process, they have gained confidence in their ability to problem solve and be that ‘go to’ person within their team or company. Yet, this is where the challenge rests.
These instincts, abilities and knowledge are actually the areas that hinder their effectiveness as leaders. Good leaders aren’t the problem solvers or the ‘white knight’ to save the day when challenges percolate. Instead, they are the leaders who are teaching their team to develop their skills, become better problem solvers and think differently. It is often in this transition to coach and teacher that befuddles many leaders who find themselves with a bottleneck problem. What made them successful may actually be causing them to be poor leaders.
This often plays out in the work environment when, for example, the top sales person is promoted to lead their department. They are so used to being a doer that they don’t know how to become a facilitator. They might attempt poor management structures or behaviors that they believe should work, but without any coaching or guidance to the contrary, they end up becoming the person hindering the growth of others – and their department.
The reality is that leadership is one of the most rewarding and challenging feats to pull off. Talk to most people about their boss’ attributes and you may hear phrases like “incompetent,” “hard to work for,” and “don’t know what they’re doing” to describe them. For business owners, this epidemic can prevent you and your team from creating the results you are striving for while decreasing the effectiveness of your organization.
Are you or one of your leaders suffering from the bottleneck syndrome? Do you find yourself feeling like you can’t trust anyone but yourself to make the right decisions and resolve issues? Well, if you answered yes to either of these questions, maybe it is time for you to become a collaborative leader focused on creating authentic, purposeful and impactful collaboration. Become the leader you know you want to be.