You can feel it. And it’s not a very comfortable feeling.
There’s this presence hovering over you, watching your every move.
There’s tension in the air, and it permeates your thinking.
Every action, every word on a page, and every utterance is tainted by that tension.
They get over analyzed, over scrutinized, over thought and over processed by that tension.
Consequently, everything comes out labored. It looks and sounds like things produced by someone trying to tiptoe through a minefield without blowing up.
You’ve entered the “Mediocre Zone”.
All because your boss was looking over your shoulder.
Have you been in the Mediocre Zone? I’ve been there several times in my career, and it was brutal. Just thinking about it brings back that tension [I could feel my shoulders crunching up as I typed that sentence].
I did not produce the work I was capable of at those times. And it taught me a valuable lesson about leadership.
Great leadership is about creating an open and authentic work environment, rather than contrived and controlling.
What does it take for a leader to do that? There are three words that immediately come to mind.
One, is empathy.
Put yourself in your teammates shoes. Would you want someone to micromanage you into the Mediocre Zone? The answer is going to be a big “no”, because chances are you’ve been there. As painful as it may be (oh yes) to conjure it back up, it’s worth it.
The second word is patience.
Not everybody gets work done in the same way, and at the same pace. Not everybody is YOU. You can’t force progress at the exact pace of your choosing. So, sometimes you have to let things unfold naturally, and use restraint. Let your team stumble, then right themselves – on their own – on the way to success.
Somebody once said long ago, “patience is a virtue“. From the moment I heard that well worn (but oh so true) cliche, it stuck with me, and it has been very useful to me every time I had an urge to micromanage.
The last word is release.
I remember when I was in the Mediocre Zone, I kept saying to myself “Why doesn’t this person trust me to do my job?”. What it really boils down to is this: leaders HAVE to release the very thing that they worked so hard to get to become a leader – control. AND, that control has to be released to the right people. That’s where good hiring practices some into play. It’s much easier to trust people who have what it takes to get the job done, and then some.
Empathize, be patient, and release. That will keep you away from shoulders, and the Mediocre Zone.
(Photo by Bigstock)