We unfortunately set people up to fail all the time. We may have the best intentions, and we may think we’re setting our reports up to succeed, but we may be making things more difficult for them. We may not be giving them the resources and support they need, or we may be inadvertently placing obstacles in their way. We may be setting them up to fail.

Fortunately, there is something that we can do about this. We can learn the ways we unintentionally set others up to fail, and then we can do our best to avoid those things. Or at least to lessen their blow. So what are some of the common missteps? Here are a few:

  • Not giving people enough rope – If we don’t give the people around us what they need to do and succeed at their jobs, then they can’t do or succeed at their jobs. As leaders we need to make certain that employees have the tools and resources they need with which to do their work, and we need to remove any obstacles or barriers that get in their way.
  • Not giving people enough rope #2 – We set the people who report to us up to fail when we don’t give them enough freedom and leeway to try things on their own. If we don’t give them space to do their work, if we don’t give them authority to make decisions, take actions, and move things forward then they can’t move things forward.
  • Giving people too much rope – On the other hand, if we give the people on our team too much authority or too much space or too much freedom, then we’ve set them up to not only fail, but to potentially (metaphorically) hang themselves. We want to make sure that we’re involved enough. That the people on our team know when to come to us and what to involve us in. You want those around you to feel empowered to do their jobs, but to not feel stranded, abandoned, or alone.
  • Not sharing enough information – People not only need resources and tools, they also need information. The right information. Timely information. And useful information. Too often leaders will not share all they can with their employees. They may not want to overburden or overwhelm people, or they may just want to keep the information to and for themselves (as knowledge is power). Either way, if employees don’t understand where the business is going, what challenges the business is facing, where the resources they need are, or who has the latest data, they are much less likely to be successful.
  • Sharing too much, or the wrong, information – On the other hand, sometimes we over-share. We can overwhelm our employees. Or give them information that they didn’t necessarily need to know, such as personal issues another employee is having or dissension and conflict within the leadership team or Board. There are certain things that don’t help people move forward with their tasks and responsibilities, and those are the things that aren’t worth sharing.

There are a number of ways that we, at times inadvertently, set others up to fail. But by making ourselves more and more aware of these missteps, and by aiming for that fine balance in-between the too much and not enough that get in employees’ ways, we can more likely set them up to succeed.

How do you set your team up to succeed?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.


For support in setting others up to succeed, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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Photo Credit: Andrey_Kuzmin/Bigstock.com

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