Do you rob your team?

A few years back, I was the platoon leader of an amazing group of young, U.S. Army men and women. We were stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia and had a pretty prominent global mission that garnered some attention and a significant, multi-million dollar budget. The mission was tough, demanding, and there was lots of work to be done.

Many of you can relate to keeping your team’s morale and esprit de corps high when they are working long hours and are involved in the tough work of scaling your company. Well, that was also one of my challenges as a platoon leader…although maintaining high morale while increasing training and development was more of our challenge than scaling the organization.

So, when the opportunity arose for my platoon to participate in our 24-hour relay race to raise money for a local charity, I hopped on it and convinced my team leaders that it would be a lot of fun. They agreed and we started to make preparations.

Before the event kicked off, I went to the grocery store and bought lots of bananas, sports drinks, hamburgers, hot dogs, and just lots of food for us to stay awake and keep the relay going for the full 24 hours.

Unfortunately on the day of the event I was distracted by an emergency I needed to attend to and forgot to bring all the groceries to the event kickoff. As our team settled into the relay and we adjusted to the rythmn, I had an idea.

What if I can run my part of the relay, quickly hop in my Jeep, get to my apartment, pickup the groceries and get back in time for my turn in the relay? What could go wrong, right? I had about an hour until it was my turn, and my apartment was just 15-20 minutes away.

When I arrived at my apartment I filled my Jeep with the groceries and was ready to leave and return to the race. There was just one problem. A home moving truck blocked my ability to leave the apartment complex.

After a search for the driver and painfully waiting for him to move the truck, I made it back to the race only to miss my turn in the relay. Not only did we now lose the opportunity to win, but we still had to run the relay. My team’s morale sank. And, I was the cause of it. This was the exact opposite outcome I had intended. I was focused on raising morale, not lowering it. Uggh!

I robbed my team. Because I was so fixated on my involvement in getting supplies, I forgot my real job was to lead. They could have easily and eagerly shopped for the supplies and groceries and had them ready for the event.

Has this happened to you?

As you shift from startup to scaleup, do you unintentionally rob your team of their responsibilities?

It takes many different forms.

You might tell your scrum master that you’ll take over finding a new developer for him.

You might tell your sales VP that you’ll research the new sales tech software vendor.

You might tell your COO that you’ll run the ops meeting for awhile.

The question is why?

Why do we rob the people we hire to lead when it’s their responsibility to do so?

There are many reasons. The obvious one is we are just use to rolling up our sleeves, wearing many hats, and diving in to help get work done. When the company is small, the CEO title is different and often meaningless. Our ability to lead and work is important during the early stages.

The point is, as we shift from Founder to CEO, as we transform our startup team into a scaleup team, we inhibit the growth of our company when we intentionally or unintentionally rob our team leaders of their work. We must focus our time and energy on the things that only the CEO can do.

What have you found yourself doing that really is the responsibility of the leaders on your team?

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