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Are You A Helicopter Boss? Here’s How You Can Find Out

how to empower employees leadershipForget helicopter parents, when it comes to micromanaging leadership, swooping in and “taking over” a task, business owners take the cake!

With blood, sweat, and tears, and countless hours, you’ve built your business up to the empire it is today. This business is your baby. People’s livelihood depends on making this operation you’ve built work! Your clients depend on your process and product to work for them to earn their livelihood!

And now, you’re faced with a new employee, or maybe it’s an employee that’s been with the company for several years, and you watch them move through a task and they’re fumbling. What happens next for so many of us? Helicopter Boss to the rescue!

NOTE: This post was inspired by Cindy Anderson’s awesome webinar around Fundamental Leadership Traits

You Might Be A Helicopter Boss If These Statements Fly Out Of Your Mouth:

  • “Here, let me just care of that.”
  • “No, that’s not how it’s done. Here I’ll get this set straight.”
  • “Okay, I’m going to fix this. Send me their file, and I’ll contact them and get this cleaned up.”
  • “We have to get this right. Look send it over to me, and I’ll get this straightened up…Ugh…Can’t trust anyone to get this done right.”

The Helicopter Boss Leadership Trap

Just like I mentioned in Lesson #2 In Lessons Learned In Business:

Being a ‘doer’ and a helicopter boss is often a soft trap set for yourself – you feel like you must tend to every detail, handle every customer issue, process all orders, do the scheduling, and more.  You know how to get the job done, and if you are honest with yourself, you feel as though no one can do the job as good as you.

The Solution To Avoid the Helicopter Boss Trap? Allow People To Fail!

Allow people to fail every now and again so they can learn and THINK. If you swoop in to correct their errors, clean up their mistakes in front of clients, swoop in and “rescue” them out of their errors, you are robbing them of the opportunity to learn.

In the book Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness talk about how in tutor and student relationships.  There was a direct correlation between the quicker the tutor was at correcting a student, the slower the student was at truly learning and grasping a concept. The same is true with your employees learning their role and problem solving.

Helicopter Boss Leadership Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: “No One Can Do It As Well As I Can.”

The ironic catch 22 of being a helicopter boss? When you have a habit of cleaning up your employees’ messes and mistakes in front of your clients, your clients WILL start coming to YOU directly and bypass your employee that’s responsible for the situation.  That’s adding one more role to your plate that’s not yours to take. And guess what? No one ever will do it as well as you can if you never let them DO IT!

We Get What We Tolerate: The Universal Law

Here’s the scenario: A parent tells a child to clean up their bedroom. The child doesn’t do it. The parent eventually grows tired of seeing that messy room, gives in and clean up their toys for the child. Rather than creating consequences “You can’t play with Tommy down the street until your room is cleaned up.”

What’s the lesson the parent’s actions teach the child?

“I don’t actually have to clean up my room. My mom/dad is going to do it for me, anyway, if I wait them out. There’s no real consequence, and mom/dad doesn’t really mean I have to clean up my room. It’s more of a time-sensitive suggestion.”

And thus, robbing the child of the opportunity to rise to the challenge and practice being responsible.

When you don’t let your employees fix their mistakes, you’re robbing your employee of the opportunity learn, and they’re also learning, “If I mess up, I can bank on my boss swooping in and cleaning this up for me anyway.”

It can be hard to let an employee fail or make a mistake when you’ve got a customer in front of you. But by allowing your employee think creatively and try things, that will let them grow and learn.

2 Actionable Ways To Stop Being A Helicopter Boss And Empower Your Team:

Let your employees make mistakes.

When your employee makes a mistake, rather than pointing a finger and inflicting shame, guilt, and negativity towards them, turn it into a learning opportunity and hold them accountable.

Ask, “What’s Your Plan, And How Can I Support You?”

By asking an open ending question to your employee when an error has been made, how they intend to clean it up, and how you can support them creates a blueprint for how they intend to take responsibility, and how you can create accountability in seeing the issue resolved.

By letting your employee come up with the plan – this empowers them to:

  • Think for themselves.
  • Have a vested interest in the plan because it came from their mind.
  • Step up to the plate to see the issue resolved.
  • Lead the mistake-clean up, with you take a background supporting role, thus not having the brunt of the issue on your plate.

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