Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course 5, Lesson 15
Developing Teams in Such a Way That Dependency
Is Minimized or Eliminated
and Independent Competency Established
Copyright 2001 Dick Wulf
Dependency in teams exists for two reasons, an external reason and one caused by poor team leadership style. Good team leaders need to be aware of both causes of dependency, because both need to be overcome by teams through specific team leader behaviors.
There are a great many individuals who possess too little self-confidence, even though they are quite competent. The cause is usually in the way they were raised as children. Two polar extremes can cause lack of confidence in one’s abilities: not being expected to perform competently and having to perform competently under unreasonable pressure.
Some parents don’t require their children to do much around the house or to be responsible for tougher and tougher chores over the years. Perhaps they are afraid their children will develop a sense of failure or they don’t want to add pressure to a busy schedule, but many kids think unconsciously that the real reason they don’t have to do much or very difficult things is that they are not very capable. These children grow up without both confidence and also competence. They never discovered their potential.
Other children were expected to be better at assigned tasks and chores than was reasonable and they either failed or were unfairly criticized. For example, at twelve years old, a boy was expected to do a mature job of landscaping when mowing the lawn. Many of these kids will grow up to be competent adults without good self-confidence.
These church volunteers or staff need their teams to help them over their lack of competence and/or absence of adequate self-confidence. A sharp team leader will make sure that the team encourages people, gives feedback about jobs well done, and helps out to train team members who do not yet know how to do a good job. And he or she will not do these things much, but will see that the whole team does them often. By not acting like the parent that does too much for the children, the successful team leader delegates to the team and its members so that they can develop more and more confidence in interpersonal tasks and increasing confidence.
The second cause of crippling dependency on teams comes from team leaders who do too much for their teams. You want to examine yourself and make sure that you are not treating your team and its members as less capable than they are. If you want to help them and not create dependency, do the simpler tasks they are able to do, not the more difficult.
People become dependent when other people do difficult things for them that they are capable of doing themselves. Good team leaders avoid creating dependency in people and teams by letting people do everything they are capable of, especially the tougher things. And when a person is having trouble doing something difficult, the wise team leader directs that person to the team for help. This builds a sense of competency in the team and its members and they become more confident and capable of independent, capable action.
Three good things happen when a team leader resists doing things for team members or the team. First, just because the team leader believes in them inspires individual and team confidence. Second, the individual team member who has to do the task gains confidence from having done something new and/or difficult. Third, the team gains confidence in group problem-solving while team members who contributed to the solution see that they, too, can be leaders.
The best team leaders do not congratulate themselves that they solve the most difficult problems or complete the hardest tasks. Instead, they feel great for building the team. When team leaders help the team succeed, they have something to celebrate. When teams help their members succeed, then the team as a whole has something to holler about.
Helping people succeed is the sign of a great team leader - not doing things for people. There are many people who had parents who did not help them successfully complete difficult tasks. Instead, they took over the job and did it themselves. Without knowing it, they taught their kids that they were incapable, and those people are now underachieving adults.
Yet, skillful team leaders can set these people free by believing in them, not rescuing them from difficult assignments, and helping them succeed, usually by helping the team help them succeed.
The opposite kind of church volunteers and staff also exist. They are the ones who had parents that gave them confidence by giving them ever-increasingly difficult assignments and praising their successful performances. These confident, capable people are those who will strongly resent a team leader who does all the thinking and makes all the decisions. Team leaders who do too much for these folks will cause conflicts with authority, poor morale, and a host of other problems.
So, if you want to eliminate dependency and build competence and confidence, do not do for the team what it can do for itself whenever possible, which is most of the time.
Next: Increasing Cooperation among Team Members
Copyright 2012 Dick Wulf, Colorado, USA