Insightful Leadership Series: Are you parenting your team?

The past year has tested the leadership skills of even the most experienced. Leaders in the the pharma industry in particular have had to make difficult decisions and find they have many more hurdles to cross in 2021. Now more than ever Leaders need their people to turn up with maturity, accountability and responsibility. There is an expectation of skilled decision making and problem solving and the ability to manage conflict and interpersonal difficulties with an “adult to adult” approach. As leaders if we are not experiencing this from our teams,  we can often be quick to point the finger at those we lead to change their behaviour, however the solution may lie with our own ability to change how we are leading others and we may need to ask ourselves the question: Am I parenting my team?

The above mentioned leadership behaviors from my experience often arise where the service provided is fast paced, time bound, constantly evolving and challenging. In an effort to “get the job done” leaders may find they spend their time, giving advice, guidance or even problem solving for others. There is nothing wrong with engaging in such activities in some circumstances for example with a newly appointed team member who may need some nurturing in the early days of their role, however as time goes by the more telling and less asking we do as leaders, the more likely people will become dependent on their leader to help them problem solve or to continuously validate their work. Many of those who work with me to develop their people skills are regularly finding challenge with staff who they say “need to be told repeatedly” how to resolve work regular work tasks. However, repeated instruction often interferes with a persons ability to problem solve for themselves.

To develop more engagement and to get the best from those you lead, consider asking more than telling, in essence what I suggest here is to develop more of a “Coaching approach”. This can be a quick and simple adjustment, for example instead of hearing about a problem and responding with “This is what you need to do” try “What do you think needs to happen?”.  There are times however when more insightful work is required to develop leadership in this area.

A recent client of mine came to coaching as she was feeling overwhelmed with her workload and felt her main challenge was how she was managing her time. When we explored what she did every day with her time, she estimated 75% of her day was spent on calls with her team. As we are all working remotely, this may on the face of it not seem unusual, however looking at the reasons for these calls presented some interesting findings; the calls were mainly from numerous individuals on her team seeking to problem solve issues with her. By further exploring the profile and experience of these team members, their expertise and knowledge of their role (they were often more experienced that she was) should have enabled them to manage these challenges without need to check in with my client. My client realised due to her nurturing style of leadership she had over the years established a culture where her team had become dependent (or felt it was expected of them) on her to help them problem solve or “sign off” on many of their decisions. Some of the shifts we looked at to help her change this pattern were:

  • To engage in more of a situational leadership style; essentially looking at the development level of each team member and adjusting her leadership style to suit the level they were at
  • Develop coaching skills; this involved developing key skills to help her with asking rather than telling  her people as well as working on underlying behaviours which may derail her in developing these skills   

This transition was made over time to allow time for the leader to develop her skills as well as for her people to become accustomed to the new style of leadership interaction. My client also found that she although she had to devote protected time at the outset to determine the development level of her team or to give time to those of her team who needed more support, she was pleasantly surprised with how much more time she now had for the other parts of her role. She also noticed a higher level of engagement and innovation from those on her team as a result of this shift in approach. Developing a coaching style which operates from the premise of an adult to adult interaction takes patience and time but brings many benefits such as those outlined above.

If you would like to learn more about this topic or how Insightful Leadership may support you in your role as people leader contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at