Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
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What happens when the boss ain’t around

Spending some time away from the office with my family over the holidays got me thinking.

empty cubicles
Photo by Asa Wilson

We all have fears about what happens when we are not around. We fear that people will slack off, break important rules, disrespect clients, make fun of us or generally do the least amount of work possible.

It is human nature to focus on the negative but have you ever considered the other side of what can happen when the boss is away? This is the time that members of the team get to experiment with being themselves, with showing some leadership or with doing things the way they have always thought they should be done and pushing the boundaries just a little bit.

It is important to often leave your team to their own devices and see what happens. If we keep an open mind and reserve our judgement as we inquire into how things went when we were away, whether it was for an hour or a month, we can make some interesting discoveries about the character, strengths and weaknesses of our team.

A few qualifiers:

  • We don’t throw people into the deep end without teaching them to swim first. Make sure you prepare your team for your departure(s) as best you can.
  • When you leave the team to their own devices, you need to be generally willing to accept the outcome, no matter what happens. If a problem occurs, we cannot blame the team for the results. We coach specific members of the team on what they could have done differently to avoid the problem, but the decision to let the team run without us was ours. We cannot punish the team, or even an individual, for a poor result unless they did something immoral, unethical, or took part in some form of willful misconduct.

Great leaders don’t need to be there all the time in order to get great performance. Great leaders like you and I deserve a holiday, or time with our families, or a trip to a conference with full confidence that our team is going to do great and grow each time we leave.