Tips for project success

Tips for project success

Whether it's a full Project Management Institute defined project or even a career move, here are a few tips on what you can do to maximize your potential for success. 

Now What?

Now What?

What are you doing in your organization to put strategy in place that remedies problems, or prepares for your future?
Do you have a strategy on how to solve problems?
Do you have a strategy for which problems deserve attention?
What's next? Now What?

Forming a Veteran Owned LLC in Texas for Free

Forming a Veteran Owned LLC in Texas for Free

I'll show you how to use Senate Bill 1049 to register a new Veteran-Owned Business in Texas and get the exemption of filing fees and the Texas franchise Tax for the first 5 years of operation.

Focus on Winners or Losers

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

"Focus on your High Achievers, they're going to last. Don't focus on your losers, statistically they're going to be gone sooner rather than later."

Well... That's pretty black and white. Some of those losers are just not motivated correctly. You're going to have several types of employees. Some are extremely motivated to be the best at what they do and they'll be vocal about it. Some are more introverted, but are still the best at what they do. Some aren't the best at what they do and they're ok just floating about until retirement. They get the job done. Some are what we call "Disengaged". These are the people that you need to motivate or motivate toward the exit.

Disengaged employees do their work, they may seem introverted, and seem content, but they certainly aren't going above and beyond for you or anyone else. In a lot of opinion, they're not "hurting" the business, but lets look deeper. If you've got a disengaged worker doing an expected 80% job, and you've got another employee that is engaged doing 100% maybe 110%, giving it her all. Are you getting the expected 80% out of the disengaged worker or are you missing a potential 20%. I'm exaggerating the effort here but that person isn't doing you any favors.

What's the resolution here? Normally "fire them!" is the answer I get. But what if I told you, with the right motivation, most of your workforce could be engaged and enjoying what they do?

The Gallup survey Q12 has surveyed thousands of employees and asked hundreds of questions. They've narrowed great leadership down to 12 important and salient questions.

  • Do you know what is expected of you at work?
  • Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
  • At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  • In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  • Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
  • Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
  • At work, do your opinions seem to count?
  • Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
  • Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
  • Do you have a best friend at work?
  • In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
  • In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

What would your employees answer for these questions if you gave them this survey today? I've run this survey while consulting and it shows room for improvement every time I do it. Whether you think you've got a great company or not, there's always a trend on at least one of the questions.

Engagement starts with understanding leadership and the role of your management. Most managers are tasked with "managing the ship and making sure it doesn't sink". While that manager is steering avoiding external factors such as rocks in the water, some employee is disengaged or actively disengaged and drilling holes in the boat somewhere in a dark part of the ship that the captain hasn't visited.

I personally think there's a few top questions such as "Does the mission make me feel as if my job is important?", "Are your fellow employees committed to doing quality work?", and "Do you know what is expected of you at work?". For those who come to work and dread it, it's probably because they don't think their job is vital. Those workers don't understand how important they are because they haven't received praise for good work and/or haven't' been told how important they really are. During an initial consultation with a company president he said "everyone's replaceable". Although this may be ultimately true, are they? Is this part of your culture? The thought that "I'm not vital, the cogs would still turn if I wasn't here" is a feeling of hopelessness and creates disengaged workers. "It doesn't matter if I give 100% or 80%, I'm not important".

When someone feels that those around them are lazy or not committed to quality work, why should they give quality work? The person next to them makes the same paycheck but sits on his phone in the back room hiding all day. This provides a nice caveat into what is expected?

Has the leadership determined what is expected and communicated those expectations to the workforce? Recently on the phone with a manager at a large corporation in America, I came to understand that expectations, rules, and regulations were often communicated at the time the rule was broken. "Oh, we're not doing that anymore" was often met with "when did that happen? I wasn't aware of that new rule". How can you expect anyone to take initiative and go for the goal if they don't know where the boundaries are or even the rules of the sport they play. What if your favorite baseball player hit a double, but the bases had been moved mid ball-strike, and hidden no less. People are creatures of habit, create productive habits for them to fall into. Just as the rules in sports need to be established before the game, your policies need to be in place and established. Change is good, but communicate the change effectively. Foster that change with effective training and education.


Do you know how your company would score on the Gallup Q12 survey? Let me consult with you about the effective changes you can make in your firm to achieve a higher level of engagement. Contact me today to set up an initial consultation.

A War of Attrition: a strategic look at how turnover affects leadership

Introduction to the theory

Attrition - the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure.

What are we talking about? Personally I've experienced the appointment of leaders in command positions that are just plain inept. How did they get there? Why did this happen? 

***Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. I'd love to receive funds to do research to assess the viability of these claims and possibly solve what I think is one of the biggest problems facing the United States Military today. Having said that, I have formed opinions based in statistical analysis of the DoD documents as well as personal experience in the United States Army from 2005 to 2010.

The United States Army as an example

As long as they can "pass" a test (or receive a waiver), pass physical standards (or receive a waiver), and meet security standards such as criminal background and mental health standards (or receive a waiver), individuals are accepted into the armed services.
At this point they are put through training, basic, and then trained in a specific job skill.
They serve 4 years and have a decision to either stay or go. 

In Ron Milam's book "Not a Gentleman's War" you can begin to understand the underlying reasons for joining the military. This can be directly translated into the reasons for exiting the military. Whether needs have been fulfilled or realizations about the facts of what the military does comes to light and ultimately affects turnover.

The DoD refers to those with 17 months to 6 years when they reenlist as "Zone A". "Zone B" and "Zone C" refer to lengthier terms as 6-10 years and 10-14 years respectively.

Retention rates, regardless of service, year (in the report presented), or gender, show undeniably that retention of first contract service-members is lower than those who have already committed lengthier times to the service. Many reasons for this may be, but let's focus on the effects of these retention rates.

Statistical Evidence


Statistically, Zone A is the lowest reenlistment rate. We should also note, that in the Army, and Navy a Trending down of Zone C can be seen. I will write on this downturn in a later paragraph. 

Now that we have facts, let's make an ASSUMPTION that there are two ends of a spectrum. Group A being high achievers, model citizens, intelligent, and actively engaged personnel. Then lets assume that the Group B is the opposite, less intelligent, less driven to achieve, either disengaged or actively disengaged, societal rebels, lacking direction. Group A are the type A personality that typically want to go to college, Achieve higher rank in the armed services by means of merit and wish to serve their country out of patriotism and helping their fellow Americans. Group B is here for the bonus money and the job. Group B understands fully that the armed services doesn't fire someone immediately for poor work performance.

Now that we have made that assumption, let me reiterate, this is not black and white, 50%/50%, this is a spectrum. One END is high achieving and another is the opposite, with many different people filling the spectrum in the middle.


How Attrition Affects Leadership

If we acknowledge the assumption that Group A typically reenlist less than those with Group B, we can see the attrition rate depicted to the left as I depict the Zone A at the bottom, Zone B in the middle, and Zone C as the highest pay grade at the top. 

Each zone has fewer and fewer of each Group A and Group B to choose from and must select from that pool their next generation of leaders. It is less likely, based in statistics, that the Group A would be able to see higher enlisted rank because there are fewer to choose from. Those that refuse to question authority and blindly follow orders end up being retained, whereas the Group A personalities remove themselves from the equation in pursuit of different means of satisfaction through the civilian sector.

What happens is a death spiral of poor leadership. The dregs are retained at a higher rate and the actual leaders remove themselves because they feel as if the service is not for them, and there is a higher level of achievement to be attained elsewhere. When the highest ranking non-commissioned officer is seen as a dolt, smart, active, high-achievers decide they don't want to reenlist. 

The service has no choice but to pick from those who are left - the 30% that they were able to retain. Understand that of the 30% retained, Zone B there was 50%, which is actually 15% of the original enlisted group of privates from 6-10 year ago. Of Zone C 75% are retained of that 15%, that's an astonishing 11.25% of the original batch from 10-14 years ago (Some Pre-Conflict). Fear of "The real world" "Change" and having to do actual work, those retained until retirement are more and more inclined to be Type B. Not to say that they are "under-achievers", many excel in combat skills such as physical fitness and have "experience".

Understanding that the lack in retention reduces the ability to retain good leadership potential is a key success factor for the military. Those that aspire to greatness, usually use the military enlisted program as a lily pad or stepping stone and nothing more.

As promised, lets talk about the decline in retention rates among senior enlisted ranks in the Army and Navy. These ranks in Zone C have been fighting a war in Afghanistan and Iraq for the last decade at this point. They go from enlisting into peace time and retention because of ease of job, to understanding that the wars in the middle east require work and lengthy deployments. These 25% or so percent decide to leave prior to gaining 20 years for retirement... why? It is my opinion that most of these (most) personnel are the Type B personnel that were coasting through peace time without any leadership mentorship or experience within the job. It can only be hoped that the retained 75% or so was of good leadership skill and knowledge.

Military Summary

In a basic way, the driven are driven out by poor leadership. This creates a death spiral by only providing poor players to be promoted. When these poor players are promoted, they continue the process of creating a disincentive toward the retention of "Group A" personnel. Group A personnel go on to be great civilians and contribute with Taxes or whatnot, but it can be argued that smarter, more driven, more common sense oriented personnel are needed to be retained in the military for many reasons.

We’re the military, so you’re supposed to say, ‘Obey your orders,’” Miley said. “That’s kind of fundamental to being in the military. We want to keep doing that. But a subordinate needs to understand that they have the freedom and they are empowered to disobey a specific order, a specified task, in order to accomplish the purpose. It takes a lot of judgment.
— General Mark A. Milley

In a May 5 article on General Mark A. Milley states that he expects soldiers to know when to disobey an order and that 'Disciplined Disobedience' is required in today's army (can be translated to armed services worldwide). Changing the status quo and dynamic of leadership in the military means going from centralized power and chain of command to critical thinking skills and empowerment. How does the Army leadership keep those good leaders in at the early stages of enlistment to enact these crucial changes though? How will the army retain those they need and push those that have little critical thinking skills and ability to decentralize power out of the Army? Where's the decision making process for that?



How does this apply to civilian side businesses?

In a 2015 Gallup study and report dubbed "State Of The American Manager: Analytics And Advice For Leaders" Gallup concluded that there are great correlations between management and retention. One in Two U.S. Workers have quit their job because of poor management according to the study. That's quite a bit considering the military retention rate is 30-40% in Zone A and the 'harshness' of the job may be to fault for a large portion of that.

Managers that are incorrectly assigned duty based on skill and personality are a majority causal factor in this. Too many firms use flawed selection methodology for managerial placement. Basing promotion decisions on an employees individual performance and past experience in a sales role or as an "individual contributor" is not basis for whether a person can be a "people manager". Giving the high achiever in one role an entirely different position and responsibilities that sometimes drastically conflict with their personality and abilities. According to Gallup, 80% of the time this method of selecting managers "backfires". Just because the Electrical Engineer has a bubbly and extroverted personality doesn't make him an effective "manager of people".

According to the research, at least 80% of the time this methodology backfires.
— Fast Company - Mark C. Crowley (2015)

Similar to the military, pay structure is typically partnered directly with management or command level. These pay structures reinforce career progression toward "management" and result in people who would be great at becoming masters of their craft failing out as a manager. Realizing this and changing pay structures to allow for masters that do not wish or don't have the skills to manage can change the dynamic and propel the business to achieve greater things without promoting people to manager that don't really need to be in that position. There are other ways for people to get to higher paying jobs as an expert and not necessarily a manager. 

At one company, they effectively incentivized the sales force to leave their job and go to another company by phased sales quota requirements. Either they would become the sales manager (unlikely in 4 years) or they would not be able to make the quota for year 4 and in result make less money. In the short term, this plan made the company money by not paying out as much in commissions to each salesperson. In the long run, a skilled salesperson in a highly technical position is very valuable and turnover of that particular position is very detrimental. Anyone can sell "soap", to sell this particular product one must have engineering knowledge to be able to comfortably consult the client on their purchase. The market for technically savvy salespeople in this field is limited and to gain that knowledge one must have years of training and experience. You want low turnover here, this isn't flipping burgers.

Having managers that don't engage employees is a detriment. It's a simple enough sentence but it really plays a large role in retention. Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores says Gallup. That's a huge number, 70%. That's near the Pareto Principle style number (20% of the Causes result in 80% of the effects). Engaging mentors and leaders are paramount in retaining future leaders and engaged employees. When you have to promote from within out of sheer need to promote, that person typically doesn't have the ability to motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create an accountable culture, build trust, or make unbiased decisions for the good of their team. Gallup claims these 5 talents make great managers. Engagement, loyalty, productivity, profit, and service levels all share the five talents. 

I was always "fat" in the military. I never was a skinny fit guy that scored 300 (top score) on the Army Physical Fitness Test. I didn't fail, but I wasn't a top athlete. Most of the time I kept my weight in check, but I had to be under 176 and my body just doesn't like that weight. Having that background, the military PRIZES athleticism to detrimental effect. I was never going to be that athlete, but I was (am) extremely thoughtful and an expert in whatever I put my mind to. Tragically I predicted any downed aircraft prior to it's "Fallen Angel Call" and alerted my officers that the mission fell into that risk category that would most likely result in a downed aircraft. For one reason or another, leadership didn't like me being smart but they seemed to praise this kid who was dumb as a rock because he could run a 10 minute 2 mile. (I had great field grade officers don't get me wrong). These "managers" were focused on my weakness as an athlete rather than my strength as an operations specialist. 

Enforcing behaviors that support positive traits being accentuated and using teamwork to pair complimentary traits is a much more successful approach to mitigate weakness than focusing on individual improvement of those weaknesses. I'm not saying I should have remained "fat" and not been physically fit while in the military, I'm saying we should look at the important things someone can bring to the table and compliment with someone else that brings different things to the table.

Management shouldn't be an automatic result of sticking around and becoming skilled in your trade. It requires more than that. Great managers come from those with at least a little innate talent, and the ability to learn those talents that aren't inherent. Snowballing great leaders into more great leaders may seem easy, but it's just not. Having one great leader promote another great leader and creating a family of mentors is ideal but nearly impossible to achieve. So many factors are involved. 

In the book "Superbosses", Sydney Finkelstein speaks about the benefits of having a succession of great bosses create a family of leaders through mentorship. But in reality, he's written a huge book on this subject and highlighted only a few companies and people that actually can achieve this. It's not impossible, but it's up there. What we CAN do is strive to create that drive in our future leaders. We need to ensure that promotion isn't just because Todd has been here 8 years. Todd sucks, the whole office knows Todd sucks. Todd doesn't have the skills to lead nor is he even seen as a decent human being. He's just been here 8 years... That's no reason to promote, it's actually a killer, it kills productivity, it kills retention and it kills the potential for future leaders to get your company to higher highs and stray away from those low places (like not making budget for a year of months in a row... yeah that's a direct jab if you're reading this).

In all, its a snowball, either it's going to be a friendly snow man or an avalanche that kills you. The first step is gaining the knowledge of what's going wrong and how to solve it. The second step is just as important as the first, start the change.


Cory Myres is a Process Consultant and Leadership Advisor from Lubbock, TX

Why Sink or Swim rarely results in the business Swimming

Sink Or Swim.jpeg

Sink or Swim?

You may want to think again

As a fan of mentoring, sufficient training, and a full blown advocate of planning ahead, I think sink or swim is just awful. Are there times where it's necessary to an extent? Yes, but the rest of this article will not be nice about sink or swim. Although bias is a factor, there's really not a whole lot of upside I can even bring to the table but I'll highlight some of the alleged upsides you may have heard and then quickly dispel them as myths.

If you've established yourself as a competent sales manager, you don't need training on HOW to do your job, but rather how to use the software the new company you work at uses, a simple walk around the office and then training on the format of expectations and deliverables to your general manager or supervisor - and that's more "communication" than training. Supervisors, through policy and communication, should establish what they want to hear about and what they do not from you in this instance. In a lot of cases, you still have the manager that requires different things on different days, fails to communicate that and then berates their employees for underperforming to their unknown standards. This can be just as bad as "sink or swim".

Having said that, we're really looking at lower level, inexperienced workers doing heuristic tasks. We can quickly determine that algorithmic tasks are more beneficial with strict rules and directions  that can be written "Crayola" style.

But lets talk about the benefits of actually training your new people. Training should come from inside and out. In the Q12 survey by Gallup(R) "I know what is expected of me at work" and "This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow" relate to training, growth, and expectations. We can directly derive a correlation between training and engagement. The sink or swim environment does not produce the type of engagement that training and actively "watering your flowers" gives. PERIOD.


"We're so busy that I just can't spend time training someone" 
"I'm not a very good 'teacher' and think you'd do better learning on your own"

Lets talk about these excuses and why they're absolute BULL. First, if you're busy, delegate to your next in line so that they can practice your current role, a role they will soon take over when you get promoted or leave. That's not hard, if you don't have that person, it's your fault. Second, the faster this person learns everything you need them to learn, the less "busy" your office will be because you have an EFFICIENT set of hands on the issues. It's simply logical to prepare someone to do something you want done correctly.

Ok, but you're still not a great trainer. Well if you know the subject matter, and you're driven enough to be a manager, you should be resourceful enough to google some training techniques and become a good trainer. If you're not resourceful enough to use google to learn a new skill, your leadership also needs to train you. There are many firms that offer a Train the Trainer course (my firm included). So that's not the only reason for this excuse.

The second reason someone would use this excuse is because they were never trained and they feel that the sink or swim principle applies to everyone. We all know that everyone learns differently. When my unit deployed Afghanistan, we were told to listen to training from the outgoing unit, and then if necessary make changes AFTER THEY WERE GONE. We listened and learned from those who had been in a combat zone in the most recent year, they had the most updated information, and did the same adaptation throughout the year to meet the needs of the tactical environment. We in turn passed on 2009's information to the incoming relief for 2010. Give your employee the information, and then the autonomy to do their own thing afterward. 

THIRD; yes there's an ominous third reason to say you're not a very good teacher. Many people shirk the training duty because they simply don't want to be responsible when the new guy smurfs it up.

"Well I didn't train him!"

This comes from an environment of reprimand instead of learning opportunities. When the manager finds out that the employee is incorrectly performing a task, the supervisor gets called in to answer for his or her training techniques. Nobody wants this, not even the manager. So how do we fix this? There's a couple "best practices" for training standards, like written training protocols, demonstrating knowledge by practicing on the manager when learning to train, starting them "young", and having group refresher days.

The US Army doesn't train you to use a machine gun in basic training and just let you go for 4-20 years without any refreshers. I personally (as a private and specialist) trained the group (including Majors and Lieutenant Colonels) in the Browning M2, the MK-19, and M16-M4 weapon systems. As a young soldier I had to make a power point slideshow and stand up in front of the Troop and train people, then we all pulled out the weapons and practiced doing it. To apply this principle to your office grab a fresh newbie and make them train the group. Give them a timeframe and a little assistance, and all of the sudden, you've started to train your team to train others. it's a management skill. You can review the training material prior to the date and correct any mistakes, but you can also make sure everyone in the group has input after the class. We all learned to do it in business school, but most people don't practice presentations until they're already in a management position. 

So I promised some upsides to sink or swim. I also promised to dispel myth.

The Innovation Myth:

If they have to figure it out, they'll be more innovative and actually be more efficient than if I taught them how to do it. 
Yes and no. There's a definite value to unrefined parameters in allowing autonomy and innovation. Note I did not say "lack of training" causes this. In reality, lack of training produces spending a lot of time re-creating the wheel. The lost productivity in finding your own way, doesn't pass on the "best practices" and mostly doesn't allow for the employee to learn the skill to their full potential in most cases. 
Let's imagine that you want me to write a 5 page report, but I've never been trained in the use of the english language. This report is going to the customer and you the manager tell me that I need to make sure that my english is used properly. Now, being from West Texas, I think Y'all is a professional word but that's beside the point. I'm going to end up pulling my hair out having to google and go through St. Martin's Handbook for hours...
Now we know that it's not the business' responsibility to train english. Students in the US learn this in K-12 and possibly advance their knowledge and practice during higher education, but can you imagine being tasked with something and NOT having the skills to complete the task? You'd be doing more research than task. It limits most of our confidence, it's detrimental to the end product, and most of the time, it's being done after hours. 
So how exactly is this fully dispelled? Well, a few main reasons. Just like the basics of mathematics can help you in calculus or trigonometry, teaching someone the basics isn't detrimental. Help them get to the furthest reaches of knowledge and technique that the office has and then let them go. This allows for them to understand how the business works, why certain techniques are currently used (possibly even incorrectly) and allows this person to determine what is going on.

In the army we used to have a term (They still do, but I'm no longer in) "What Right Looks Like". This saying is meant to make sure you know what right looks like. Here's the end goal.

Have you ever seen the people that tie shoes all crazy? It looks exactly the same, performs the function of a tied shoe, and it took them 0.5 seconds because of Autonomy, Creativity, and Innovation. But they knew what "right looked like".


Nature vs. Nurture Myth:

I won't produce an empowered employee able to make key decisions by themselves.
There's definitely correct and incorrect ways to train, and the more you know about training, practice it, and see the results, the more you'll learn about what is effective and not effective. Sink or swim proposes that you'll make a better, more empowered subordinate out of the fire. Simply untrue. What sink or swim usually produces is an employee that is afraid to make a mistake or let the boss down. Mostly will hide mistakes instead of embrace and allow for a teachable moment in the office, and will also fail to communicate to the boss until the project or task is completed. Training your employee with what needs to be done and a standard practice of how it's typically done allows them to be proficient enough to do the work, after which time they can innovate the process and share with the office. It's far higher success rate in allowing the employee to have the mental tools to complete tasks and then innovate drastically increases productivity and engagement.

Surround yourself with complimentary skills not duplicate your own Myth

This "benefit" surprised me because logically, by not training your employees, you're effectively ensuring they duplicate the things that are already YOUR "best practices" at the expense of their own time and effort. By training your employees that you have best practices, and opening that communication of innovation, you can allow someone to circle back to you (The leader) with information they've learned outside of your organization. Everyone brings something to the table, so implying that if you train someone they won't bring a new and additional expertise to the team is absurd. Getting them engaged by opening communication, treating them like adult human beings, and improving their knowledge base and yours is essential to teamwork. 


Whether you think Training and equipping your employees with best practices is essential, or you personally believe that Sink or Swim is the best thing ever, Comment or send me feedback. 

Winning at training isn't always easy. If you'd like to learn more about my "Train the Trainer" or any other of my programs to assist your office in learning to work more efficiently, Contact me below.

5 Signs That You've Fallen Into The Trap Of Parent-Child Leadership

This article sparked my interest because of my recent share on linkedin. 

On a daily basis these things happen, all over the country and the world. How would you handle this as the Janitor or the Principal?

This is perfect example of Parent-Child leadership; a caustic method to run an office. Each person is defensive and aggravated.

Is this happening behind closed doors at your workplace? I'm an expert in conflict resolution. Contact me for leadership, ethics, and conflict resolution training for your leadership and management team.

Occasionally, I'd like to feature articles that I find interesting with my content. 
The below article is from Forbes, link is provided and author is attributed. I did not write the article below.

Mark Murphy ,  
I solve the “people pain points” that keep leaders awake at night.

SEP 11, 2016 @ 11:01 AM

Today’s managers talk a lot about wanting employees to be more accountable and to act on their own initiative. And yet, those same managers turn around and say to employees: “I have to give you assignments; I have to give you feedback; I have to hold you accountable.” This leaves employees, much like children, left to take feedback, to take assignments and to passively wait to be held accountable.

Today’s top-performing organizations are leaving this style of Parent-Child leadership behind and replacing it with a new model of leadership that treats employees like adults who have unlimited potential and who deserve the opportunity to take control of their own futures. Establishing an Adult-to-Adult dynamic encourages employees to become self-leading and self-sufficient and results in a more motivated, fulfilled and energized workforce. Employees are more aligned with their organization’s vision and more committed to helping the organization achieve that vision.


And employees who work within the Adult-to-Adult dynamic are more open and excited for change. They don't fear the unknown, they're not afraid to ask questions, and because of that, they're more willing to trust that their leaders know what they're doing. One simple test of this is for you and your employees to take the quiz "How Do You Personally Feel About Change?" If your folks are uncomfortable with change, it's often a good sign that it's time to foster a more Adult-to-Adult relationship.

So, how can we bring an end to Parent-Child leadership? Breaking out of the following five big Parent-Child Leadership Traps is a great place to start.

Parent-Child Leadership Trap #1: When Employees Ask Me “Why?” They’re Undermining My Authority

“Why” isn’t a dirty word. Sometimes employees want to know “why” because they believe there’s learning value in everything they do, or that every job has a reason, meaning, or significance. Maybe they want to see the “big picture” and how their contribution fits in with everything around them. These are awesome qualities for an employee to have. So the next time you hear the question “why?” avoid becoming defensive and respond constructively by asking, “What specifically would you like to know?”

Parent-Child Leadership Trap #2: Only The Boss Can Rate Performance

Employees lose the ability to self-assess (and so self-correct) when managers fall into the parent trap of thinking that only they can truly rate their employees’ performance. This situation typically exists for two reasons. First, managers often incorrectly believe that most employees will lie if allowed to rate themselves. And second, if employees actually had all the tools to objectively and honestly evaluate their own performance, many managers fear they’ll lose their power (and thus the reason for their professional existence). We can recognize all of this as mere rationalization, but it’s still a pervasive Parent-Child trap. Instead, recognize employees as adults capable of evaluating their own performance and give them the tools that allow them to determine their own next steps to improvement.

Parent-Child Leadership Trap #3: Keeping Information on a Need to Know Basis

Employees generally get most of their information about the business from their managers. Sadly, too many managers like keeping employees dependent on them in this way. Imagine how much more effective it would be if employees were encouraged to scoop up all the morsels of competitive and industry intelligence they could find without waiting for their leader. What an advantage to have employees who know the industry trends as soon as (or even sooner than) you do. A good (and fun) place to start is holding article-reading contests. Challenge employees to bring in (and be able to summarize to the team) an industry relevant article. This simple exercise encourages employees to look outside the boss for information about what’s going on in the outside world, fosters self-sufficiency and brings fresh perspectives and greater ownership to work issues.


Parent-Child Leadership Trap #4: Saying “Everything Will Be OK”

At times, Parent-Child leadership doesn’t feel like critical parenting; it actually feels like caring parenting. Sometimes leaders withhold bad news from employees, or offer unsupportable reassurance, with statements such as “Don’t worry about the layoffs at our competitors, we’re gonna be fine,” or “Don’t fret about our drop in profit, it’ll turn around.” When we deny reality, or utter untruths to soothe, we’re still controlling and stunting our employees. In other words, we’re parenting. Instead, encourage adult-level resilience so employees are ready to respond if things don’t work out perfectly.

Parent-Child Leadership Trap #5: I’ll Do It Myself

Most managers got promoted because of their technical success (and not their leadership skills). It’s why the boss is often more competent than the employee at the employee’s job. And this leads a lot of managers into the trap of thinking that their employees can’t be as good (or better) than they are. Or, when employees make a mistake, the leader jumps to the interpretation that it’s because “they’ll never be as good as I am.” So they sit them down and do the jobs for them. Treat employees like adults by giving them the chance to perform even if you can do it better. And if if they make mistakes, allow them some space to grow and develop through the trial and error of self-correction.

Theoretically, this is all easy stuff to do. So, why don’t more managers do it? Leaving behind the parent role requires letting employees think independently and be more self-sufficient. I’ve heard some managers refer to this as feeling “terrifying.” There’s no easy answer to this other than push through it. At first it might be unsettling (and even feel terrifying) to have an employee say, “Hey, Boss, did you see this article that may provide an answer to our biggest challenge?” (especially if you haven’t already seen that article). But remember, information is power. Giving your people the freedom to be more self-sufficient isn’t letting go of your power or control; it’s making the organization as a whole significantly more successful.

Mark Murphy is a NY Times bestseller, author of Hiring For Attitude, and founder of the leadership training firm Leadership IQ.