Stephen M. R. Covey's latest book Trust & Inspire is a fantastic read for any leader or potential leader. It highlights the differences between command & control leadership and trust & inspire leadership. While most leaders don't aspire to micromanagement, they often find themselves leaning that way because they don't know of another way to lead.
This post is not meant to be a review of the book or even a summary. Instead, I'd like to propose a tool, adapted from Covey's stewardship agreements that he details in the book, that leaders can use if they want to inspire more and micromanage less.
To truly let go and get the best out of people, leaders can jointly create responsibility agreements with their direct reports. These frameworks clearly lay out what needs to be done, what the limitations are, and the reasons for the assignment. Once all parties are clear on what is at stake, it allows leaders the space to step back and allow their direct reports to innovate, create, and achieve.
What exactly needs to get done? What should it look like? According to what specifications?
The degree to which the end product or result is clear will dictate how much latitude the leader feels comfortable giving to those carrying out the work.
Why does the work need to be done? Why now (and not later)? What's the overall vision?
When people know the why behind something, they are better equipped to make decisions in line with the vision. "Need to know" is used by micromanagers; inspiring leaders are an open book.
What limitations are in place? What should be avoided? What needs to be included?
Every assignment has restrictions, and while they might seem obvious to the leader, we should all know what assuming does. As Brene Brown says, "Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind."
What help is available? How accessible is the leader (if needed)? Which assets should be utilized to bring the task to completion?
No man is an island and no assignment lives in a bubble. Clearly outline the available resources, including the availability of the leader, to put the project or task on secure footing.
What benchmarks are in place to assess progress? How often will updates be expected? When is the due date?
Leaders don't launch a ship and wait patiently at port for its return. Instead, they stay engaged throughout the process to check the direction of the assignment and adjust as needed before completion.
What's at stake? What happens if this fails? What happens if this succeeds?
Both leaders and direct reports should be cognizant of the larger context. How the assignment fits into the wider ecosystem of the company or the job assignment will provide much needed clarity for everyone involved.
Imagine being a new hire to a company or taking over an existing work group. Instead of limited information from an over-involved manager, s/he sat down with you and created a 6 Rs Responsibility Agreement! You'd have everything you needed to succeed and s/he would have the peace of mind to let you shine without backseat leading.