The key to weaning squeaky wheels is to boost their confidence and make them more independent.
Your high-cost producers are in the upper-left corner of the leadership matrix. They deliver great results, but they consume a lot of your time and energy. The squeaky wheel is the epitome of a high-cost producer. They need to be weaned off of taking up all of your time.
Your goal with a squeaky wheel is to make them more independent. Make their check-ins less frequent. Limit their ability to just drop in and talk. Provide them boundaries within which they’re expected to make decisions on their own. Try boosting their confidence in their abilities so they’ll be more independent.
To improve a squeaky wheel’s performance, leaders must take control of their interactions with them. Put structure to those interactions. Reduce the likelihood that they overuse informal channels with you, like sending you emails or just picking up the phone and calling. Give them clear parameters where they should act autonomously, and reward or praise them when they do.
I had one squeaky wheel on my team who was constantly in my office, and I would always talk with him because he was delivering great results and working on cool projects. Eventually I figured out how much of my time he was consuming, and I decided to make a change. I went to him and said, “Hey, from now on, any decision that’s below $50,000 you need to make it. Just tell me after you’ve made it. I trust that you’re gonna make the right call. When it’s above $50,000, make sure you involve me earlier.”
What happened was all those small decisions were no longer coming across my desk. All that time I had previously been spending on $5,000 or $10,000 decisions became my time again that I could spend somewhere else. The benefit of more effectively leading a squeaky wheel and weaning them off of the need to see you and talk with you all the time is that you reclaim your leadership capital. You can invest that leadership capital in other team members who need it more. You’re also building this individual’s self-sufficiency. You set them up for success and encourage them to be a higher performer on their own.
With a squeaky wheel, the sooner you can pull back from the amount of time and energy you invest in them, the faster you’ll be able to reinvest that time and energy in other members of your team.
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