Towards more mature relationships

Kate (not her real name) wanted to be a caring and generous manager who would take good care of her team. So nothing was too much for her. If a team member needed help with a piece of work, Kate was there for her. If another team member called-in sick, she would take up the slack.

Kate worked hard - very hard. In fact she would often give up evenings, weekends and holidays to keep the show on the road. And so the show did indeed stay on the road.

But this was not sustainable. It had become far too easy for the team members to duck their own responsibilities knowing that Kate would pick up the pieces. Kate herself could not maintain this level of involvement.

Something had to change

And it needed to start with Kate!

In short, Kate and her team had got into a series of parent-child relationships with each other.

The subject of parent-child relationships is covered extensively in Courage to Change. Sadly they are all too common in organisational life - and the result can be a lack of maturity at both the individual and the organisational level.

Put simply, by doing everything for her team, in the mistaken belief that this was being helpful, Kate had created a dependent culture in which that team no longer took responsibility for themselves. They had been conditioned (perhaps quite willingly - we don't know!) to behave as children whose parent would do everything for them.

The relationship between Kate and her team needed to become much more adult-adult - a relationship in which both parties knew their responsibilities and lived up to them. A relationship in which everybody could grow.

And so Kate began to put appropriate boundaries into her relationships with her team. She stopped taking their challenges away from them. She began to hold them properly accountable. If they needed to go home early one day, it was their responsibility to find a way of still doing the work. And gradually - perhaps a little painfully at first - everybody began to grow. Kate grew as a manager, the team grew in responsibility and in their individual senses of what they could achieve, and the whole organisation began to deliver more.

It took some courage from Kate to change her habits - but it was to everybody's benefit.