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I love a good milkshake. Who doesn’t? Every so often I break down and get a nice chocolate shake with a little whipped cream on top. Voila! A delicious snack that is WAY healthier than a candy bar.

I made that last part up.

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to drink your shake with a straw that’s too small. You just can’t get the shake to flow through the straw quickly enough to satisfy your taste buds.

The delivery mechanism – the straw – limits the impact and expected benefit of the shake.

This creates a bottleneck, or as we call it in the project management world, a constraint.

Constraints in your leadership prevent you from delivering the full value and impact of your work.

Constraints are the cause of many performance issues. They occur at the individual, team, organizational, financial and process or production levels.

One of the essential jobs for any leader is to identify the constraints in their own area of responsibility and eliminate them.

Today we’ll take a look at three common constraints that often limit leaders personally.

First – Micromanagement – All of us have probably experienced micromanagement at some point in our careers. No fun. Sort of like having a chaperone on a date with your spouse or significant other.

Leaders that have a high need for control often find themselves making this mistake. They can’t seem to let go.

While it might feel to the leader that “everything is under control,” micromanagement is highly limiting to the motivation and effectiveness of your team.

Most micromanagers I’ve known during my career are unaware of their behavior. It’s a blind spot for them. The best way to grow through a blind spot is to ask a trusted colleague for input.

Second – “The Buck Stops Here” – most likely so does the work. Leaders who insist on approving everything happening in their areas quickly constrain their teams.

This might seem like micromanagement, but it’s not. Micromanagers seek to control the behaviors and processes of those they manage. A “Buck Stops Here” leader lets people work on their own, but insists on always giving the final stamp of approval.

If your desk or e-mail inbox is a parking lot for unsigned checks, proposals to be reviewed, requests for approvals, items waiting for feedback, or other things that you insist on giving the “green light” for, then you’re probably constraining your team.

The solution for this is to bring definition and clarity to levels of authority. Let some things go – the risk is small and you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Third – Confusing High Quality with Perfection – Younger me always had a daily “to do” list. I would not rest until everything on that list was done, and done perfectly. This made for a lot of very late nights.

I was confusing perfection with high quality. The two aren’t the same.

One helpful tip for getting past this is to ask yourself – what does the customer or intended recipient of this work expect? If you deliver at or above that level, that is sufficient.

Don’t misread this – I’m not condoning sloppy work – I’m just saying that you can deliver an amazing result even though it may not meet your standards of “perfection.”

Excessive control, oversight and impossibly high standards constrain you, your team, and your impact. Over time, you’ll also find it difficult to retain top talent.

Let go and let others. That’s often a good place to start.

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