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Managers: Be alert to ‘bicycle moments’

Look Ma no training wheels

Mary Catherine Brinkworth/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Any adult who has ever taught a child to ride a two-wheel bike remembers the exhilarating moment when the guiding hand is lifted and the youngster pedals off for the first time, without toppling over. That exciting moment of successfully letting go is also an important one for managers, says consultant Jesse Lyn Stoner.

"Here's what I've learned about coaching as a manager: It's easy to be a coach when it means providing direction, giving advice and solving problems. Like most leaders, I'm good at it, and I like to do it. Fortunately it's exactly what people need early on while they're still learning," she writes on her SeapointCenter blog.

"But there comes a point where a shift in the relationship needs to occur – where you let go of actively advising them, and they take the lead. It's what I call the bicycle moment."

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It's a moment of empowerment, as the employees shift from dependence to independence. To determine if they are ready, she suggests asking four questions: Do they have the skills and knowledge they need? Have they demonstrated their ability to do this in other settings or similar ways? Do they want to do it? Do they have the resources they need to do the job?

When they are ready, your role changes. You have to keep your opinions to yourself, and ask them what they think, what they learned from an experience, and where they might get help with a burden. It's their bicycle ride now.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More

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