Life at the helm of a team can sometimes feel like a never-ending whirlwind of decisions, stress, and the constant need to keep things afloat. But what if there was a way to chart a course through the storm, to empower your team, and to find clarity amid the chaos?

In a captivating Q&A session with the Bunch community, Dr. Michael Steiner shared his advice for how to do just that.

Michael is the VP of Innovation at America’s 4th fastest-growing university. He has a PhD in Organizational Psychology, acts as an executive advisor to several business owners & execs, and has become a viral TikTok star sharing his leadership coaching advice to nearly 60,000 followers (@drmichaelsteiner).

Recognize that decisions drain your energy

Michael points out that your brain consumes 20% of the calories you burn in a day, so making a decision is one of the highest-calorie burning activity that your body does.

As a result, it’s also human nature that people are always looking for someone else to make a decision – and that’s also why teams tend to “delegate decisions up” to their leader, and it becomes a cultural norm that the leader decides nearly everything.

If your day is a constant barrage of Slack pings, emails, and meetings where you’re expected to make decisions, it absolutely makes sense that that cognitive load might leave you feeling drained and weary – and it’s also why you feel like you feel like you can’t focus on other high-priority projects.

Let your team fill in the gaps

Michael points out that every team fundamentally has to answer 2 questions:

  1. Where are we going
  2. How do we get there

As the leader of a team you’ll often feel like you’re supposed to be the one who answers both of these questions, and when you don’t have the answers, you feel stressed.

The solution? According to Michael, “90% of your stress can be solved by trusting your team more” . In reality, the leader’s job is to answer question 1 in detail and provide clarity on the vision of where the team wants to go – and an empowered team is more than capable of answering question #2.

How to empower your team

Leverage OKRs as a tool to nurture mutual buy-in 🤝

Michael points out that OKRs are a fantastic tool to answer both questions 1 & 2, while also driving mutual buy-in and uniting minds in pursuit of shared objectives.

It’s not just a top-down or bottom-up approach; it’s a partnership. You, as the leader, shape the objective’s landscape and then challenge your team with: “You tell me what happens between now and then to get us there?” – that leads to Key Results and Initiatives.

Shift your mindset to embrace trust by default 🔒

Michael says that “bureaucracy is manufactured trust”. When you don’t have trust in a team, it leads you to feel the need to create complex decision-making overheard and processes that you – as the leader – are at the centre of. If you have trust, you don’t need all of that structure.

So how can establish trust? Ironically, trust actually is the default for humans: kids naturally trust their parents and other adults. We *learn* distrust over time when we experience pain and trauma.

So instead of “building” trust, focus on removing barriers to trust.

Diagnose and remove “barriers” using this empowerment blueprint ðŸ—º

Trust breaks down when team members don’t meet performance expectations.

People need things to perform at their best:

  1. Role clarity: they know what’s expected of them
  2. Self-efficacy: they feel confident in their ability to do the job
  3. Acceptance: they feel connected to others int the group

When your team drops the ball, it’s almost always because one of these conditions is not being met.

Harness your newfound potential for focus

Now that your team is empowered to take decisions off your plate, it’s time to make progress on some of those big, meaty strategic priorities you’ve been putting off.

Forget the “perfect schedule” ðŸ¤·

Contrary to prevalent advice, Michael refutes the existence of a universally optimal routine. He unveils a fascinating historical nugget – the concept of an “hour” materialized relatively recently in human history. The entire Roman Empire rose and fell before the concept of an hour existed.

Find your flow to become a time bender ✨

Productivity comes in bursts at different times for different people. Where are you energies at, and when? When you no longer notice time passing anymore while working – that feeling like you’re “bending time” – you’ve found your prime zones.

Find the difficulty sweet spot to overcome procrastination 🙌

There are 2 main factors that drive procrastination: Fear or boredom.

Both of these procrastination triggers are related to how challenging the task is! Too easy: it’s boring. Too challenging, it’s scary. Keep a journal to notice when you are most able to complete task of different difficulties.

You’ve got this! 💪

With an empowered team and a good sense of when and & how you can be most productive on individual tasks, you can make dramatically more progress on strategically important projects.