As a team leader, where is the line between engaging too much versus not enough? If you are a leader with formal authority or you can be perceived as more experienced or knowledgeable, you should think twice about collaborating with your team. Your involvement may create an effect that is the opposite of the spirit of collaboration.
When you collaborate, you cannot delegate.
Delegation is, in essence, the opposite of collaboration. Delegation means you let another do something with little oversight. Collaboration, in contrast, means you are actively involved. When you collaborate, you ensure that you cannot delegate.
Delegation and empowerment are difficult concepts to put into practice already, without throwing in the complications that collaboration causes. A big hurdle for new team leaders is being able to delegate work and being able to give up decision-making authority. It’s difficult because other people do work differently than you would do it, and it takes time to get used to that. The more involved you get in collaboration, the more difficult it remains to delegate.
Make it a goal to allow your team to be effective without you.
But you need to delegate. As a team leader, your job isn’t to do the work your team is supposed to do. Instead, you want to empower the team to make decisions and take actions on their own. Make it a goal to allow your team to be effective without you. Doing this shows that you have confidence and trust in your team members, and when you have trust and confidence, high performance follows.
Authority stifles innovation.
When someone in power makes a suggestion, a comment, or merely voices ‘a thought’, it can (and most likely will) be easily misinterpreted as a command. So sitting in a collaboration meeting with the team leader can quickly go from, “How can we come up with the idea that will work best?” to “Who can come up with an idea the boss agrees with first?”
Should you NEVER collaborate with your team? Of course not, the world is not so black and white. Collaboration is a tool and there are right ways just as there are wrong ways to use it. In fact, leaders who adopt a facilitative as opposed to a directive style may not run into these problems at all. But please be aware of the effect that someone with power has over a group before you get involved.