Are You the Bottleneck?

file0001035625891“A manager is not a person who can do the work better than his men; he is a person who can get his men to do the work better than he can.” —Frederick W. Smith

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


Leadership is about engaging, empowering, and inspiring others. But, what happens when the leader thinks he or she knows everything, treats employees like children, thinks he or she holds all the power, or is a control freak? I’ll tell you what happens, operations start to experience a bottleneck; it slows everything down and prevents real progress. A byproduct of this bottle neck is low productivity, a poor work environment, and low employee morale. So, are you the bottleneck?

Do you think you know everything?

If you think you know everything, chances are you are the bottleneck. You can’t do everything yourself and, just because you do it, doesn’t mean it’s done better than if someone else had done it. Being a leader does not mean that you know more than anyone else or that you are always right. In order to eliminate the bottleneck you need to understand your strengths and the strengths of those you work with. Then, get off your high horse and let others do what they are good at.

Do you treat employees like children?

If you are treating others like children, you increase the chances of them behaving like children. Your employees are adults; they don’t need a babysitter. When you treat employees like children, you create a bottleneck. It’s arrogant to think that employees are incapable of understanding the big picture; to only share the information that you deem necessary for them to know is showing a lack of respect for the value they can big to the organization. To not trust them to perform their work without a babysitter shows a lack of trust. To eliminate the bottleneck, hire capable employees and then make sure they have the tools, information, environment, support, and empowerment to do their jobs.

Do you think you hold all the power?

The number one reason employees quit is because they feel the work culture is toxic. This toxicity can most often be traced to a deficiency in leadership or the abuse of power by leaders. Abuse of power can cause a leader to become a bottleneck. You must empower employees to make the decisions and take the actions necessary to do their jobs effectively without you holding your power over every move they make. Your power will never motivate your employees; they are motivated by respect, control over their own work, recognition of value, and appreciation. To eliminate the bottleneck, even with the best of intentions, remember the quote by Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Are you a control freak?

Overbearing, micromanaging leaders prevent employees from plugging into their own power. If you are a control freak, your rules, bureaucratic hierarchy, and the fear you instill in your employees will cause a bottleneck. When employees can’t make a decision or take an action without getting formal approval, obtaining a signature, or meeting with a committee, you’ve definitely created a bottleneck. This prevents perfectly capable employees from doing the job they were hired to do. In order to eliminate the bottleneck, overcome your own insecurity, loosen the reins, give employees the tools they need, and delegate tasks to them. And then, TRUST them to take care of things on their own.

Break Free from the Bottleneck

When you think you know everything, treat employees like children, think you hold all the power, or are a control freak; it says more about you than it does about anyone else. No organization can function effectively with a bottleneck. So, don’t blame your employees when the holdup is you! Learn to recognize YOUR behaviors that create the problem. And then, instead of being set on proving that you know more, can do more, and do it better than anyone else, act as the facilitator; provide the training and resources necessary for employees to do their job. And then, take pride in them doing it better than you.



© 2015 Elizabeth Stincelli


Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at



6 thoughts on “Are You the Bottleneck?”

    1. Thank you, Cynthia. I think we have all worked with that one individual who makes it almost impossible to get anything done because of their behaviors as a leader.

  1. Excellent post Liz Stincelli. Act as a facilitator I love this. Simply put we facilitate an enviroment for creativity, learn and support. Managers control people, Leaders empower and unleashes people’s potential and then take pride of each and everyone of them. Well written and to the point. Thumbs up Liz!
    Thank you for your wisdom!

  2. I love the truths you share in every post. Someone on a team used this exact term to describe our manager once and in his case I believe it was insecurity as you’ve described here. Could not make a decision – until it was late in the game, then we had to scramble, work overtime, and hold our breath that nothing went wrong.

    I like your other points too. Especially these “… share only the information necessary. ” This also starts rumors – if people think they are not told the truth, they will fabricate their own truth.

    Someone I helped recently mentioned my name in a book they authored. I was caught totally off guard. I helped and was motivated because I felt respected and was trusted to do the tasks my own way. The recognition was a total blowout surprise. I never see that leader being a bottleneck.

    1. Jane, your real-life experiences offer such great learning opportunities for us. Thank you for sharing them.

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