8 Reasons Why Power Sharing is Bad
One of the mistakes I see with project teams is the notion that power should be shared. This approach is taken in the name of team work, but I think that it harms both the people on the team and the project's outcome. Neal Whitten, in an article for PM Network, described 8 reasons why sharing power is probably a sign of weak or inexperienced leaders rather than a sound idea.
Lack of Accountability
No individual has a personal stake in the big picture. Instead, each person predominately focuses on his or her own tasks with diminished interest in the other person's progress. This is natural human behavior and unreasonable to expect that anyone will behave differently for extended periods of time.
Reduced Personal Commitment
The passion that a person can bring to the job is considerably weakened by sharing an assignment with another. Part of the problem is that when every decision is questioned and debated, eventually it gets too tiring to do battle and the tendency is to start making concessions.
Emergence of a No-Man's Land
Each person sharing power has a designated domain for responsibility, but that arrangement leaves a gray area, for which neither party feels full responsibility. Finger-pointing is the natural outcome of this situation.
Confusion Over Accountability
When a problem or issue arises, it's not always clear who to take it to and who will own it.
Lack of a Final Arbiter
No person has the power to decide a dispute, which can cause issues to drift and emotions to fester. There's nothing like losing weeks while an issue remains open. Sometimes it can take less time to make the wrong decision, determine it was the wrong decision, and then choose another path.
Conflicting Personalities and Work Habits
The styles of each person will differ in discipline, efficiency, follow-through, people skills, dedication, politics, and a whole lot more. Have you ever seen a laid-back project manager try to get along with a type-A project manager? It's not pretty.
When two people share power, one person will inevitably expend more effort than the other -- or at least embrace that perception. The key is that even the perception of unequal efforts is bad as it will cause resentfulness and bitterness.
It's difficult to single out one person over the other for special recognition when both were assigned the work needed to achieve the outcome. Related to this is the diminished value of recognition when it is given to multiple people in an effort to not leave anyone out.
Whenever I've been in such power-sharing situations, I determine if it's possible for me to take full control. If not, then I look to whether I can relinquish my portion of the power and allow the other party to run the show. Either way, one and only one person will be able to move a project or task in the direction they deem fit without getting bogged down.