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I “do” it my way - again!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

This is a (slightly belated) follow-up to the article on the 20th October about the difficulties that some of us face in leadership and management positions of “letting go”; of allowing others to do things in a rather different way to the way that we might have done them. The three areas discussed in that article were “I’m a control freak”, “They don’t do it right” and “My way is better”, and you can read the full thing here.

This follow-up article is picking up the remaining three primary reasons why some people struggle to let go. So let’s go...

“I’m held responsible”

This is one of the most significant challenges for people in the early stages of their first management positions. Perhaps for the first time, the buck really does stop with them, and yet a significant proportion of the actual “work” is being done by other people. How can you possibly let others get on with it and do things “their way” when you are held responsible for the results?

There are a couple of approaches that I take to this.

The first is to look at the alternative. If you don’t let people do things their way and get on with them, you will need to fulfill two alternative roles. You’ll need to be a regulator, writing endless documentation on processes and systems, to ensure that every step of every activity is done the way you want it to be done, and you’ll need to be a policeman, enforcing the rules and regulations that you’ve put in place. Perhaps possible, but is this really great management?

Take a look here for the potential (and very real) pitfalls of management by regulation.

“They won’t do it at all”

“Absent management” is a real challenge in certain industries, and in certain (usually very flat) organisations. By this, I mean those situations where the manager simply cannot be with any significant part of his or her staff for any significant part of the time. If you are in this situation, ask yourself two direct questions, and be honest in your replies:

1) Why don’t I trust my staff? If you don’t trust them to either do the job at all, or do the job with the care and attention you want, why are they your staff? And, as a manager in a position of responsibility, what are you going to do about it? Taking the ownership of this back can be tough, but can also be hugely liberating.

2) Can you delegate some of the responsibility? If your team really is so large, so geographically spread, or operates 24 hours a day (and you don’t!), then the time has come to de-flatten the organisation. Once teams grow to a certain size, they need to split and re-form, because the problems outweigh any potential benefits once the critical mass is exceeded (there will be an article on this subject early in the New Year).

“If they do it, what do I do?”

A flip-side to a lot of this is that your team, your staff, might actually do everything that needs to be done - and more - incredibly well and wonderfully efficiently. The question then arises - what are you needed for?

Again, there are a couple of potential answers to this questions:

1) You might not be needed any more, and that is fine! If you have done such a fantastic job of developing a team, to the extent that you are no longer required and the team can run themselves beautifully, you’re clearly ready for the next big thing, either inside or outside your current organisation.

2) Slightly less dramatically, whilst staying in the same role, you can actually look for the next thing to do with the same team. Can they take on more work? Can they enter new areas? Can things be further improved? Very little in the real world is static, there are always new challenges, and the great thing is you now have the time to go and find them, and (clearly) the skill to manage them brilliantly.

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