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Nobody does it better


We talked last week about managers who don’t listen to the people in their teams (I do hope you were paying attention) and this week we look at the second of the two biggest mistakes that managers make.  It’s almost an offshoot of not listening - micromanaging: telling people how to do things and then hounding them until it’s done.

It’s understandable that a lot of managers make this mistake.  I’ve written before about how managers often find themselves in charge of a team not because they are good at managing but because they are good at something else.  Someone displays an aptitude in their job, they’re marked out for progression and management, often, is the only way of progressing.  So a very good engineer, say, finds herself in charge of a team of engineers because that’s the only way she can climb the corporate ladder.

But good engineers - or anything else - don’t necessarily make good managers and, lacking confidence in their new role, managers often fall back onto what they know.  They start telling other people how to do their jobs or criticizing the job team members are doing because it’s not done in the way the manager would have done it.

If you suspect this might be you, relax; it happens a lot.  But remember, each time you do it you’re making it harder for your team members to engage with their work and you’re making your - and their - life harder.  There’s a difference between advising someone who legitimately wants or needs your help and nitpicking, so the next time you delegate work, focus on the desired result and not the method.  Explain what you want, not how you want it done.  If there are particular rules that they must follow, if there are particular consequences to the outcome, make sure you explain those too, but keep your focus on the outcome.  

You’ll need to trust the people to whom you’re delegating.  You have to extend that trust - thoughtfully, sensibly - and it will, in time, be returned.  It takes two to delegate work; for that piece of work to be done well, you need the other person to accept it, not just take it on because you tell them to.  Telling someone how they’re supposed to do a particular task is the quickest way of stopping people from accepting it and as Stephen Covey says “you cannot hold someone responsible for their results if you supervise their methods.”  

That’s it for the inspiredblog for this year - we’re off to find a cosy nook in which to celebrate the festive season with a pile of books and some mulled wine.  We’ll be back in 2011 to do it all again - in the meantime, have yourself a merry little Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

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