Great Leaders – Stop doing too much and start leading

Busy Businessman

Last week I visited one of my friends (who is a manager at Texas Instruments) to congratulate him on the arrival of his baby boy. He was full of joy and excited and the baby had brought out a certain warmth in him. But at the same time when I asked him about his work he was kind of stressed out for staying away from his work for few days.

Even in the midst of this happiness the pressure of work will always hang around a manager that causes them to take their cell phones & laptop up everywhere. This helps them know what is going on back at office, no matter if you are on vacation or just had a baby!

The everyday life of a manager can rarely be calm especially when they are accountable for greater responsibilities and need to look at things from a broader perspective. For most of managers work is always a never ending phenomenon. Some of them are afraid to take vacation for longer days since they feel, in their absence, the team and the tasks that he delegates would fall into chaos. Either this is a myth or you have not given them the freedom to excel. A well trained team should be able to represent you when you are not around them or at work.

You might want to take a step back and place your team in a situation. Let them see the possibilities and you might be amazed to see that they get results in a different manner than you do but in their own innovative ways. Their capabilities can be beyond your estimation and putting them alone to handle a situation can help you understand it better. For some of you this might sound a little risky or makes you unsure. But you would be surprised to see the unseen skills that they reveal. Skills that you never think they had in them.

A few companies like videogame maker Valve Corp and GE’s Aviation and most of the startups can work on a Boss-less environment! The energy that drives those teams can be because their responsibilities have been acknowledged, they have the freedom to bring forth creative ideas and have clear objectives that they need to accomplish.

Apart from this there are few tips for managers to help their team excel and best represent you even when you are not around.

Stop working and start leading: I often see that managers tend not to delegate rather they are comfortable doing the work by themselves. Because they fear that their team would mess things up or they are not confident in the way their team accomplishes the tasks. Ultimately the manager would end spending long hours at work and fails himself by not paying attention to leading his team.

Avoid doing day to day tasks: Since you need to look things from a broader perspective, leaving day to day and the most common and critical tasks with your team can help you deal with the strategic elements. Your role comes with responsibilities where people want you to use broad brushstrokes rather than focusing on the details.

Leave your old shoes: There would be certain tasks that you were doing previously but now that you are a manager leave those grass roots tasks to be done by your team. For example a Software developer who is promoted to a lead role should look at doing less of basic programming. Let that be handled by your team and use your expert knowledge to refine it while educating your team about it.

Figure out who is good at what: Understanding your resource and figuring out who is the expert on what will help you to delegate effectively. Let you best designer do your designing, have your best writer do the draft of a memo or write up an important report etc. Let them take the ownership and help them succeed in what they do and use their full potential at the best. Give them sufficient access to the information and resources.

A few of the insights here are from a book ‘Do Nothing‘ which I read recently by J. Keith Murnighan. Worth reading!!

He says ” Here’s what you can actually do: to be a truly effective leader, you should be a facilitator and an orchestrator. Rather than doing work that your team members can do, help them do their jobs better. Facilitate their performance rather than interfering with it. Then add a touch of orchestration, to make sure that Annie finishes her work before William does his so that everything will be ready at the right time. When you facilitate and orchestrate well, your team members will work well, individually and collectively”

What do you do to orchestrate your team?

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