Management style, delegating, etc.

I posted the following as a response in someone else’s journal, but it seems to be good writing and somewhat relevant and revealing. So, I will reproduce most of it here.

I have pretty excellent communication skills, so in general I’m a pretty good mid-level manager. I seem to have avoided getting promoted into uselessness (“reaching my level” as students of the Peter Principle would have it) and I now have about the right balance of Doing Things and Other Stuff. Life is pretty good.

Such was not always the case. Before I was officially promoted to Manager, I was able to get ahead in life by working really really hard at my job. So, not surprisingly, my #1 best survival strategy as a manager was “If I want something done right, do it myself.” This is a good strategy for G.I. Joe but it turns out that doing everything myself is not the best strategy when leading a team of six. This led to a difficult period during which I would work longer and longer hours, and my team in general was actually getting less done. I could probably do the work of 2 or 3, but I could not single-handedly do the work of six. (“Leaving twenty for me. At my best I could not defeat that many.”)

OK, so delegating is a matter of trust. I was really good at delegating the easy stuff because I could calculate the high probably of success and I could trust my co-workers (now my employees) to do the easy stuff, stuff that I knew they could do. This would seem to be an effective strategy on paper, but it was complicated by two things: 1. I didn’t know everyone’s capabilities very well, and 2. even if I had, I would never challenge them using this strategy.

So, the “survival strategy” had to change. I couldn’t dig my way out of this one – if I’m already in the hole, digging doesn’t help. The clencher for me was when I decided that I didn’t have any extra time to do recruiting – no time to seek out more help – that’s an uphill battle already. But where to go from here? What’s a survival strategy I can use?

I guess there wasn’t really any one silver bullet.. after the first six months I just started trusting people more and more. At first it took some effort to pull myself out of my office, away from furiously doing tasks myself, to go make the rounds and TALK to people and see what they are doing. I had already earned some respect by being a really hard worker, now I had to inspire others to do the same, and guide them while they took some of the same risks I had taken. I made sure that everyone knew that I would go to bat for them, and if we were being asked to do something totally outrageous I would push back to upper management, or I would do it myself.

It turns out that working really hard is a good thing to inspire others to work really hard, but I had to spend the *time* talking to each person, knowing their strengths and weaknesses and how they wanted to be challenged. So I was able to leverage a lot of my personal pride in my work into pride for my team, which is infectious.

OK that is enough blather about my job for now. If you think this is interesting, let me know, ask questions, etc. I can write more on the topic if there is interest.

(End of entry. This way to the egress….>> )

0 thoughts on “Management style, delegating, etc.

  1. esmerel

    That all sounds completely reasonable. I have much the same mentality – I don’t trust most people to do things right, so I try to get it done myself. I do this a lot less now, mostly because I’ve had to. I have too many things to do that *only* I can do. I find that this does mean that you really shake the good people out, and find out who really is a high-quality working.

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