3 Things Overworked Managers Need to Stop Doing Today
Lethargy and laziness aren’t virtues. But overworked managers are their own worst enemy.
3 things overworked managers need to stop:
#1. Stop doing people’s work for them.
Suppose you’re asked how to do something. The overworked manager ends up doing the work. Why?
You did the job before you were promoted. It’s easy for you. And you’re good at it.
Every time you do someone’s job – you teach them that you’ll do their job.
Ego is exhausting. An overworked manager feels important and smart when they do someone’s job for them.
#2. Stop interrupting people when they’re solving their own problems.
A manager recently described the value of not interrupting. A team member asked a question in slack.
Normally he quickly jumped in with an answer, but this time he waited. In 15 minutes his team member typed three short messages. The last one read, “Never mind. I got it.”
- Affirm people when they solve their own problems.
- When someone asks, “What do you think I should do?” Ask, “What have you tried?”
- If they haven’t tried anything, ask, “What do you think you should do?”
#3. Stop tweaking the solutions of competent team members.
It’s said that we don’t wash rental cars. Why? We don’t take pride in things we don’t own. You destroy the joy of achievement when you tweak someone’s solution.
Their solution is better than your solution as long as their solution won’t cause harm.
Provide opportunity to reflect on learning. “Come back when you’re done and tell me what you learned.”
Why are you hindering competent employees by helping too much?
Drucker said, “So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”
- Affirm more. Help less.
- Provide opportunity for people to craft their own solutions.
- Get out of the way, but don’t isolate yourself.
How might managers maximize the talent on their team?
Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey (PDF)
Does anyone have any good approaches to inspire a direct report to improve their idea or solution to something better without “tweaking” their solution? As leaders, we should encourage others to achieve more than they thought they were capable of.
Great question Marc. You might find that asking for three options is helpful. “Which one would you like to choose? Why?”
Another simple question is, “How might you take this to the next level?” Or, “How might you reach higher?”
Part of this is about organizational culture. Are leaders/managers committed to improve themselves and their work?
I’m glad you poked at the idea that NOT tweaking has a down side.
Maybe ask about the customer perspective – how will our customers react to this solution? Then it’s not the manager commenting; it’s the team viewing it through the customer’s eyes.
Thanks Ian. Great idea. A question might be, “How might we best serve our customer’s needs?” OR, “How might we better serve our customer’s needs?”
For the overworked manager there are two possible options.
Do it yourself and be asked why you didn’t delegate it;
Let someone else do it and bessked why it took them so long when you could have done it quicker?
A punch in the face or a punch in the stomach. Pick one…
I think asking good questions can help draw more out of people. If I really have a suggestion I think can improve an idea, I frame it as someone elses, eg “Ï know someone who had this situation before and they did this….” that was they dont feel obligated to use it.
How might managers maximize the talent on their team? Don’t make everything an “emergency” because then NOTHING is an “emergency”.
Thanks Roger. Artificial urgency created by making everything an emergency is exhausting and it doesn’t provide opportunity to develop new solutions.
How might managers maximize the talent on their team? Educate and delegate has worked for me. The hurry ups do exist whether we like them or not in the construction, “more people we want it done” needs to be addressed in a timely fashion, address them as needed. More importantly the sizing of workforce needs to be productive, so staffing is critical to costs and completions.
Learning to prioritize has helped me immensely.
This is one of the core aspects of Servant Leadership that often get overlooked. Servant leaders do not do everything for everyone, but rather provide guidance in the process. I love the questions you provided and plan to incorporate them with our leadership team. As a practice, I try to answer questions with two to three follow up questions before making any suggestions. This practice helps to clarify the original “ask.”
The Company is cutting staff and basically forcing managers to do more and more. The company is burning out the managers. And, the company doesn’t care…your advice?
Dan, these are excellent pieces of advice, especially, #1. Stop doing people’s work for them.
I recall one of my senior employees doing the work of people at our plant sites and asked him why are you doing this work? He said because plant site people do not have the time and I am the expert in this area. I replied, are you willing to stand before the regulatory agency you are doing this work for and plead your case if you make a mistake? His reply, well that would be the responsibility of the plant people.
Eventually, we got around to exactly why he was doing other people’s work. He had a strong affiliation motive and found doing other’s work resulted in the plant site people liking him. Visiting with these plant people, I found out they were simply using him because he was more than willing to do their work. In other words, he was being played.
As the senior person in the group, he wanted and expected to be the next manager. I told him that the only way that was possible was for him to become more of a “Leader” of the plant site peoples’ work versus being a “Doer” of their work.
Even though I resigned from the organization several months after this exchange, he never was able to let go of doing other’s work, which I found out later was part of the reason he never achieved his goal of being the group manager.
Thanks you for this article. I finally learned why the practice of “I may as well do this job as I’m here, I’m just trying to help” (direct translation from Mandarin Chinese) doesn’t fare well at work. While growing up, my parents would do my “job” for me with this reason. They didn’t understand why I was unhappy. Instead, they told me I should be grateful and I was being too sensitive.
Unfortunately, I carried this practice into the workplace until I left my first management role. It became necessary to work longer hours than my colleagues and superiors as I ended up doing other peoples’ jobs outside of my own. The smarter employees knew they could half-heartedly do their work as I would fix it anyway. Employees who didn’t like my practice and reason complained to their boss. I was doubly reprimanded by the employee and their boss for being in the way and not minding my own business.
It now also makes sense why I lost promotions despite above average performance and productivity. This practice ended up burning bridges in how I treated people without knowing my help had undermined others.
Better late than never in learning from mistakes.