“I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”
Lee Iacocca’s famous quote is effective in its simplicity and sensibility. And it’s a lesson we’ve all learned the hard way at least once. As managers, it’s our job to give our teams accurate data, proper tools, and positive direction. We all have our unique ways of doing that. But sometimes, in our excitement to help or lead, we make the mistake of being in the way of our team’s success.
Maybe you inadvertently delayed a project timeline by micromanaging data analysis? Or you did a presentation that would have been better covered by another team member. Maybe you thought you were just surveying progress, but instead hovered and made employees nervous. Just three of a thousand things that could put you in your team’s way. Honest, correctable mistakes. So we’ve compiled a short list of reminders to keep handy, and to help keep you on track.
Free their time: Your team needs focus time. Is there anything you can do to lessen those disruptions? Phone calls, emails, and calendar reminders are small tasks that take big bites out of productivity. Can phone calls be answered by a central dispatch? Emails and calendars managed by administrative staff? Diminish that impact by delegating those tasks away from core team members.
Feed them at their desk: We aren’t proposing catered lunches daily. But honestly, a short time away from work while eating is better for their brains anyway. What we’re talking about is research results, data, reports, and other needed materials. Don’t make your team hunt them down. Bring them what they need so it’s within reach.
Encourage creativity in processes: Generational gaps are more apparent than ever. In a world driven by technology, it’s easy to find disparities between the methods of Boomers and Millennials. Give your team access to the tools that keep them productive, both as individuals and as a team, even if they aren’t the tools you would choose.
Let the team decide: Many Silicon Valley startups work in a team approach as opposed to a top down approach. Each team member is invested in the outcome because they have a voice in the decisions. We aren’t advising you to shake up or dismantle your company culture. We are saying that empowerment goes a long way. Team members empowered to chip in on important decisions are often happier and more fulfilled in their work.
Let them roam: Send the team somewhere without you? Sure! If the team is itchy to get out of the office and work somewhere away from distraction, encourage them. It doesn’t cost much for them to camp out at a coffee shop or a small co-working space. A change in environment is refreshing and keeps the creativity flowing.
As a manager, you might fear a flatter organization or any other loosening of the reigns threatens your position. It isn’t necessarily true. While it might be hard to let go sometimes, it’s a healthy habit to work on. Your team still values and needs your guidance, motivation, and administrative skills. Dig in and help them exceed their goals. Just remember that sometimes the best way to help is to take a step back.
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