Managers: Do You Know When to Back Off?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Managers: Stanford University researchers have a message for you. Get over yourself. Most managers believe that their team members can’t do anything right unless they are constantly giving them advice. Research shows this belief isn’t true. Managers who can’t loosen the reins risk demoralizing their team members.

How Management Goes Wrong

Some managers insist on contributing to a project because they want things done their way. When the project succeeds, research shows a disturbing fact: Managers believe the project did well only because they were involved. That’s not a good way to motivate team members or increase loyalty.

Other managers think that visiting team members at their work spaces is a good way to check up on productivity. During these impromptu visits, they’re asking if the employee needs help with anything. Unfortunately, these 'coaching' sessions too often turn into managers talking about themselves and wasting employees’ time. Why does this happen? In some cases, it’s because the manager has caught the employee at a bad time and the employee would prefer to cut the visit short.

Redefining Supervision

Your employees do need help regularly. Your motto should be: Fix the problems that you can with no fanfare. And don’t waste team member time talking about problems you can’t fix.

How do you know if you're overstepping? Employees have their own ways of coping with an ineffective boss. They may slow-​roll you. Or they may deliberately carry out your instructions down to the last detail, knowing full well that a disaster might occur. If you sense this type of undercurrent in your organization, change your style.

Consider talking directly to the employees you know are criticizing you. When an employee is brave enough to deliver the bad news, do them the courtesy of listening. They will give you some pointers on how to be a better manager. These tips might include holding fewer meetings or shorter meetings. The team members might also want you to listen more than talk.

All of these suggestions add up to common sense. For many managers, the desire to do a good job overshadows common sense. Don’t let that happen to you and your team members. Stay aware and agile and remember that when your team succeeds, you do to.