A Management Essential: Helping Your People to Do It on Their Own

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He gives me the assignment and then proceeds to tell me step-by-step how to do it.” In my previous role before coming here, I managed successfully much larger projects than this. Just let me run with it and stay out of the way.”

That comment was from a budding marketing whiz who I have mentored over the years. Her frustration was with her manager who wooed and hired her from one of the big advertising firms.

The problem with this scenario is that he micro-manages her every move. He gives her an assignment and then essentially says, “here is the way I want you to do it.”

Buyer’s remorse

When we hire a plumber, electrician, or a marketing expert, just like with any tradesman, we show them the problem and then walk away. We would never think of interfering.

To build credibility with a team, you must do the same. You need to let them test their wings. If they falter, well, that is the time to step in.

This is especially important when, after a long search, you decide on bringing someone new into the fold. Buyer’s remorse is when you have second thoughts after you have made the purchase. That is what happens to your new employees with you play the role of mother hen.

Being a big fan of the National Geographic Channel (NatGeo), I saw a special a while back that talked about how a turtle, when put into an aquarium, will grow to accommodate that aquarium. When I heard that statement I thought of organizational dynamics at play.

When managers limit the amount of input that their team gets, they in turn will limit their growth. That may have worked with a different generation of workers, but in today’s environment, it is not going to cut it.

Don’t limit their growth

As managers, we cannot limit the growth of our team members. My motto has always been to develop them until they are ready to leave the nest.

That development is more about mentoring and coaching as opposed to being in direct control. Whether they leave the nest or not is up to them. The key is that I will never give them a reason to leave.

At a recent presentation in Mumbai, one of the presenters said the key to employee engagement is to fire all the bad managers. Everyone laughed at that, but there is a lot of truth in that statement. Bad managers are not only bad for employees but they are also bad for innovation, creativity, and all the other mainstays that are needed to move your organization forward.

The new leader dynamic is not the command and control of your group, it is the role of a manager/coach which enables employees to grow. However, coaching and managing are two different ends of the spectrum. The manager’s role directs while the coach’s role is to teach.

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Manager vs. Coach

Managers are the authority figure who directs and handles the immediate needs of his or her group. With coaches, the dynamic is altogether different. The coach collaborates, facilitates, partners and focuses on long-term improvement.

The coach gets involved with the ebb and flow of his team. He guides within the framework of the deliverable, but knows that he needs to leave them to be free to improvise, all the while keeping the goal in mind.

The key to operating within this context is to know what hat to wear and when to wear it. Do you know when to step in, and maybe more importantly, do you know when to step back? Effective managers know this and have become masters at it. My belief is to always err on the side of being a coach.

I have always coached other managers to try to figure out their style and how it plays within the dynamics of their team. Can your team operate on auto-pilot, or do they constantly come to you for direction?

Your style is to interpret these actions and realize that every nail does not need a hammer. Your role may be different with different team members; some may be self-sufficient while others are needier. Your role should be to help move them from needy to self-sufficient.

Manager vs. Coach

One of the big mistakes for new managers is that they try to copy someone else’s style, which is the kiss of death. Authenticity will always shine through.

Being a fake manager will also shine through, but once you are found out, it is an uphill battle to try to gain their trust. This introspection is a process that every manager should go through to determine just who they are as a manager. They need to ask: “What is my style and how do I apply it within the confines of this company, culture and values as an overlay of the individuals that I manage?”

So, if you are hovering over your people like a drone, step back and determine who you want to be because you apparently have not given your management style much consideration.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


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