Managers: Be Dispensable

I was once provided feedback that I should trust my team more. At first I was shocked. My team was great. I rewarded them well, we had fun working together and we kicked butt meeting our challenging objectives. I told them all the time how much value they added to the business, but also to me personally. Then I thought about it. I had NEVER taken a vacation without extensively checking email and responding with guidance and I had NEVER given a team mate official purchasing authority. I told them to make decisions and I had their back, but I was also a constant presence. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a type A personality, but I took that feedback to heart. I used my summer family vacation to test my progress. Could I go the entire 8 business days without calling into the office or checking email?

If you manage people your goal should be to make yourself dispensable. But before you roll your eyes and stop reading let me clarify being dispensable doesn’t equate to not adding value. All of us should strive to add guidance, creative ideas, strategic insigts but that doesn’t mean our teams should be dependant upon us for their own success. Instead we should prepare our teams to be successful and give them the confidence to do their job without you. I remind myself that if they need me, they WILL call. If you need some motivation to try this on your own think about this.

What if you could:

* Go on vacation REALLY – that means not sneaking email checks before everyone gets up in the morning

* Stop triple scheduling yourself because you HAVE to attend meetings with your team members

* Accelerate your ability to train new staff by assigning a mentor

And if selfish motivation to give yourself more time and less stress isn’t enough; think about the reduced risk you provide your business when you ensure the team has your back.

I’m not advocating being unavailable, but I am telling you that you and the people who you are developing will be so much more productive if they have confidence in doing their job without you. As a manager you should be aiming for the team to WANT you there, not need you to be there. Try it on your next day off. It just might stick.

p.s. I didn’t quite meet my goal on vacation. No phone calls into the office, but I did check email 3 times. But 3 times is a heck of a lot better than twice a day! I give myself a B+.

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