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Breaking out of micromanagement

I was working with a small company last week on leadership training for their middle managers. This company desperately needs their middle managers to be more strategic - to work on new initiatives for the company to grow - but the middle managers too often get sucked into the day-to-day minutiae of keeping the train on the tracks.

I asked these managers what their main struggle was and almost everyone said resources. They responded that they simply lack the right people underneath them.

A bit surprised by the consistency of this answer, I probed as to why they felt this. Several mentioned that the people underneath them were simply not as capable as they are; that they were prone to making (sometimes costly) errors.

I asked them: "Was there ever a time in your career where you made a lot of errors?" "Yes."

"Was there ever a time in your career where your boss knew a lot more than you did?" "Yes."

"Was there ever a time in your career where it would've been faster and more effective for your boss to do the task than you?" "Yes."

Perspective taking is difficult, especially for stressed individuals. It takes so much effort to truly try and see a situation from the other side's point of view - this simple example demonstrates how difficult it was for these managers to do this.

We had a long discussion then about the need to empower others and the benefits of autonomy. I showed them the excellent animated David Marquet Ted talk.

I do not know what this company is going to do, but at least they are seeing the benefit in seeking to understand another person and how, if they actually believe in that person, they might get far greater returns.

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