Letting Go: The Toughest Management Practice of All (Part 1)

Letting Go: The Toughest Management Practice of All (Part 1)

We work with hundreds of managers and one thing that most of them struggle with is letting go, letting their direct reports do things on their own. No, these managers are not control freaks… they are help-a-holics. They thrive on being needed, and solving problems and they want desperately for their associates to succeed. They will do almost anything to help them do so, including doing parts of their job for them. (Hint: usually it’s NOT the fun parts of their jobs!)

Tell me if this sounds familiar…

Bob has been the manager of his department for 10 years. He has 17 direct reports and he is well liked by his staff. A couple of years ago, Bob implemented a scorecard to help employees stay accountable for daily activities to help increase revenues for the company. At first, he got some push back from the team, they did not see the value in this exercise. But, as weeks went on, most of the team started to embrace the scorecards and turned it into more of a game. However, there are still a few employees who do not turn in their scorecards on a consistent basis, and some, not at all. One of those employees is Susan.

Susan is a 14 year employee of the company. She is a good employee and does a good job. She has not been consistent in filling out her score card because she says she is ‘too busy helping customers’. Sound familiar?! When Bob has confronted Susan and gotten this excuse, he merely fills out the scorecard for her, asking her the necessary questions and then moves on with his day. You can imagine, after Bob doing this for a couple of weeks, Susan realized that she had Bob trained and she no longer needed to do this ‘trivial’ exercise. She merely needed to say the magic words (I was helping customers) and she would be off the hook. So, where did Bob go wrong? We think he made a mistake the first time he let Susan off the hook. Managers like Bob mean well, but tend to enable their employees rather than empower them to figure things out on their own. You’ve heard the old saying… ”Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day, teach him how to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.”

Bob and those like him are help-a-holics. They want to HELP their employees be successful, but so many managers do not know how to do this other than enabling them. What would you have done if you were Bob? Share in the comments (or ping us on social media Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) as to how you would handle this situation, or if you’ve had similar challenges in your career. Next month, we’ll share our thoughts on not only what Bob should have done, but what he can do now to solve this problem.

Grow Big or Go Home!