Protect, Empower, But Don’t Hover

Came across an interesting HBR article this week: . It discusses a manager’s evolution from how not to protecting one’s team to better ways to lead, enable, and support them. If you’re a new manager this is worth reading.

My view on protecting my teams has taken two key paths. The first is to protect them from external ‘noise’ so they can get their jobs done. For instance, we had a senior salesman who routinely went straight to the Ops team with all his customer issues. It was incredibly disruptive, routinely derailing previously planned work.

As director, my role was to put in place a process by which the salesman (and sales in general) could get ‘urgent’ issues addressed. The answer wasn’t ‘come to me.’ If the normal processes didn’t work, issues needed to route through the team’s manager…not go to the individual. The manager could figure out the best way to have their team respond.

The second path is to develop my teams so they can stand on their own. This means challenging them to provide answers, rather than being dependent on me (or another manager). It’s important to develop their confidence. After all, as manager, you cannot always be available (certainly not if you ever want a true vacation).

My greatest compliment recently came after our chairman met with my team while I was traveling. Afterward, he commented on how satisfied he was with their ability to answer his questions and that they were well-trained. I made sure to let them know. Not only did they make me look good (I thanked them for that). It also is important so they understand their value, strengthens their own confidence.

Protect, but let grow…

Image credit:
Riccardo Annandale