Stop Meddling in Others’ Minutia
It’s only natural for leaders to care deeply about their organization. But in MAP’s 50+ years experience in working with company executives and managers, we’ve noticed many leaders “care” so much they frequently struggle to relinquish control, particularly when it comes to problem-solving for their managers and other employees. Do you find yourself meddling in everyday minutia or conflicts that could be dealt with by those you manage instead? A prime example: the tendency to get caught up in issues or problems that one of your direct reports can manage. Look for opportunities to delegate problems to others so you are free to work on what’s truly vital to your leadership responsibilities.
What can you do if meddling in others’ minutia or problem solving is a habit for you?
1. Know The Signs
You’re stressed out. There’s no time to work on your priorities. People are coming to you with problems, treating your office like a revolving door. In meetings, everyone is always waiting for you to surface answers and solutions. Direct reports text or email you for guidance on issues outside work hours or in the middle of the night. These are just a few of the many possible signs that you’re too involved in everyone else’s business at work, and they are too dependent on you. Another sign: you know in your gut you’re struggling here or have actually received that feedback from others. Whatever the signs and symptoms are, the first course of action is not to ignore them!
2. Get Clear On Your Role And Responsibilities
Here’s the fact: Your role as a leader is to focus on what’s vital—the 20% of your leadership activities that will drive 80% of success and results. In your position, that’s what you need to be doing, concentrating your activities and efforts on leadership-centric responsibilities. And while this may at times include high-level problem solving with team members, this does not mean consistently meddling in others’ daily challenges and trying to fix everything for everyone. Recognize what you’re really supposed to be doing and then let your people do what they’re really supposed to be doing. In the end, your managers and the organization at large will thank you for backing off, letting go of the reigns of tight control, and giving them the chance to problem-solve for themselves. This is one of the best ways to empower your people to grow professionally and it frees up time for you to focus on your leadership work.
3. Maintain Your Boundaries
If you’re not sure whether you should step in and get involved with others’ challenges or problems, a litmus test can help. For example, the first, perhaps most important criterion might be: Does this issue fall under my vital responsibilities? Another might be: Is there someone else who can effectively handle this dilemma, challenge, decision, etc.? And then here’s the biggie: Is this already someone else’s job to handle it? Use these kinds of questions as a reference for when and to what degree to step in or not. Then let your direct reports or fellow team members know you’re using this approach. When they see you’ve got a solid system for deciding when to help them, they’ll know where you stand with your level of involvement. Once you set and communicate these boundaries, stick to your guns and be firm. This will probably feel uncomfortable at first, but have courage—be brave! When you push problem solving down to your people, it is a win-win for all. It builds everyone’s skills (including yours), boosting and sustaining the common good.
In what areas of your business do you find you problem solve for others the most?