Do Your People Need You?


By Attila Ovari

Do your staff consistently come to you with questions?
Do your staff come to you for routine authorisations?
Do you feel that you need to be always contactable?

If you answered “yes” to any of these  questions then your staff need you, they may be dependent on you.

Is this a good thing? Some of you will say “yes”. Some of the reasons for this may be that you believe that you need to know everything that is happening in your team and others may respond with that it is harder to replace you in the workplace, hence you have job security.

Some of the disadvantages of your staff being dependant on you are:

  • You become a funnel with the potential for work to be blocked with you
  • You are restricted to not being able to rest or take a break
  • You lack creative time and have less opportunity to focus on the big picture
  • Your time for special projects and promotion is stifled.
  • Your staff are prevented from growing and developing
  • Your pressure levels will be at an unhealthy high

My belief is despite the advantages of staff being dependent on you it is best to develop systems and processes that empower your staff to operate independently. In terms of benefit to the organisation, your staff and yourself it is far better in the long term to have interdependent empowered staff with the ability and authority to make decisions. Having staff truly empowered means that an organisation can move forward and take advantage of opportunities in the market. Without empowered staff your organisation risks being left behind by the market.

There are a number of considerations and limitations for empowering your staff, such as:

  • Your organisations delegation limits
  • Your staff’s ability and knowledge levels
  • Your ability to communicate your intent to you staff
  • If new to the role the previous manager’s leadership style
  • Development of reporting mechanisms

Most organisations will have limits on the delegations for their staff by role or position. This may be outlined in the organisation’s delegations policy or schedule. If your organisation doesn’t have documented delegations then it is important to define with guidance from your supervisor both your delegations and also the delegations of your staff. Remember that delegations go beyond just financial matters and include things like authorities to deal with media and authority to sign binding contracts on behalf of the organisation.

The next consideration is your staff’s ability and knowledge levels. For your staff to be able to work without a reliance on you it is important that they have the skills and knowledge to conduct the work and make decisions related to the task. If your staff do not have the skills and knowledge to conduct the tasks you wish to delegate to them t you will need to implement a training program prior to fully empowering and delegating the tasks.

In order for your staff to operate independently they will be required to have clear direction from yourself of what is required and the parameters they have to operate in. This  should not be overly prescriptive as you will take away the ability from  staff to contribute to the solutions by restricting their ability to apply their creativity. In the Army they call this “Mission Command”. It is an art of communicating the intent without being over prescriptive.

If you are new to a role and your staff are not used to working with you  it may take time to develop an understanding of your leadership style. This would be particularly the case when your staff’s previous supervisor operated in a manner that supported dependency. There are various tools that you can use to help develop your staff’s independence and then interdependence. Just remember that this will take time.

One  that I have found useful is to hold regular one on one meetings with my direct staff to discuss issues, questions and provide guidance on issues. Overtime I find through coaching and experience that the staff will save the smaller issues and cover them off during these meetings. This will free up your time and enable you to coach your staff through how to deal with these issues and build their capability.

I am a big believer in maximising individual, team and organisational capability through operating in an interdependent environment that enables everyone to use their creative ability. That said this is not a free for all situation where you have no oversight on the operation. When you delegate to your staff this does not absolve you of your responsibility. So how do you manage your responsibility while allowing your staff freedom of movement?

The answer is “reporting”. Through the development and implementation of a reporting system your staff will be able to communicate the status of the delegated tasks. This will ensure that you have oversight while your staff have operational control. I suggest using a system of traffic lights. Report “Red” if there is significant issues that require a supervisor’s intervention, “Yellow” if there are issues that the staff has under control (along with the plan to rectify) and “Green” for the tasks that are on track.

In summary, let me wish you a successful career of empowering your staff in order to achieve greatness for yourself, your team and your organisation. And remember the following considerations:

  • Your organisations delegation limits
  • Your staff’s ability and knowledge levels
  • Your ability to communicate your intent to you staff
  • If new to the role the previous manager’s leadership style
  • Development of reporting mechanisms

About Attila : Attila Ovari is a Cause & Effective Associate. He passionate about life and thrives on empowering others, in particular when it comes to leadership. Contact Attila here.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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