Thursday, June 27, 2013

Busy Managers: Insecure and Incompetent

Photo of "Don't bother me I'm having a crisis" burgundy mugBusy all day? Then, stop the incompetence and do something right for your business.
The logic is simple. Some managers measure success by how busy they are. The busier, the better they think they're doing. As a result, they are also unavailable to others. The more they're needed and the less available they are, the more important to the company they think to be. While seemingly correct on the surface, this idea is absolutely misguided.
Companies are supposed to continue to grow indefinitely. To do so, they need key people to grow with them. These are the key executives that will trail-blaze through the market's jungle. If they stop, progress does too.
These key managers are hired to make big decisions and solve big problems. The higher in the organization one goes, the bigger the responsibilities and the subsequent problems.
But when a manager has used all of her bandwidth, when it can no longer do more, then the manager must be replaced with someone who can; or else, risk stalling progress. This is referred to as the Peter Principle. In a nutshell, this principle says that "in an organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence".
Photo of "The Peter Principle" book by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull
The Peter Principle
It is therefore expected for the Peter Principle to happen to everybody at some point in their career. Thankfully it is not terminal; giving the manager a second opportunity to go to a different company where it can take another shot at growth. In other words, everybody has a chance to recover. Unfortunately, the manager in question should still be fired, even if we are talking about the founder. In such case, a professional manager will be needed to lead the institution through growth. Let's remember that in business, even founders work for the institution and not the other way around. With this in mind, take departments away from the busy, including founders, and give them to those who can handle the additional load.
Have you ever had a middle manager request additional departments, despite not being able to handle the load today? It's like she says, "hey, I am trying really hard for you, so why don't you give me another department?" But how is she going to handle the rest if she is already too busy? Rather than expand, she should simplify her life until she gets better at handling the challenges.
Interestingly, a great manager should become more and more free as she takes on additional responsibilities. She should make things look easy rather than hectic. .
So, how can a manager be more free with added responsibility? Well, through the power of leveraging access to better executives and additional resources.
Vintage Photo montage of Ray Kroc with the McDonald's sign and McDonald's food behind
Ray Kroc
Try to look for Ray Kroc at McDonald's corporate office in Chicago. Can't find him? I assure you one thing; he has not been around since he passed away in 1984. Yet, his great work continues to pay dividends even when he is clearly not busy with any of the job. The systems he developed and the decisions he made are being leveraged through people and resources all around the world.
As a someone responsible for making big decisions, you must start by displaying a great ability to decide between chores. Many managers get busy out of insecurity. They think that if they're not busy they'll lose their job.
Get rid of the pacifier and start choosing based on the best company results and nothing else. Where is your stop-doing list? Jim Collins, author of best sellers Good to Great and Build to Last, came up with the concept of a stop doing list. He suggested that selecting things that should not get done was just as important as picking things that should; as in the to-do list.
After prioritizing, strategize who in your team will get things done for you. Yes, give the work to others. Give them an opportunity to shine. Along the way, you will also build bench strength. Get into the habit of always developing great managers. You will need them for all the coming opportunities.
But with responsibility comes empowerment. You must be clear about what you expect from them and of the resources available. It is fine to give people a challenge to be solved with less resources than it would take you. Inevitably, you will come across someone who is better than you at achieving the goals. This is the holy grail in management. With lots of practice, you may find many more who are also better than you.
Wide Photo of philharmonic orchestra
Then, teach your managers to do as you did. To become irrelevant. Tell them that irrelevant managers get more responsibilities than those who are always needed by their team. You will be in great company since Toyota practices this every day.
Then, one day, you will find that you have not a lot to do. You would have developed great managers who themselves have great teams. At such time, work will be much more fun as you will be only involved with the really important stuff. Until then, stop being the bottle neck.

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