During a recent workshop for people considering management as the next step in their careers, a class participant related a story of how a highly placed and highly compensated officer of the organization spent time checking her direct reports' grammar and punctuation. She routinely sat next to her employees and insisted on going over their correspondence line by line. The employees were professional scientists and felt that the time she spent critiquing their work with a fine-tooth comb was wasted.
The discussion continued around how and when a manager should be involved and when they need to back away and let the employee work. Most people agreed that after initial training and feedback, they were ready to fly solo. The manager's time was better spent looking toward the future and considering new strategies to improve the business.
The group put forth reasons they believe managers sometimes get overly involved:
- Lack of trust. Even if the manager expressed trust in the employee, standing over them sent a different message.
- Not wanting to give up their old job. Some managers felt more comfortable carrying out their previous responsibilities than taking on the tough task of being a visionary and planner.
- Lack of confidence. By insisting that he do any work assigned from superiors himself, the manager conveyed a lack of confidence in the employee's ability and took away a chance for the employee to learn and develop.
So, what SHOULD a manager do?
The class participants agreed that managers must explain the assignment, why it must be done and to what standard. Then, take time to review and provide feedback. Once progress is seen, check in on a regular basis and ask, "What do you need from me at this juncture?" And don't hover.