Do You Feel Indispensable?
When you believe you are indispensable, you act that way, which is never good for a manager. “Indispensable” managers insert themselves into situations and create messes.
I once worked as a project manager on a difficult machine vision project. The client was in another state and we were pushing the state of the current technology to solve the problem. But we showed the client several interim deliverables, and the client was happy. I went on vacation—my honeymoon—and delegated my work to the senior technical guy on the project.
A senior manager decided he was indispensable to the project as soon as I left. He destroyed the client relationship, tried to write code, and angered the mechanical engineer enough that he threatened to quit when I returned.
I was only gone for eight days of work. When I returned, I had a great new algorithm in mind to solve one of our problems, but needed to solve many people-problems instead. I was unable to fire a senior manager, but I did explain that he was quite dispensable to my project!
“Indispensable” managers remove their team’s independence and insert themselves into situations they have no business being in. You might see development managers writing code or test managers testing. In my case, the senior manager attempted to act as a project manager and account manager.
These managers become more hands on rather than less hands on. But, managers are not paid to be hands on. They are paid to leverage the work of other people. Managers must take the more strategic view, so that their teams can do the hands-on work.
Prepare to Delegate
Before you take a vacation, ask yourself these questions:
- Have I clarified the work I have delegated and to whom?
- Does everyone know who has what responsibility?
- Is the responsibility list posted somewhere, physically and electronically?
If I have explained who has all the responsibility, why would anyone need to know how to stay in touch with me? They don’t. Unless you have not delegated all the work. Or, if you have not clarified who has which roles and responsibilities.
Sometimes you have done everything right. But your managers are not accustomed to managers who have delegated well, and they question your decisions and your team’s decisions.
Second Guessing Your Team’s Decisions
If you suspect that other people will question your team’s decisions and will want to contact you, you may have to prepare an email or memo in advance, not just a list of who is responsible for what.
That email might look something like this:
If you have more responsibilities, your email will be longer. Maybe you don’t need to send your email to everyone; maybe you only need to send it to a few people. Use your judgment, but make sure that you send it to everyone who might question your team’s decisions.