Senior managers, including directors and VP's, have more on their plates these days than ever before. Input and decision-making responsibilities within strategic, financial, and human resource realms are increasingly falling on this management group whose expertise may not be in these areas. As well, they may not have the tools to manage the change in accountability these new responsibilities bring.
The needs of employees are also changing. Employees are demanding more engagement and collaboration with senior level management. These increasing responsibilities from above and below present both challenges and opportunities.
The challenge for managers is to avoid reacting impulsively to increased accountability. In other words, don’t panic! Panic will result in taking away employees’ work, purely because of a fear that the job will not be done correctly.
This reaction causes problems on a number of levels: It sends a message to employees that they are not trusted to do the job well; it prevents employees from learning on the job; and most importantly, the manager's own duties fall away. Performance is sacrificed, and taking on the tasks of subordinates is rarely accepted as a justification of poor performance.
The opportunity is for staff to get a chance to learn on the job. But for this to happen, managers need to delegate important tasks without snatching them away again. Think of coaching staff through a project as an investment in the future rather than a risk. Employees with the potential to do great things require the opportunity to learn by doing. Failing to trust employees is an easy way to lose them to a competitor.
But a growing pile of others’ work on a manager's desk isn't always the result of increased accountability. When management aims to be more collaborative with employees, a manager may take on responsibilities that belong to others in his zeal to be a friend, confidant and supporter.
For many, the ability to balance being helpful and being selfish is a life-long challenge, not only in the workplace, but in intimate relationships, in parenthood and beyond. In a senior management role, the solution lies in tipping that balance to the selfish side.
Take to heart the adage "we must learn to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others." Until your own obligations are taken care of, a manager must learn to say "no" and stick to it.
Helping when you have the time may produce respect and goodwill, but managers who help others excessively are seen as having no backbone, and may lose their job because they are simply not doing it. If your goal is to make your staff like you, bending over backwards to help them won’t work.
If employees need help, explain your time limitations and offer another solution. If they want to enhance their skills, let them make some mistakes. If the only alternative you offer is to do it yourself, you will not be helping yourself or your staff.
Taking care of yourself first will free up the time and energy to help and give learning opportunities to staff. Delegate work without guilt or fear. It may just save your job.