The Manager as Expert

FILED IN Leadership development ON June 26th, 2012 - NO COMMENTS

In the last segment, we talked about freeing up more of your time. Allowing yourself to be more strategic and think and plan for the future. This requires some delegation skills. It requires you to examine your daily tasks and figure out how you can teach members of your team as part of their development and preparation for moving to the next level.

Being the expert and problem solver

Before we go there, I would like to address the most common time issue for managers. That of being the expert, the Problem Solver.

Traditionally, managers see themselves as being promoted based on being the best at what they did before. They are the expert, the guru, the provider of all answers. That is a lot of pressure, and not always true. And staff get in the habit of seeing things that way and instead of thinking for themselves, the knee jerk reaction when a problem arises is to rush to the boss and ask “What shall we do?”

Going beyond being a problem solver

Absolutely no thinking going on there. Imagine a manager with ten direct reports. Each has one problem per day. When does the manager have time to do anything except problem solve?

Oh yes, and have you noticed how these problems often occur, or at least get reported, near the end of the day? The manager sighs deeply, says “Leave it with me” then calls his or her long suffering spouse to announce another late night at work.

There is a principle, which actually comes from the military, called “Completed Staff Work”.

It goes like this: In the military command chain, no-one is allowed to go to their superior officer with a problem. They have to go with three things;

  1. a full an concise analysis of the situation,
  2. at least three options of the way forward or solution,
  3. and a recommendation of the one they have chosen.

They are then, in effect, then drawing on the skills and experience of their superior by simply asking, “Is there anything I have missed?”.

How does that save time and improves leadership?

The senior officer then simply has to listen to them and either approve their decision, or raise a question in any area their experience tells them something is missing.

Imagine how little time this takes. And imagine how quickly the staff develop their problem solving skills and deepen their knowledge. The motivating factor for this, is that in battle everyone down to the lowest in the chain of command must have the potential to take over when his senior gets shot. No chance there to email back to HQ for answers.

Imagine the extra time for you as a strategic leader when your people do the thinking and problem solving.

Imagine the power of agility your organisation would have if everyone could do this.

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