Thursday, January 30, 2014

Are You Training Your Team To Be Incompetent?

We build statues to the knight in shining armor. Everybody wants to be one. 

Implying that the rest of us are there to be rescued.

I met a woman in class today. We exchanged pleasantries. She used to be a manager, she said. And volunteered this:

"One thing I learned is always to ask people what THEIR process is -- before changing anything. They love that."

Gee, I need to do that more, I thought.

All my life I have hated micromanagers.  But when I became a manager myself, I inadvertently fell into the trap:
  • No matter how well-meaning you are --
  • No matter how accurate your conclusions --
  • Even if the staff are asking you to do it -- can't adopt the posture of a savior.  People have to find the way for themselves.

The issue goes back to ownership. The old "teach a person to fish." 
  • In the short term you can dominate the team and sure you will drive results.
  • But long term you may be cutting yourself off at the knees. Because you cannot do all the work alone -- cannot anticipate the issues or resolve them as well as a distributed force of "trained killers."
When your value comes from being a "hero," the staff necessarily adopts a helpless pose. What else should they do?

So there they sit, like long-ago Chinese princesses with their feet bound so tightly they cannot walk. 

And they do try to work where they can. But all they know how to do is react -- sewing pretty things by hand, but not building sewing machines.

So what if you are not the rescuer, the turnaround king, the genius?
Where is your value then?

I think it goes back to 5 things, executed consistently (e.g., operationalize the brand):
  • Strategy - have a plan for getting things where they need to go
  • Communication - tell everyone the plan, update it, work through issues
  • Staff Development - take time to make sure people are doing what they're good at, and growing
  • Technology - fight for the equipment to work as fast as possible 
  • Relationships - network as much as possible to find ways you can achieve mutual goals while sharing the burden
In real life success is gained through the team. Heroes are a lucrative fantasy for Hollywood.

* All opinions my own. (Photo by me.)