During a keynote presentation on balancing technical expertise, management, and leadership at a company conference of senior managers, I discussed how very smart managers with deep technical expertise frequently direct rather than develop others (often seen as micromanaging). Really bright “techno-managers” can come across as “if I want any of your ideas, I’ll give them to you.”
A participant (we’ll call Rachel) recognized this in herself and e-mailed me for advice on changing that tendency. She wrote, “I’ve often struggled because I see things faster and more clearly than others. In projects where I am not the leader or where timing isn’t insane, this isn’t insurmountable. (I) breathe, relax, and enjoy helping others to grasp what they don’t see. But when I’m leading a team with really tight timelines, I get stressed and feel like I don’t have time to go slow. I think I inadvertently send the message to my team that I don’t want to hear their input (I do, but I wish they were able to grasp things faster). Any advice on how to keep making progress, but not make the team feel that they’re left behind?”
The fastest path to changing this bad habit starts with a 360 assessment. Rachel has taken an important first step; recognizing her tendency under pressure. Awareness and unfiltered feedback are vital to making many behavior shifts.
Rachel’s put her finger on an all too common challenge for many team and project leaders. She was promoted to team/project leader because of her technical skills, experience, and ability to get things done. She’s bright and quick with good intuition and a fast understanding of what’s needed.
But coming up with strong solutions that aren’t well supported by team implementation will sputter and usually fail. Rachel is building co-dependence on her as the chief problem solver and crisis manager. Increasingly, her team will back off, look to Rachel for solutions, and weaken their own crisis/problem-solving competence and confidence.
Rachel has raced right into a major speed trap. Managers under stress who feel like “I don’t have time to go slow” often compound their problems by speeding up. This is a classic lose/lose: her stress goes up, and her team feels undervalued and less engaged.
Are you taking care of busyness? Have you fallen into a similar trap as Rachel? Tomorrow we publish my April blog posts in our May issue of The Leader Letter. Last week’s blog on Taking Care of Business is the first post in this issue. It features a 2-minute video and a new Mind Your Own Busyness quiz. If you haven’t already, take some time to watch the video and complete the quiz so you can slow down to speed up.
How leaders frame change efforts can also save time, frustration, and speed implementation. Too many impatient leaders rush headlong into a common trap that gets them stuck in a swamp of resistance. The blog on a common change leadership mistake could help you figure out if your change leadership is raising or lowering resistance.
Underlying Rachel’s challenges, resistance to change, and most failing busyness is ignorance. Many leaders don’t know what they don’t know. Low levels of feedback and weak coaching skills mean the leader is unaware of their leadership tendencies. So, the treadmill speeds up as personal, team, and organization effectiveness slows down.