Contrary to popular belief, the goal of a parent is not to raise children.
The purpose of a parent is to raise happy, independent, productive adults. What gets in the way? “Overparenting”. That is, the parent gets caught up in a vicious cycle of trying to make the child behave the way the parent thinks the child should behave. Instead, the parent should be providing guidance, support, clarity, and accountability that leads to success. Instead, parents get way too involved in the details of the child’s responsibilities, as if these responsibilities were the parents. “Did you do your homework?” Mom asks the 14-year-old for the third time that night. The parent is essentially micromanaging the child, telling the child what to do, how to do it, and then asking, “Did you do it?” This is not helping to raise an independent adult. In fact, it eats away at the child’s ability to figure out time management (competency development) and his/her academic self-esteem (confidence).
Similarly, managers often find themselves too much in the details of their reports. They will tell me that they have a shortage of skill and ability on their team and would like to replace almost every team member.
Most often, managers are born from highly productive employees who are effective and efficient at getting the work done. They make quality decisions, are natural problems solvers, and are reliable to get the job done. Managing is about inspiring, motivating, developing, and holding accountable others. These are very different skills. New managers are bound to struggle with this new skillset unless they’ve been effectively trained and/or coached. When they are still being evaluated on their new role, the new manager often falls back to their natural talents of doing the work. That’s their sweet spot, and that’ll save the day…. temporarily. After all, time and resources are short. Unfortunately, like the micromanaging / overbearing parent, this micromanager is eating away at the subordinate’s confidence and competency development. It’s an unsustainable solution to the immediate problem.
A manager’s job is not to solve their subordinates’ problems, it is to help their subordinates become better problem solvers.
A manager’s job is not to make their subordinates’ decisions, it is to help their subordinates make better decisions.
A manager’s job is not to do their subordinates’ work, it is to help their subordinates be autonomous producers of quality work.
There may still be times when the manager needs to jump in and do the work of their reports. That’s fine; remember that it comes at a price – reduced competence and reduced confidence! If you have to pick up the slack, be sure to have the employee right alongside you and openly share your thought process about how you came to a decision or the process you used to solve the problem. You will all be better off for it.
Dr. Jeff Kaplan is a business psychologist and executive coach who coaches executives and high potentials to lead with heart. Jeff helps leaders to work more collaboratively with others, recognizing that people are an organization’s greatest asset.