I often counsel my clients to make themselves dispensable. They often question me when I suggest that, but I mean it. Part of a leader’s or manager’s role is to make sure that their team can survive without them – to manage themselves out of the picture.
Now, you don’t want to be so dispensable that you don’t add any value. But you want your team, or at least some members of your team, to be able to step up into your role so that you can spend your time on more strategic and important issues and projects. You want them to be able to handle much of the day-to-day, so that you can handle the big picture. You want them to know what to do in times of crisis. You want them to be able to take care of problems and tough situations. You want to manage yourself out of the picture.
How do you manage yourself out of the picture, and make sure you’re still adding value when you do so? Those are the challenges.
Take Pat, a client of ours who manages a team of sales people. As she works on taking herself out of the picture, she has been working to trust her team members more. But before she could trust them to handle things without her input, she had to make sure they could handle things without her input. So she provided different team members specific opportunities to stretch beyond their current responsibilities. She pushed her team to take (calculated) risks with clients, and to take care of client requests that she might have been involved with in the past.
As Pat worked towards pulling herself out of the day-to-day, she clearly shared her performance expectations with her team, and she let them know that she “had their back” – she was a backup for them if things got too tough. She told her team members to come to her before an issue became a big issue, to bring her in before a situation became too unwieldy or it was “too late” to fix a problem. And she told them that she would support them as they stepped into these new roles.
Pulling back in this way allowed Pat the time to think more strategically. She spent her “extra” hours, on her own and in her coaching sessions, coming up with (and hopefully answering) tough questions. She became more willing to challenge the status quo and to find new ways to get things done. She had more time to focus on her leadership, and to work to strengthen the team overall.
My clients who have the hardest time managing themselves out of the picture are the ones who delight in the details. They like knowing every little thing about every issue, and can find it hard to let go. Or they haven’t been able to build a team they truly trust, or to truly trust a team worth trusting, so they have excuses as to why they have to stay involved. I challenge these clients to push themselves, and their teams, so that they can get out of the day-to-day and begin to Thoughtfully lead.
I challenge you as well!
How do you best manage yourself out of the picture?
Please leave a comment.
If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.
For support in managing yourself out of the picture, contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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