When asked, the majority of executives, managers and supervisors agree that they frequently make decisions, answer questions and solve problems that should be handled at one or two levels below them.
By handling these problems, decisions and questions at the wrong level, the organization is experiencing a kind of waste. Wasted talent, reduced quality and decreased capacity.
Whenever an executive, manager or supervisor gets involved in a decision, question or problem that should be solved at a lower level, they cause waste.
The waste occurs because the leader is using their scarce and valuable time to handle an issue that can and should be resolved closer to the front line. By diverting their time, the leader is not able to work on longer term, more proactive projects that desperately need their attention.
A plant manager related this example: When one of his middle managers or front line supervisors brings him a problem to solve, it activates his reactive impulses. He is instantly inclined to make a decision and resolve the problem. He admitted though that he is usually acting without having all the information. That usually means that the quality of the solution will be lower than if he had more information. After some reflection the plant manager realized that the person bringing him the problem likely had more information and was in a better position to make a recommendation. By pausing and asking questions instead of offering solutions, the plant manager was able to help the more junior leaders to solve problems on their own. And that experience would make the junior leader more capable in the future.
By empowering the individuals closest to the action, the senior leader can free up time for decisions, problems and questions that warrant his or her involvement.
Why does this happen?
It might be because the individual who SHOULD resolve the situation is lacking in experience or confidence. Or they could be afraid of the consequences of making the wrong call. In this case the more senior manager will need to coach, explain and support.
Or it could be because the more senior manager enjoys the hustle and bustle of dealing with lower level issues, receives praise for doing so and hasn’t thought about the consequences. Because the senior leader is ultimately accountable for the results in her department, she might mistakenly think she should micro-manage every issue. Many of these behaviors are copied from more senior leaders which compounds the problem.
No matter the cause, the organization can never achieve its full potential because the leadership team is working on too many lower level problems. And chances are the front line employees have the capability and desire to handle many of these issues without the need for management involvement.
Putting Ideas into Action
- Pay attention to the problems, questions and decisions you are handling. Should you be handling them or should they be dealt with by someone who reports to you or maybe even lower in the organization?
- Ask yourself if the capacity, capability and confidence exists at the lower levels. If not address the gap with training, coaching and support.
- Think about what you should and could be working on if those questions, problems and decisions were made at the appropriate level.
- Gradually remove yourself from the inappropriate issues and matters and notice how your level of job satisfaction increases.
- Observe how the morale, attitude and satisfaction of the workgroup increases as you trust them to take care of issues they can handle.
Eliminating waste in your decision making and problem solving will allow you and your organization to achieve its full potential. We can help you do this.