Leadership whack-a-mole?

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When we head to the amusement park, a favorite game is Whack-a-mole where the little critters stick their heads up and you try to whack them with a mallet. The person with the highest score wins a prize. Management and supervision can be like playing a never-ending game of whack-a-mole except there usually is no prize – just more moles to whack.

In the same way, a supervisor can fill his day with reacting to the problems-du-jour of which there will be plenty. Their employees can bring them a never ending string of problems to solve and questions to answer. Trying to be helpful, the supervisor or manager shoulders the biggest burden and can end up feeling burnt out.

While there will always be problems to solve and issues to deal with, the proactive supervisor and manager reflects on how to shift the burden to the level closest to the action. That means getting the front line employees to use their considerable judgement and experience to take care of issues without needing their boss’ involvement. That way the supervisor or manager can focus her limited resources on the problems that justify her attention.

Putting Ideas into Action

  • Spend a few minutes with each employee proactively each day so they don’t bring questions and problems just to get your attention.
  • Ask employees who bring you questions they know the answers to, “What do you think?”
  • When they bring you a problem to solve, “What solutions do you recommend?”

By pushing decisions and answers to the lowest possible level you will be challenging employees and creating greater accountability.