Most employees are promoted to management when they have shown great competency as an individual contributor. They know their stuff, they are go-to people for answers and solutions, and as a result, are rewarded for their expertise by being moved up to the next level. What happens after that may be a series of events that can be challenging for all involved.
The wrong way to lead
This type of leader continues to manage from the perspective of the expert. Answering questions, providing people with specific directions on how to do things, and controlling the flow of work to make sure everything is done “just right”. In their role, they begin to get frustrated because their people are always at their door asking them questions and looking for answers, and they can never get any of their work done, all the responsibilities their boss is asking for. They often try to overcome this by putting in more hours so they can get their work done before and after work hours when they are not interrupted by questions and constant requests from their staff.
This is also a challenging situation for the people who work for this type of manager. They get frustrated when they can’t move things forward without approval. They begin to feel stifled and unproductive, as they wait to get their manager’s answer to move things forward, and when they must redo things that weren’t done the way the manager wanted them to be done.
All too common
This scenario is very commonplace, and not just for new managers and newly formed teams. Some managers have extensive experience but never get beyond their “expert” role. They take a lot of pride in knowing everything about their function and the tasks needed to perform them and gain satisfaction when they are the go-to person. This style is ineffective for the manager and their folks and detrimental to the organization.
This common situation can be resolved if the manager adjusts their thinking to focus on what their true job is. The manager needs to make the shift from what I call “doing and dumping”, to leading others and building their capability to do their jobs more effectively. When they focus on influencing others to enhance their performance, rather than just getting things done, they build bench strength and the sustainability of performance in the organization.
It takes a shift
An ADEPT leader realizes that they need to play different roles by:
- Reducing the amount of time they spend as an expert, answering questions for others, and being the most knowledgeable about systems and procedures. They need to create other experts
- Reducing the amount of time they spend managing all the details and controlling every aspect of each employee’s work. By creating an environment where others manage themselves and get things done in the most effective ways, even if different from the way the manager thinks it needs to be done.
- Increasing the amount of time they spend playing the role of pioneer for their people. Clarifying the mission and overall direction for the team and making sure that objectives are clearly defined.
- Playing the role of an architect when needed, defining processes and systems, and communicating boundaries and cultural values. They need to step back from doing and instead design an overall blueprint for accomplishment that people can execute on.
- Spending more time in the role of coach. An ADEPT coach guides and supports, rather than dictates and controls. In this role, the coach understands each individual and adjusts their style to support each person’s strengths and provides consistent and effective feedback to ensure that all their people are reaching their potential and doing what’s right for the team.
Subject matter experts are necessary for organizational results. However, the transition to true leadership requires different expertise, the ability to bring out the best in others. By understanding the different roles required to lead, the frustrated manager can make the transition to an effective leader who has influence, brings out the best in others, builds loyalty, and achieves results through their people.